Umar Riaz, is no stranger to perfection. The filmmaker and photographer, mentored by Terrence Malick, has finally released his latest film, seven years in the making. The documentary celebrates veteran actor Zia Mohyeddin and revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and is a mesmeric viewing experience; cosmic and intimate all at the same time.
“The Beloved is that yearning for the greater in life and the lover the search for it. The Beloved is that for which you set yourself free,” remarks Professor Arfa Zehra at the outset of Some Lover to Some Beloved, an awe-inspiring film filled to the brim with poetic proclivities.
Made over the course of seven years by photographer and filmmaker Umar Riaz, Some Lover to Some Beloved is a personal affair with familial links, rooted in the rich history of his home town of Lahore. Riaz, grandnephew to veteran actor and writer Zia Mohyeddin, through the film memorializes the lives of three great men and how their shared love for not only Urdu but perhaps, the nation itself, strings them together.
We are shuttled through years of Zia Mohyeddin’s life, a journey replete with emotions and the struggle for perfection
While the film derives its title from the particularly iconic Faiz Ahmed Faiz poem, it also provides an accurate description of the viewing experience, romantic yet politically hinged. Paying ode to “Ek Shaam”, the camera gracefully pulls in the viewer – the sound of the sitar aiding this progression – onto an empty stage with nothing but a pedestal leading up to the overcast yet familiar silhouette of Zia Mohyeddin, in his true habitat.
Some Lover to Some Beloved is a one of a kind meditation on creativity, one that poses questions and offers answers far more elusive
An upward tilt of the camera drowns him into the screen, and with the click of a manual counter we are shuttled through years of his life, a journey replete with emotions and the struggle for perfection. “A desultory conversation” of sorts, or so he says. What makes the documentary come full circle however, is Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the revolutionary Indo-Pakistani poet that is admired by many across the globe, as well as Mohyeddin.
The film provides insight into the world of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, peddling links between genius and suffering
In true Riaz fashion, each individual is introduced to the viewer through white on black text, with his name spelled out in both English and Urdu on screen. Barely scratching the surface of Riaz’s dissertation on the life of Faiz, the film provides insight into the world of the poet, peddling links between genius and suffering, all the while remaining embedded in nationhood.
Leading to the seismic finale of the film is an interview with the late Scholar Daud Rahbar, cousin of Mohyeddin, that not only ties the story together but also serves as a tribute to the resilient man. The stories of these men are presented in an innovative manner, through a mixture of interviews, archival photos and a healthy dose of classical music.
The film transcends being biographical and becomes a vehicle for inquiries about life, love, matters of art and spirit
Riaz has whipped up a journey fully equipped with visual metaphors through scenes such as Mohyeddin standing before his own reflection or ink submerging in water. Each scene is infused with an aesthetic intensity that is sensual yet picturesque, catering to the romantic nature of poetry, the relationship of lover with beloved and perhaps in many ways Riaz’s own relationship with his medium.
Stylistically reminiscent of Terrence Malick, Riaz’s mentor, the movement of the camera, in its upwards tilts especially, point out the hallmark quality of Riaz’s works
Opting for a rhythmically precise editing style, fractured bits of memories come together seamlessly to form a narrative. Stylistically reminiscent of Terrence Malick, Riaz’s mentor, the movement of the camera, in its upwards tilts especially, point out the hallmark quality of Riaz’s works along with brisk gliding across streetscapes of Lahore. This elegant, yet meticulously constructed, montage balances the sharp dialogues that permeate throughout the film beautifully.
Some Lover to Some Beloved is a one of a kind meditation on creativity, one that poses questions and offers answers far more elusive. Riaz masterfully delves into the lives of inspiring men while paving the way for an introspective and enthralling journey through the language of truth, or rather, Urdu.
As “Zindagi say Dartey ho” is narrated towards the end of the film, a sense of all-consuming urgency comes across on a visceral level. The film transcends the genre of a biography as it becomes a vehicle for inquiries about life, love, matters of art and spirit driven by historical and political insight.