New film aims to puncture stereotypes and myths…
‘Finding Fatimah’ is a British romcom with a difference…
Know what that difference is?
It’s set in Manchester (not by the sea). It’s funny. The female lead is a strong, independent woman. Oh yeah, she’s Muslim, a doctor, and wears a hijab.
There are good performances and Danny Ashok as Shahid is likeable, and is a central character for which you can feel sympathy, quickly and easily.
‘Finding Fatimah‘ is a little rough around the edges and the beginning is a little too slapstick and cartoonish and too much like a TV comedy soap (the film is produced by British Muslim TV), to hold attention in the cinema, but it gets better and more sure of itself as it proceeds.
Shahid’s life is falling around him, his business is failing and his attempts at love with other Muslims (including speed dating, Muslim style) isn’t really happening for him for myriad reasons.
And then he meets Dr Fatimah (Asmara Gabrielle) and things take a turn for the worse…initially…but by enlisting the help of his very modern single mum Khadija (Nina Wadia) and sister Saba (Ambreen Razia, who wrote and starred in the much acclaimed ‘Hounslow Girl’ play), Shahid begins to make head way.
As you would expect, not all goes to plan in wooing Dr Fatimah, especially as Shahid cannot bring himself to tell her he is divorced. To her, he’s just a British Bangladeshi single guy, while she’s a modern British Pakistani woman overcoming a few cultural hurdles of her own.
The use of text bubbles to denote modern communication tools and other features of the (dating) digital life work well.
It’s not hugely original in terms of its basic storyline – it doesn’t need to be – but it has a quirkiness that’s hard to resist.
Wadia (in her interview with www.asianculturevulture.com) is right when she says the film is sweet and likeable.
Debutant writer-director Oz Arshad has pulled together good secondary foils like Dr Fatimah’s best friend, Nayna (played by Mandeep Dhillon). And with further star support from Shobna Gulati (of ‘Coronation Street‘) as Dr Fatimah’s mother, and comedian Imran Yusuf as Sid, the comedy club competition organiser, there’s a good sprinkling of old and new talent.
What this film shows powerfully and perhaps most naturally of all, is that Muslims are no different at one level than anyone else, especially when it comes to dating and affairs of the heart.
Of course, there are cultural differences – no kissing, no hugging, no physical display of desire, even if the two characters are committed without being married.
So, on a more general level, well done, Arshad and all those who had a part in bringing this to the screen.
There may be a few too many rough edges still for some, but as a low-budget feature it’s got heart and soul and its funny bone is out there.
ACV rating:*** (out of five)