Dreams on wheels

Daniyal Zahid is delighted with Sohai Ali Abro's acting and 'Motorcycle Girl' as a whole

Dreams on wheels
Motorcycle Girl, surprise surprise, is not – in the strictest sense of the term – a road movie. It is also not– again in the most literal of terminologies – from the ‘woman’ genre.

For, while being heavily influenced, and in turn prominently incorporating, both genres, the film depicts a lot more than what can be sufficiently described within each of the aforementioned brackets. In fact, the film’s range is, paradoxically, both its every evident strength, and less tangible weakness – with the film wobbling in its editing, or lack thereof.

If you really want one genre to describe Motorcycle Girl, it would perhaps be ‘coming of age’ – bildungsroman if you really want to be technical and literary.

This is also true because the film isn’t strictly a biopic of Zenith Irfan, the ‘motorcycle girl’ who rose to global fame in 2016 for travelling to Khunjerab Pass solo on a bike, with the journey recorded in her ‘1 Girl 2 Wheels’ blog and Facebook page.

If you really want one genre to describe Motorcycle Girl, it would perhaps be 'coming of age' - bildungsroman if you really want to be technical and literary

The film maintains from the offset that it is a ‘heavily fictionalised’ account of her story. But whatever has been added is justified in the final product, with Zenith Irfan herself endorsing the movie.

20-year-old Zenith (Sohai Ali Abro) lives with her mother (Samina Pirzada), grandmother (Shameem Hilaly) and siblings (Hadi Arshad and Mandana Zaidi).Having lost her father when she was 11 months old, Zenith wants to fulfill his dream of going all the way from Lahore to Khunjerab Pass on a bike.

That dream, as the film opens, appears far-fetched for countless reasons, including the fact that not only does she not know how to ride a bike, but she has also to deal with her grandmother’s patriarchal control over the family, all the while having to earn a living to support the household – and her own education.

That job is at an advertising firm, where the CEO (Sarmad Khoosat) is not only the stereotypical boss, but has also created the typical work environment dominated by the ‘boys club’. Not only does Zenith have to deal with this work environment to keep hold of the job, which she desperately needs, she also has to deal with harassment at the hands of the office’s van driver who takes her to work every day.

And that is how she learns to ride a bike – as a need and not to fulfill her dream, at least during the time in question.

The storyline depicts this transition from needto fulfilment of a dream, and the roadblocks that women typically have to face even while performing a task that is needed for self-sustenance, let alone living out an independent dream.

Sohai Ali Abro is absolutely brilliant in her role, and displays the ‘coming of age’ masterfully in the film. The rest of the cast is top-drawer as well, with Sarmad Khoosat and Ali Kazmi – the latter as Zenith’s controlling fiance – making us hate them, while maintaining very realistic personas of alpha-men who exhibit misogyny as a matter of fact.

However, the film doesn’t wear its feminism on its sleeve, and drives home the quest for gender equality with subtlety.

The film is based on the real story of Zenith Irfan

In fact, it argues that sexism is a more recent phenomenon, which contradicts historical norms and hence can be unlearned. One, of course, can have all the evidence to disagree with that idea, but that is what the protagonist underlines, as an individual’s understanding, not something that has been taken up on a banner by the film itself.

How it’s not a film that focuses solely on women’s rights can be demonstrated by the simple fact that every man can relate to many facets of the film, most prominently – which again is the heart of Motorcycle Girl –the dreams and ambitions that one compromises on, owing to hurdles that one doesn’t take the leap for.

Motorcycle Girl asks you to take that leap, through the story of a girl that overcame all the societal handicaps that life threw at her, to live out the dream of her father, which by the time of its fulfillment was more hers than anyone else’s.