“Jihad: the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.”
(“You live with your parents…?”)
Airing on: BBC iPlayer Exclusive
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy Age: All ages
Released: March 2014
At first it was the title that caught my eye. I was thinking about how someone has managed to drag the media-buzzword “Jihad” into yet another production, but happily this is a drama about a young Muslim man called Nazir who is looking for a wife.
At a speed-dating event, Nazir (Hamza Jeetooa) is being wrung out by the various attendees about his lack of finances. Fahmida (Anjli Mohindra), who is chaperoning her friend at this event, gives Nazir a particularly hard time. The are immediately at odds, but a chance meeting on a bus opens up a conversation, and they are able to look at each other in a favourable light.
This is one of the standalone BBC Three Original Drama Shorts that are available to watch on BBC iPlayer. The premise is to celebrate the new talent joining the BBC, and each episode is less than 20 minutes.
Warning! May Contain Spoilers!
(“What about love and affection?”)
There are, of course, two meanings to the word ‘Jihad’. Most people will assume it is the “War against the unbelievers”, but there is also the second meaning of “The spiritual struggle against oneself against sin”. The films looks at the second meaning, although the word ‘Jihad’ isn’t actually mentioned in the film.
This is something different from what people will be expecting. There’s no mention of terrorism, or politics, or any material that you would normally associate with the portrayal of British Muslims in the media. It isn’t as eccentric and loud as Four Lions, or as zany as Citizen Khan.
This is ultimately an understated romance drama. It’s a simple story that shows the values of everyday people; the search of finding someone who can love and accept you. It brushes through the expectations of religion, and of culture, and gives the characters a lot to wrestle with in the short time. But no knowledge is required beforehand, this is a story that anyone can relate to.
Nazir and Fahdima are both likeable characters, and are portrayed with a down-to-earth, common sense that casually introduces British Muslims values into the plot without seeming preachy, or annoying. I think a lot of the atmosphere is down to Nazir, with his easy-going smiles, and an open, honest face. He’s poor, and the underdog; a combination that works well on TV.
Overall, I love watching normal portrayals of British-Muslims in media, particularly in TV and Films. The best productions come from directors with an insight into multiple cultures that make up British Muslims, which can be Asian and Arabians. I’m fond of the mix of ethnic and religious customs and clothes, merging with the typical British atmosphere. A strange third-culture that only people on the inside can know.
Some people will find the ending cheesy, but I believe it’s because the film is so short. Given more time, I’m sure the plot could have been spun into a feature-length movie. But the writer, Shakeel Ahmed, has ultimately given a good conclusion, and if that’s cheesy, then cheese me up, because I want more. It’s nice when writers don’t try and be clever, and just give the audience what they want.
As short as the film was, I would love to get my hands on more of the same. This is something everyone should watch. Kudos to Al Mackay (Director) and Claire Bennett (Producer) for creating something so likable.
Rated 4.5/5 – Down-to-earth portrayal of British Muslims. An understated romance.