Chambaili: The perfect tonic for a dejected Pakistan (Film Review)
Originally appeared here:
Yesterday, I watched the much-awaited film, Chambaili - the first in a long list of Pakistani feature films under production and probably the most hyped movie since Bol that was released two years ago.
It is a shame that Pakistanis have to wait for such a long period of time between the production and release of films; that said, the movie is worth the wait. It is far superior to the films produced by our bigger and greater neighbour.
Disclaimer- spoiler alert!
Chambaili is like no other film. The movie revolves around the political structure of a country – it draws an underlying comparison to the current state of Pakistan, which many hope will be saved by a drastic leader. If only it was so easy in real life…
Sarmad’s (Ali Tahir) family is at the centre of the political drama. The movie starts with his return to Pakistan from Canada. It is through him that we are introduced to his family and his precious house. His cousin (played by Mahira Khan) is a young, hopeful and adamant woman, who believes in change and preserves posters of revolutionaries to hangs up in the house.
The lead protagonists of the movie are Sarmad’s two best friends, Saif (played by Shahzad Nawaz) and Musa Azeem (played by Ehtishamuddin), a journalist. The movie does not provide a ‘warm up’ period; rather, it jumps straight into action. From the beginning of the movie we see Saif being held up in the middle of a political rally (in broad day light) that is held by the Inquilab party while driving with his soon-to-be-wife, Nida (played by Mehreen Syed). Although, some may disagree, but the scene depicted here is unrealistic and exaggerated; Nida’s reactions are over the top and comical.
Furthermore, the police refuse to file an FIR against the political party that is governed by Sardar (played by Salman Peerzada), whose grandfather founded the town and had been ruling over it ever since. Although this incident hardly seems to serve as a strong enough motivation to start a political movement, after Sarmads house is ransacked by the Inquilab party, (who wants to buy it) Musa and Saif coax Sarmad into a protest outside the press club and start a hunger strike which eventually leads to the establishment of their own political party called Chambaili.
The movie seems to have all its bases covered with strong elements of nationalism, twists, emotional appeal and even a full out mehndi dance; where it lacks, though, is scene and character development. The camera often jumps from one scene to another leaving the audience uninvolved.
The pitfall of jumping straight into action is that the audience fails to emotionally invest in the characters. Characters appear as strangers since we do not know their history or their lives apart from the role that they play in the movie. For instance, Nida decides to walk away from Saif due to his political aspirations. Saif chooses his country over the love of his life and this should have been a strong emotional moment in the movie, but it suffers due to the lack of attention given to their relationship. Despite the quick flash backs and the love song playing in the background, the audience remains unmoved.
It is only towards the intermission that the pace of the movie picks up and it is largely due to the amazing performance of Ethishamuddin as Musa Azeem that the audience gets involved in the movie. Where others have failed, Ethishamuddin shines; he has brilliantly played his character. Musa Azeem also has the most distinct voice in the movie; his hard hitting dialogues coupled with some brilliant cinematography send the audience into a whirlwind of emotions.
At one point in the film, his monologue with shots of people suffering in the background surely deserves a trophy.
“Tum abhi sotay raho bhai, abhi zulm aur tum mai tumhara fasla baqi hai…”
(Brother, keep sleeping; there is a distance between cruelty and you.)
Speaking of the good, the soundtrack of the movie is absolutely fantastic with the videos and soundtracks already going viral before the release of the movie. The qawali, Raba Sohniya deserves a special mention here.
I believe that the best member of the crew was the director of photography and the art directors. The scintillating shots coupled with an intricately detailed production ensures that the movie compares to any other Hollywood movie – if not better!
The movie is set in ‘Mulke Khudadad’, which is meant to be a clear parallel to Pakistan. It is due to that very reason that it really resonates with the audience; the ‘awam’ that the movie speaks of is the ‘awam’ that goes to the cinemas to watch this movie.
Eavesdropping into conversations of people after the movie, I observed a sense a sense of pride; pride in our nation, pride in our cinema and pride in the beauty of the people of this country.
Just like the movie talks about the disheartening reality of this country, it also talks about hope and change, which is much needed in times of today. Overall, Chambaili raises hope for Pakistani cinema.
Yes, there is still a lot to learn with some of the cinematographic techniques over used and some poor editing stopping scenes from developing, at times and making the screenplay rushed. However, the team behind Chambaili has embarked on an ambitious project and they decided to swim against the current by producing such a movie and they should be lauded and applauded for this effort.
Chambaili is the perfect tonic for Pakistan. It shows that entertainment can be thought provoking, the timing of the release is immaculate and the message is very apt for the audience. It is time for us to wake up, it is time for us to do something to change our lives; sometimes a revolution may just be triggered by a movie and Chambaili seems to be the perfect movie to start a revolution of ideas and dialogue.
It was heartening to see a full cinema enjoying a Pakistani movie and the utopian dream of the movie may never come true but it makes us dream of a better Pakistan. In a country, bereft of heroes and role models, fictional or real, I will leave the concluding message to Musa Azeem,
“It is very important to dream.”