Aamina Sheikh starrer Cake is a bittersweet cinematic treat

I don’t remember when was the last time I saw a film that made me as emotional as Asim Abbasi’s Cake. Starring Aamina Sheikh (as Zareen), Sanam Saeed (as Zara), Adnan Malik (as Romeo), Syed Mohammad Ahmed and Beo Raana Zafar, it’s a story of love, loss, family, relationships, and death. Something all of us can relate to. It also features expat life dilemmas, and that screamed the loudest to me – as an expat.

I only got to see it now (it was released in 2018) as my access to Pakistani films in Germany is awfully limited. Good news is that it is now available on Netflix in some countries (nope, not in Germany yet), which also means a good quality print is available for download as well.

If you haven’t seen Cake yet, PLEASE DO. From acting to cinematography, music and direction, Cake has set a whole new benchmark for the industry to follow. I won’t give away the storyline or any related details, but I do want to share a few important discussion points that the movie raised, as a reminder that none of us have as much time with our loved ones as we think. And the time to act/fix/express/communicate/salvage is now.

Family, above all else. You can love them or have daily screaming matches, there is no denying that blood is thicker than water. It always has been, and it always will be. No matter what happens, your family will always be by your side, dragging you through the muddiest of messes. Yes, you will get more than an earful after, but they will make sure that you are above the water and can breath. Please value your family. If there is any distance or you haven’t spoken to a sibling in a while, pick up the phone and ask them what did they have for lunch. Talk.

One child will always carry the burden. And it is usually the most obedient one. It just so happens that parents seem to depend on one, and trust them to come through. And surprisingly, that child always does. In our case, it is Chotu. She is the favourite, and probably also the most level headed among all of us.

Parents, however fair, will bend all rules for their child. My dad is the most straight-laced and fair man that I have come across to date, but I have also seen him change rules and defy norms for his daughters. I am not a parent, so I can’t understand this unconditional love, but if there is anyone who’d take a bullet for you, it is your parents. No one else will. Many will say that they will, and some will actually mean it, but when the triggered is pulled, the only shield standing tall will be your parents.

You don’t have to always love your sibling, but you always have to place them before you. Aamina Sheikh says this to her younger sister in the film, and it hits home. Siblings fight, and there can be low-key rivalry as well, but if there ever were an outsider attack, they are likely to come together faster than opposing magnetic poles.

Expats will forever be guilt-ridden. I had some pretty good reasons for leaving Pakistan, and one of them was my parent’s desire to see us settled in a secure land. But that does not absolve me, or any other expat who lives away from their parents, of gnawing guilt. You want to be with them, but you can’t. This pull in two different directions can break the strongest of (wo)men. And something that we have no choice but to live with.

There is nothing as heartbreaking as seeing your parents age. Someone who was a tower of strength and wisdom is suddenly frail and forgetful. I will never forget how my heart squeezed tight when I saw my father struggle with tieing shoelaces. I choked. He’s a proud man who has always done everything on his own, but today, shoelaces had him frustrated. I had to excuse myself because I couldn’t hold back my tears. They were not only for that moment, but also in anguish for the future where I’d be too far to be helpful, and they’d be on their own.

Relocating ageing parents is just not an option. It may seem like the logical solution, but it is possibly the hardest, and in some cases even cruel, option for them. They have built a life, they have a home, and to expect them to pack their bags and leave all that behind to start a new life at 70 is just not right. I don’t have a solution for this yet; our best bet is to have them stay with us for a couple of months, and they can go back to their home in Pakistan when they feel like it.

Every couple defines their own rules. In the movie, Amma and Abba have a fun, unconventional relationship. Where wife is loud and foul-mouthed, the husband is quiet and accomodating. In real life, such a couple would get a lot of heat. People would accuse the woman of having her husband under her thumb, black magic or monstrous dominancy. The man would be labelled a wuss, henpecked and lacking a backbone. But the beauty of their relationship is another reinforcement that how you decide to live with your partner is entirely your decision, and no one else’s opinion should matter.

I loved Cake, and will probably watch it again some other time. Maybe even play it at my farewell party with girls.

P.S If you are going through a hard time or are homesick, maybe postpone watching it to next weekend.

P.S.S I know that not all families are perfect and some are beyond the point of resurrection. If this post has hurt you in any way, I am sorry. And for those blessed with a family, please value it. You are extremely fortunate.

P.S.S.S My Amma Abba have no idea that they have made a debut on my blog. If they do find out, just add flying chappals to the above scenario (picture), all directed towards me. On the flip side, it might not be so bad because that exposed tooth-farm is not really doing me any favours. The point is, I have taken a whole lot of risk for this post, so please read, like and share, so I know that it was worth it. Thank you.

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