Review: Taxali Gate is a testament to the resilience of human spirit

The film tackles rape, the complexities of the legal system, pervasive power struggles and class dynamics entrenched within society.
26 Feb, 2024

Taxali Gate draws attention to a creative endeavour that explores the raw, gritty reality of Heera Mandi, the infamous red-light district of old Lahore. The movie ambitiously tackles a multitude of social taboos, from the complexities of rape revenge to the pervasive power struggles and class dynamics entrenched within society. Through its narrative, the film grapples with pressing issues concerning women’s rights and sexual consent, shedding light on the systemic challenges faced by marginalised individuals within the justice system.

Ayesha Omar’s voiceover sets the stage for the story, providing insight into Taxali Gate’s significance within this seedy locale, ruled by the formidable Chaudhary Sheheryar, portrayed with intensity by Babar Ali. The narrative swiftly introduces us to Abdul Hameed, known as Meeda Kanjar, vividly played by Nayyar Ejaz, whose world is shattered when his daughter Zainab, portrayed with heartbreaking vulnerability by Mehar Bano, is raped by Sheheryar’s son and her boyfriend, Kamran, and his friend Umer Alam (Sheheryar Cheema).

As the plot unfolds, we are introduced to Muskaan (Ayesha Omar), who runs a kotha and serves as a motherly figure to the women and girls in her care, including Zainab. The film deftly explores the power struggles between the upper and lower classes, exposing the complicity of Pakistan’s institutional powers — the judiciary, police, and lawmakers — in silencing the voices of women and marginalised communities. Despite facing immense pressure, Meeda refuses to succumb to bribery and fights for justice for his daughter.

Zainab’s unwavering determination to seek justice evokes a sense of sadness as we witness the realities of the justice system unfold through Iffat Omar’s disillusioning portrayal of the lawyer handling Zainab’s case. Through her character, we come to understand the grim truth about legal processes in Pakistan — a system where fees and courtroom theatrics often overshadow the pursuit of true justice.

Her cynical perspective reveals that engaging in legal battles may only serve to further victimise the vulnerable, turning their plight into a spectacle for public consumption. In this light, the temptation of bribery becomes all the more enticing, presenting a stark choice between pursuing justice at great personal cost or succumbing to the allure of financial gain.

The film also sheds light on circumstances faced by those seeking justice within a flawed system. It prompts reflection on the moral dilemmas people like Zainab encounter when navigating a legal landscape riddled with corruption and indifference. Through her lawyer’s disillusionment, we are confronted with the sobering realisation that in a system where justice is often elusive, the path of least resistance may seem like the only viable option, even at the expense of moral compromise.

The performances in Taxali Gate are commendable, with Ayesha Omar delivering a standout monologue in court that resonates long after the credits roll, and Yasir Hussain’s poignant poem recitation on the terrace leaving a lasting impact. Alyy Khan’s body language and facial expressions were spot on, as he fit his character like a proverbial glove.

Because all three of these characters shone bright, others seemed slightly mediocre even though they may have been great as standalone performances.

The film, however, tries to cast too wide a net and risks diluting its impact by juggling too many themes simultaneously rather than delving deeply into a select few. Abu Aleeha’s ambitious approach, while commendable, may ultimately detract from the film’s ability to provide nuanced insights into each of these complex societal issues, leaving some aspects feeling underdeveloped or overshadowed by others.

There are also some obvious issues about the portrayal of characters’ ages, particularly Ayesha Omar’s, which I felt did not entirely align with her supposed maturity in the film — she didn’t look that elderly. Moreover, the fact that the case was presented, fought, and decided on the same day seemed rather impossible, especially knowing the drag of the legal system of Pakistan. The dark comedy was also inundated with profanity, serving as a stark portrayal of the degradation experienced by the lower classes.

Nevertheless, writer/director Abu Aleeha adeptly tackled pressing social issues within Pakistan’s social fabric, offering a concise yet powerful commentary on systemic injustice. The crime thriller navigates through the complexities of social injustice, offering a poignant commentary on the harsh realities faced by the marginalised in society.

The film’s music, especially ‘Mera Haq Kidhar Hai’, predominantly used as background score, complements the narrative and serves as a game-changer. There is, however, room for tighter editing and shuffling of the sequence of scenes to enhance the story’s flow, especially as the background stories unravel towards the conclusion.

Nevertheless, Taxali Gate evokes sympathy, leaving audiences with a reflection on the unforgiving circumstances faced by ordinary people in society as they grapple with the uncomfortable truths of systemic oppression and inequality. It also stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit amidst adversity.

The lead performances save the movie as it serves as a moving reminder of the entrenched challenges of Pakistani society, urging viewers to confront these and advocate for meaningful change. It shows how far as a society we have to go only to feel human and be kind. With its unflinching portrayal of injustice and its unwavering commitment to truth, Taxali Gate sparks important conversations to ignite the flames of activism in the pursuit of a more just and equitable world.

Taxali Gate is currently in cinemas across Pakistan.


Syed Hasni Feb 26, 2024 04:43pm
Seems like a good movie to watch! Lets see when it comes to Netflix.
Ehsan Feb 26, 2024 07:46pm
Great effort wish it does good at the box office
Taj Ahmad Feb 27, 2024 02:58am
Great film with great actors and actresses, hope the movie will make good business.
Fefe Feb 28, 2024 03:52pm
Awesome story, exciting to see what our great actors have done with it. Best if it comes on YouTube also