Zed is finally achieving some of the things he’s always dreamed of as a British Pakistani rapper. Having found an audience and his sound, he’s just booked in as the opening act on a major world tour, destined to launch his career. Except everything is derailed when he’s struck down by a degenerative muscle condition.
Zed (Riz Ahmed) grows weaker at an alarming rate, unable to stand on his own within a few days, not exactly in touring condition. In fact, the only option available to him seems to be an experimental stem cell infusion that would leave him sick and depleted during its course.
Mogul Mowgli is about much more than a man in the prime of his life fighting a chronic and debilitating illness. Zaheer is second generation immigrant. He has pursued this career against his parents’ wishes, or even understanding. He’s fought culture and tradition and especially parental expectations to get to where he is, and now he’s about to lose it all, have it all be for nothing. And now he’s depending on his parents more than ever, subject to their own thoughts about his treatment, and western medicine, and about what makes life living.
Riz Ahmed is phenomenal; he co-wrote the film with director Bassam Tariq, and clearly this is a personal examination of faith and identity, making for an authentic and interesting film, something you can really chew on. Interspersed with the traditional narrative are stream of consciousness thoughts and memories centered around culture and religion. For many children of immigrants, there’s a complex navigation that happens between new and old culture, forging a path forward that will look different for each and every person. We witness and experience some of Zed’s conflict and course plotting through symbolism, imagery, and flashbacks. This might have meant a difficult watch were it not for Ahmed’s grounding performance. Through his vulnerability we make a close and intimate examination of a man’s selfhood, his idea and concept of self, and how it may or may not rearrange itself when one’s health, normally taken for granted, means a restructuring of whole identity. Riz Ahmed delivers another strong and informed performance in Mogul Mowgli.