By Utpal Borpujari in Montreal
Dubai’s claim to fame, before the outside world, is its magnificent structures, including the world’s tallest building and the Palm, and its petro-dollar-fuelled lifestyle.
What we don’t know about are the people that make up what Dubai is – be it its original inhabitants or the immigrants from the world over who have made it their home.
A film by a first-time director from Dubai, which was screened at the Focus on World Cinema at the 34th Montreal World Film Festival, tries to throw light on the happiness and sorrows that make up the lives of these people and how the city plays a role in getting many a dream realised.
Quite naturally, there are quite a few Indian characters big and small in this story, and two Indian actors, veteran Jaaved Jaafery and relatively-new Sonu Sood, are crucial parts of debut director Ali Mostafa’s City of Life, which gives a peek into how Dubai has become an integral part of the road to realization of many an Expatriate dream.
Mostafa’s style of storytelling seems to be inspired in many parts by the typical Bollywood presentations, with family, friendships and relationships providing the emotional core to the film.
The predominantly Arabic language film has quite a few Hindi dialogues thrown in as it tells the story of a young privileged Arab, his poor, jobless friend, an Indian taxi driver whose uncanny resemblance to a Bollywood star makes him dream of an acting career, and a Romanian ballerina-turned-air hostess.
Through their intertwining stories, the film seeks to pay a tribute to the spirit of Dubai, also called the City of Life, in a way drawing its inspiration from films in which cities as diverse as Mumbai, Paris and New York have almost become characters.
Sood, who has been seen in blockbusters like Siingh is King, plays Basu, a taxi driver from Gujarat who lives a life of grime in Dubai so that he can sustain himself and his parents back home.
At the same time, his resemblance to Bollywood star ‘Peter Patel’ makes him harbour the dream of becoming an actor. He finds his benefactor in Khan, a playboy sort of character played by Jaffrey. Basu’s path crosses with the other protagonists at a time when all of them are seemingly down and out with their lucks.
But London-born Mostafa, who grew up in Dubai, does not end his film on a despairing note. Instead, he provides a finale that showcases why Dubai is the city of hope and life for many people around the world, and the MWFF audience seemed to agree with his interpretation as the film earned the deserved appreciation from them.