Pakistan’s 2018 film ‘Cake’ was at the center of attention back when it was released and that too for all the right reasons!
The film directed by Asim Abbasi follows the story of a quirky, eccentric and quite dysfunctional Pakistani family who have a lot of unresolved issues that need to be addressed and has us immediately thinking; Don’t we all?
Now, after much critical acclaim both internationally and back home, the film has just been released on Netflix! With more and more Pakistani films finding their way on the streaming app, Cake definitely deserves to be there.
Why? Well not only because it is a beautiful film but also because representation and ACTUAL representation is extremely important. We are more than just pretty faces and item songs ladies, and that is exactly what the female cast in the movie shows us.
The women in Cake are not just well, women, especially the two lead protagonists played by Aamina Sheikh and Sanam Saeed. Their importance or significance is not derived from their relationship with any man. They are separate entities, with their own complex flaws that are addressed and demons that they have to fight over the course of the film. Perhaps the most important relationship that they have is with each other. As sisters.
Zareen played by Sheikh is everyone’s older sister with a ton of responsibilities on her shoulder which include taking care of their aging and colourful parents. However, she not only handles the emotional labour expected of her, but also manages the family estate and takes on the assumed role of the “man of the house.”
Zara, played by Saeed however is the rebel child who breaks away from life back home and ventures forth abroad to follow her own passion. She is shown not only dealing with her own crumbling relationship abroad but also comes to term with a dark and sinister secret from her past that has been causing her psychological distress.
The two are complex characters that engage with their own perceived and assigned roles within the family and although family is a very important theme in the film, this does not sideline our protagonist’s experiences with love, loss and life.
Even the sibling’s mother played by Beo Raana Zafar is not your conventional mother who would fall into the sacrificial mother trope. She has a life of her own, she dresses up, has next to no filters and even flirts with her husband!
The representation of Pakistani men in Cake, however is just the perfect cherry on top!
Forget your archetype macho men who instill fear into the lives of their women and open your hearts to characters such as Romeo played by Adnan Malik who actually listen to women when they speak, know a thing or two about consent and don’t resort to aggression as a means of conflict resolution! Sounds too good to be true?
Even the father figure in the movie played by veteran actor and the most adorable Abba, Syed Mohammad Ahmed is not authoritarian but rather rules out of love and understanding. And is just plain adorable! And this is why Cake represents a glimmer of hope and establishes a refreshing and much needed take on the female perspective which is something that so often ignored in Pakistani cinema.
It would be foolish to say that the movie is without it’s flaws as the build up of suspense and drama unfortunately fizzles out towards the end and the class representation is a bit limited as it chronicles the live and adventures of the two sisters.
However, that being said, Cake represents a unique window of opportunity for Pakistani cinema at the brink of it’s revival. With an impressive cast that delivers emotional and convincing performances, Cake is the perfect mixture of comedy, drama and family and we are absolutely stoked that viewers can share in on that experience on Netflix.