By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | April 06, 2020

Rating: 4.5 / 5


The essence: Nisha (Maria Mozdah) is like this little kitten loved by her family who is suddenly kicked around and is wondering for what? She draws you into her plight. How you want to tear into the screen and protect her from what is happening to her. She emotes with her saucer like eyes and fluid body language. Your heart beats for Nisha! A gripping performance by Maria Mozdah!


  • A mother telephones her daughter who is with Child Welfare telling her all will be well and asks her to come home. Her father will fetch her, she is informed.
  • A brother speaks about buying a new BMW with his father, while the daughter is trying to find out what is happening around her.
  • She knows something is amiss as the route her brother is taking is not to her home. He keeps exchanging glances with his sister through the rear view mirror, but shows no emotion.
  • She manages to run out of the vehicle at a signal but is chased and caught and shoved back in the car. Her mobile is thrown out of the moving vehicle as the girl, now clearly giving in to her fate, slumps in her seat, her eyes, expressing her helplessness and pleading at the viewer to do something.

Welcome to the nightmarish world of Nisha (Maria Mozdah), whose family migrated to Europe from Pakistan, ages ago, and who has grown up in the western culture. Their parents, however, have carried everything with them, including their blinkers as they make a life for themselves in Norway.

What is most unnerving is that her brother, who is a few years older to her, has grown up in Norway and is insensitive to what his parents have planned for their daughter (his sister): parents have passed on their blinkers to him as well.

Nisha’s crime: she was caught in her bedroom with her boyfriend, by her father Mirza (Adil Hussain) who rains blows on the helpless lad in a fit of rage. He is not willing to believe his daughter that nothing happened between them and is sure that his daughter had sex! Cops have been called by the neighbours after a ruckus has been created and she is taken to Child Welfare.

Nisha is conned into getting into the vehicle by her mother Najma (Ekavali Khanna) and is packed off to Pakistan to stay with Mirza’s sister and his family. Frustrated, she soon settles into her dull life learning to sweep, swab and cook whilst attending the local school. Mirza sends Rs 20,000 monthly to his sister for her upkeep, whilst her uncle burns her passport when she tries to flee. He warns her that she will be married off to a peasant and will be milking cows for the rest of her life. Imagine the girl’s plight!

A few months later, she and her cousin get attracted to each other and one night they both run out to spend time alone. They are caught by the local cops and are forced into doing something they don’t want to do whilst they record a video to blackmail the family. Furious, putting the blame entirely on Nisha for seducing her son, aunt calls her brother and asks him to take her away. On the way, Mirza once again pounces on Nisha berating her for what people will say!

What Will People Say, directed by Iram Haq is her life story which she brings alive on the big screen. The movie had its world premiere at the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival on September 09, 2017. It was selected as the Norwegian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

Iram gets into life in Norway and substantiates Nisha’s carefree attitude whilst establishing the credentials of the close-knit family. Everything is fine till the glass ceiling comes crashing down.

Nisha breaks up with her boyfriend who threatens to kill her father the next time he touches him. Her father tells Child Welfare that he will take his daughter home if she marries Daniel. Nisha will have nothing of it. Mirza will have nothing of it either; he is dead sure his daughter had sex. Then the mother cons her telling her all is well and that she can come home, only to send her to a nightmarish existence, without even meeting her. What kind of mother does this to her daughter?

Already broken and betrayed by her own family, Nisha is further humiliated by the video. Imagine the emotional wreck she is. And then that encounter with her father on the way back which makes you wonder what type of a monster this father is who is buckling under the weight of what people will say! But then again, we have heard and read of worse things in the name of honour.

Maria Mozdah is like this little kitten loved by her family who is suddenly kicked around and is wondering for what? She draws you into her plight. How you want to tear into the screen and protect her from what is happening to her. She emotes with her saucer like eyes and fluid body language. Your heart beats for Nisha! A gripping performance by Maria Mozdah!

Adil is Mirza and Mirza is Adil. Ekavali is Najma and Najma is Ekavali. If you have seen these actors in other roles, you will know what I am saying. They become the character they are playing leaving nothing of their persona or of the character played before. The daughter, who he loved, suddenly becomes trash for Mirza. He has his wife Najma who ensures he believes what he is doing is right. Being a woman, Najma is unable to see the plight of her daughter as she plots her kidnapping and packing off to Pakistan. In the last 20 minutes when she comes back again on screen, Ekavali is systematically cruel as she goes about planning her marriage. No emotion. All she wants to is pack the ‘trouble maker off’. In the initial scenes, she comes across as this warm mother, but yes, all along she had her blinkers on!

Both Mirza and Najma portray the rut they have set themselves in [of people’s expectations and opinions] without knowing the rut they are in. Adil is clinical in his approach. No heart. Ditto Ekavali. As for Nisha’s brother Asif, played by Ali Arfan, you just want to take him to the tallest cliff and throw him off!

Iram Haq tells a dark, disturbing tale without pulling her punches. Is it believable? You bet it is. It leaves you unnerved and shattered and confused and going to bed wondering what parent would subject a child to a hell of this sort. You play Nisha’s trauma in your mind long after the movie is over.

I have wanted to see this movie ever since I heard about it. Finally got on to Netflix where it is currently streaming.

What Will People Say is a must watch, but not for the fainthearted.


CREDITS
Producer: Maria Ekerhovd
Director: Iram Haq
Star Cast: Maria Mozdah, Ekavali Khanna, Adil Hussain, Sheeba Chaddha

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