Film Review – Mogul Mowgli (2020)

Title – Mogul Mowgli (2020) 

Director – Bassam Tariq (feature debut) 

Cast – Riz Ahmed, Nabhaan Rizwan, Alyy Khan, Anjana Vasan

Plot – British/Pakistani rapper Zed (Ahmed) is on the verge of a major supporting tour but a debilitating illness threatens to derail his career as he tries in turn to connect with his family and culture his long abandoned.   

“The question seems simple but the answers kind of long” 

Review by Eddie on 23/11/2021

Recently announced by Marvel as the man put in charge of their Blade reboot, British director Bassam Tariq can attribute his success at being handed a big profile Marvel project to his unique debut collaboration with actor Riz Ahmed, Mogul Mowgli.

Alongside Ahmed’s higher profile role in last year’s Oscar nominated Sound of Metal, Mowgli gives the talented performer another chance to play an ill musician, with the powerful performer here bringing British/Pakistani rapper Zed to live in a story he helped developed alongside Tariq that allows him to show off his rapping skills in conjunction with his acting smarts.

Filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio and an almost documentary like manner, Mowgli is a down and dirty independent offering, one that appears born out of the blood, sweat and tears of its leading man’s upbringing in working class surrounds and Tariq never allows his film to be in any ways a glossy examination of a lost soul trying to reconnect with his culture while battling a debilitating illness that appears destined to derail his music career just as it was set for its big break.

There’s nothing overly new about this set-up of a nobody trying to become a somebody in the face of adversity but the Pakistani flavor Tariq and Ahmed bring to the film gives Mowgli its own unique identity in an otherwise crowded marketplace and watching Ahmed go from a rhyme spitting centerpiece to a broken man calling his ex-girlfriend in desperate circumstances is further proof that the actor is one of the very best working today, whether it be in comedy, drama or western, Ahmed has morphed very quickly into a chameleon of talent, elevating films whenever his allowed screen time.

For all the rawness of Tariq’s film and Ahmed’s noteworthy turn, there are elements to the tale of Zed that don’t resonate as strongly as you would’ve hoped, with the film keeping you at arm’s length from truly investing your heart and soul into Zed’s journey.

Delivering a large section of dream/nightmare like moments where Zed is experiencing internal and sometimes external crisis, Mowgli is more off-kilter than you may expect when you watch a trailer or read a synopsis and while in ways it helps contribute to the feeling we haven’t seen a film exactly like this before, there’s a coldness and oddness to Tariq’s film that holds it back from becoming the emotional gut punch it may’ve been.

This unpredictability and vibrancy however is likely what Marvel identified in the film to target Tariq for their Blade films, with it exciting to think about what the upcoming director can bring to the table with all of Marvel’s guidance and resources at his disposal.

Final Say –

A rap infused culturally themed drama that marks a noteworthy debut from its director and another feather in the cap of its leading man, Mogul Mowgli doesn’t always click but it’s an independent film with fresh ideas and execution that make it worth your time.

3 rap battles out of 5

5 responses to “Film Review – Mogul Mowgli (2020)

  1. I actually really wanted to see this movie back in September, but it never showed up at either of my local Landmark Theaters. But I definitely want to give this a watch, namely because I’m a huge fan of Riz Ahmed. I want him to get more roles, and I’m really glad he got an Oscar nod for his work in The Sound of Metal.

    And I agree with you that Bassam Tariq, a director who wants to use film to explore the beauty and diversity of Muslim life and culture, is a really odd choice for the MCU Blade reboot. But I really look forward to the work he does with the character.

    • Riz is such a likable performer, I am really excited for what the rest of his career might bring.

      I think Tariq is a really inspired choice for Blade, I’m hoping all the stars align for it too be good.

  2. Woah, I saw this back in 2019 – ages beyond now – feels like longer to but yeah, I loved the off-kilter side of it, and an insight into a life I wouldn’t usually know much about.

    I think Riz is first class though, he’s always doing interesting work, even if the centre of it is pretty usual (in terms of narrative), that being said, I haven’t forgotten how powerful this felt. Really interesting, visual stuff.

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