THE big sick: as I see it
We had arrived at the Regal Union Square thirty minutes earlier and found the seats of our choice. By the time the preview started there was no place left and couples had to sit separately. It was a houseful, a month after the release.
The first I heard about the movie was from my kids who saw it and recommended it. Later I found out that Kumail's father, Aijaz is a Pakistani Physician like me and has been to the same high school I went, eight years earlier. Recently I had met him in Orlando at a reunion of our school, Cadet College Hasanabdal. He is the one who wanted Anupam Kher to play his role, and Anupam agreed.
It was my father in law who wanted to see it on a day trip to the city and I went along.
As many would already know, it is a take of the real life story of a boy meets girl and later they break up as he does not have the courage to tell his parents about the relationship. His parents, especially his mother is actively working to find a right match: a Muslim, Pakistani girl. Then something happens which bring them close, betrayed by the title of the movie.
Kumail co-wrote the script with his real wife Emily Gordon. The lines are great and full of laughs. It tells all the tensions going on in the life of a struggling artist from Pakistani background, his job as an Uber driver, his relationship with his parents and brother, and dealing with real and perceived xenophobia of various shades.
The title is based on Emily's sickness which eventually helps bring both of them together. I wonder if there is a subtle reference to other sicknesses in the characters of the story: the prejudices, the concerns and the fears.
ISIS is mentioned in two occasions, Taliban and al-Qaida not at all. It tells us that things have moved and brands have changed. New brands gather more attention.
By the end of the movie, everybody know a bit more about Pakistan, cricket and the irrigation system. And all this is not in a bad way. I appreciate that.
It does not show on his face, but the crux of the story is the way a young man over extends himself, at his own peril, not to disappoint his parents. In the process he has almost lied and risks losing both, his family and his love. Then he yearns and begs to get his family back, but does not realize how hard it is for his parents to budge.
It brings up the subtlety of tensions and contrasts in the way an American family and a Pakistani family handles the relationship between their kids.
The American family is able to overcome its initial reservations and bias and then the mother is even rooting for the Pakistani guy.
It is not so simple for the Pakistani family. It shows the difficulty and pain the Pakistani family goes through in coming to terms with their kid going his own way. Without bashing the religion and culture, it shows how hard, and sometimes impossible, it is for people of my background to acknowledge, understand and accept the realities of present day life and that the kids are entitled to a life of their own.
As pointed out after the movie by my mother in law, there was a time that Pakistanis were proud to have Zia Muhyeuddin played a short role in Lawrence of Arabia; now a Pakistani American has written the script and is playing the lead role in a Hollywood movie.
As a parent of two kids who are pursuing their carrier in visual and media arts and trailblazing their personal lives, the real life story of Kumail was very close to heart and home. I recommend it for all Pakistani parents living in the West.