Directed by: Aamir Qureshi
Written by: Amir Qureshi
Starring: Sohail Sameer Amie Khan Faheem Abbas Sherjeel Shaikh
Gullak – The Money pot is a short film directed by Aamir Qureshi depicting a hard-working father (Sameer) striving to pay for the best education possible for his talented son. When his strenuous job as a traffic constable in the humid heat of Pakistan takes its toll on his health, he is faced with the harsh decision of paying for the betterment of his health or his son’s private education.
Gullak is not a short film of grandeur, or even ostensible style. Instead, it is a very resourceful short that uses scenery and setting to highlight socio-economic inequality and strain; busy, overpopulated roads with the glaring sun and tall skyscrapers in the background often form the backdrop of lengthy sequences of Sammer’s character physically and mentally suffering in the humid heat, carrying out his arduous profession. Elsewhere, the modest one-room apartment where the family live consisting of the kitchen, bedroom and dining area further highlights their social deprivation and is a key location used regularly in the film.
The performances are strong. Most of the film rests on the shoulders of Sameer who manages to bring enough realism to his physical struggles, but never truly convinces me of his implicit pain and conflict. Amie Khan plays the extremely domesticated wife and mother, whose role unfortunately never extends beyond her cooking the ‘oily food’ we are told is responsible for her husband’s poor health, and looking after their son. However, she shows promise in a role with uncomfortable limitations.
The film threatens to be both poor and brilliant, so, inevitably, falls somewhere in the middle: satisfactory. The screenplay feels contrived at times, but is spontaneous and natural, elsewhere; the score fails to elevate the emotion in the scene but does not take you out of the scene, or diminish it, either; and the first half of the short pulls you in dramatically, however, the second half fails to replicate the visceral effect of the first.
The film works better when it’s depicting socio-political turmoil that exists within the country, as opposed to an exploration of personal crisis and grief. Whilst Qureshi would argue they are compatible with one another, and both necessary to reinforce the predicament the lead character is in, the short largely falls flat in depicting that inner turmoil.