Riz Ahmed is known from major projects like Venom, but few people know him as a musician and activist. The film is partly autobiographical: Ahmed became a co-screenwriter and put in the film tracks from his latest hip-hop album, The Long Goodbye. For the artist, this is a really personal project. He was also born to a Pakistani family in Wembley and writes texts on acute social themes. Riz created the Once Kings single, especially for the film. And the clip
for this song is made of fragments from the tape. Like Zed, he has shortened his real name (Rizvan) to a more agreeable British rumour, Riz. Like his screen-altering ego, it rushes between England and the USA, filming now in Hollywood and smaller projects in his home country.
The title of the film, Mogul Mowgli, also speaks of this borderline, combining three spaces at once. The Mogul Indians call their Muslim neighbours (including Pakistanis). Mowgli is obviously a convenient marker of India invented by a racist Briton. In general, Tariq and Ahmed are cleverly engaged in cultural allusions, which are quite narrowly specialised, but therefore only more curious. At the most difficult moments, the protagonist sees the same hallucination, a man in a strange costume with coloured braids flowing down on his face, who mantratically says the same phrase: Toba Tek Singh, Toba Tek Singh. This is, first of all, an important geographical reference – this is the name of the city in the Pakistani province of Punjab, which borders India. Secondly, a cultural reference: Toba Tek Singh is a satirical story about a madman who, during the division of the country in 1947, wants to understand where his home town is now, in India or Pakistan. And in the end, the tiredness of disagreement remains between the two boundaries, claiming that Toba-Tek Singh will now be located here on land without a name.
National uncertainty, however, is not the only thing that interests Ahmed. His hero, an old-school rapper, also finds himself on a generation boundary. On the one hand, there are young hip-hop performers who have changed their complex ambidextrous to percussion verses about wealth, Gucci and sex. On the other hand, parents who are not very understanding (albeit not judging out loud) of Zed's hobbies. But because Zed sees his parents in the mirror, the editing shows that they are not looking at the person they are talking to, but as if looking the other way. The viewer instinctively, without unnecessary words, reads that their conversation is doomed – there will be no communication until people dare to just look each other in the eye.