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Monday, October 21, 2013

Waar, A Review: Not a Movie For the Self Hating Pakistanis

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The right question to start with would be, has there been a revival of Pakistani cinema? More specifically this would be reference to whether people in urban Pakistan are returning to the cinema or are people returning to the cinema to watch home made productions, films made in Pakistan, by Pakistani film makers. 2013 has been a year where home made productions have experienced a remarkable response from the public and have been witness to countless movie goers flocking to the cinemas in our major urban centers. Some of the movie's have been produced by independent film houses featuring first time directors as well as some well known faces from television. Among the more prominent releases this year included 'Main Hoon Shahid Afridi' which was the first attempt by Pakistani film makers to make a sports themed film. The story revolved around a disgraced former cricketer looking to redeem himself and an aspiring young cricketer from a small town dreaming to be like his cricketing hero, former Pakistani captain Shahid Khan Afridi. The other major release of the year was the Bilal Lashari directed acton thriller 'Waar'. Starring the likes of film veteran Shaan along with a supporting cast that included Ayesha Khan, Meesha Shafi, Ali Azmat, Hamza Ali Abbassi and ofcourse Shamoon Abbasi as the main villian. 

The word 'Waar' in the Urdu language means to strike and is a directorial debut for the young film maker. With an Urdu title name, the movie was shot primarily in the English language in an attempt to attract a wider international audience as well as the English speaking educated gentry of Pakistani society which often keeps its distance from the local cinema industry giving preference to the imported films instead. About 70 to 80% of the film is in English with a limited number of scenes in Urdu, while Urdu sub titles remained on the screen for most of the duration of the film. The movie had a private premier at Karachi's Atrium Cinema, which is owned by Mandviwala Enterprises, who are also the main nationwide distributors for the film. The Private Premier featured some celebrities from film and television along with some journalists and others in the media industry.

In a nutshell, the back drop of the movie is Pakistan's on going war against terror which claimed thousands of Pakistani lives. The film is about a high level Anti Terrorist counter intelligence unit of the Pakistani police that uncovers some intelligence about an upcoming major terrorist attack that is due to hit Pakistan for which they seek assistance from the army in the form of retired military counter intelligence office Mujtaba Rizvi (played by Shaan) who previously had first hand experience of bringing down in the past the very mastermind behind the impeding terrorist attack. Music legend Ali Azmat on the other hand plays a politician who believes that the construction of a certain dam can help significantly reduce the energy crises in Pakistan and is in the process of lobbying it with various politicians. 

The very first review of Waar to hit online media was the one that featured in the Express Tribune's Life and Style section.  The first rule of a movie review is not objectivity, rather you do not reveal the spoilers since there are people who are hoping to see a newly released movie. Not only did Rafay reveal the spoilers, he in a very distasteful manner labelled the movie as a poorly executed army propaganda film completing lacking in quality. It still amazes me how such a review of the movie got published, do their in house writing staff just have too much discretion at their disposal? Even spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are not hard to find in front page news on their online edition. Even though 'Waar' lacked a very strong script and there was significant room for further fine tuning it, it is none the less a significant leap forward in film making in Pakistan. Not only touching upon a sensitive issue, but it is also a first for Pakistan with respect to visual and sound effects that have gone into the making of the movie, this is complimented by reasonably good acting performances. For some critics the accents of the actors might be an issue, but one must remember that all the actors in the movie have done a film outside their native language and the actors could be given the benefit of the doubt over their English language ability. It was also not the propaganda as claimed by Rafay and a few other media critics, the message was more or less touching upon a ground reality that we as Pakistani's have to live with every day. It is definitely not a movie for self hating Pakistani's who look for excuses to either malign and degrade their own country or simply limit their association with their ethnicity or political affiliation, without feeling a sense of ownership and belonging here. If you are a self hating Pakistani this film was not made for you.

For our film industry to thrive, it needs the support of cinema going audiences across urban Pakistan. We are witnessing an era of revival, and encouragement must be given to films where significant efforts have gone in the making. If not for the war film content, cinema goers must go for the encouragement of your local industry, and 'Waar' by far is the most expensive locally produced film in the history of Pakistan and considering this was Bilal Lashari's directorial debut, I would give him full marks for the effort and the execution. Looking forward to his next venture. If you even have a drop of patriotism of love for your country, go watch this movie.

Pakistan Zindabad

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