Chambaili proves to be a hard hitting effort as it takes a look at the struggle of a people amidst corruption and despair. Featuring a stellar cast of Ghulam Mohiuddin, Khalid Ahmed, Shafqat Cheema, Salman Peerzada, Ali Tahir and Shahzad Nawaz the film looks set to rouse emotions.
Pakistan’s first political thriller, Chambaili was released last night with the hope that it might act as a catalyst for change in a country that needs it the most. Produced by Abdullah Kadwani and Shahzad Nawaz, the movie manages to bring out the rebel in you because of its dialogues, storyline and ability to make you realize the importance of being you! "Utho badlo" is the message that it sends out at a time when the country is readying for its first bona fide election, after an elected government has managed to complete its five year term for the very first time.
There are many people alleging that Chambaili is a promo for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf but it doesn't look anything like it. Let's face it, our world renowned cricket-star-turned-philanthropist and his elite gang of the who's who of Pakistan's feudal, political and corporate party members is nothing like the friends who get together to change things after their backs have been pushed to the wall.
Chambaili’s story revolves around a group of middle-class men and women in the fictional country Falakabad, who gather the courage to stand against the deeply entrenched corruption in society - politicians playing their own games as people get caught in the crossfire. After Saif (Shahzad Nawaz) is badly beaten by political goons and his best friend Sarmad's (Ali Tahir) home comes into the sight of the political land mafia, the pressure starts building and they start reacting. It is their friend Musa, essayed brilliantly by Ehteshamuddin who always egged them on with student politics in college and who carries it on to real life as he addresses the masses of Falakabad with gems like, "Tu aam sahi, par ehem hai, tu kuch nahi yeh wehem hai! (You may be common but you are important. You think you are nothing, that's an illusion.)"
If Chambaili is supposedly an ode to PTI then the protagonist of Chambaili, Musa, is certainly nothing like the PTI kaptaan nor do the dialogues make any mention of balla, chhakka, phaintee or any cricketing reference. The people who create Chambaili Tehreek are truly ordinary people who are forced to confront the powers that be head on. In fact one can draw more of a parallel of Musa's hunger strike to the Anna Hazare phenomenon across the border. Chambaili Tehreek is more a synonym for any struggle started anywhere rather than a promo of a particular party.
The country depicted on-screen may not seem to have anything in common with Pakistan, but in reality, it is the story of modern-day Pakistan, which was created in the name of God, jahan firaun hukumat karte hain. And it is to the pharaohs of Falakabad who bring the most searing performances.
Veteran actors Khalid Ahmed, Shafqat Cheema and Salmaan Peerzada make their presence felt as political players. Khalid Ahmed the Machiavellian political Maulana, Shafqat Cheema as Musheer, a middleman who must balance factors for his lord and master Salman Peerzada who essays the ultimate power playing politician with many vested interests and a love of the dangerous game. The first half of the film belongs to Ghulam Mohiuddin who plays the role of his lifetime as a politician who stands up against his own party and takes on Salmaan Peerzada. He may have been acting in films for 40 years, but pre-Chambaili, he remained an actor whose talent wasn’t tapped. In this movie, he gives one of the best performances of his career where he uses his expressions admirably and his amazing voice brilliantly. Another villain who must be mentioned is Humayuun Bin Rather, the TV star you know as Humayun Naz in a brilliant turn as Salmaan Peerzada's out of control son.
As for the rest of the players, the actors have been cast after an audition – a first in Lollywood – and that shows on screen. Usually in Lollywood, the bigger the name, the better the role, but here the producers have broken the rule. From screenwriter/lyricist Shahzad Nawaz to Ali Tahir and Ehtishamuddin, all the actors were given roles as per the characters’ requirement, rather than their stature as actors. In fact, Ehtishamuddin sets the screen on fire with his brilliant dialogue delivery and expressions, making one forget that it was his first movie as an actor, despite directing many telefilms, some of which have made it to international film festivals.
The female actors in the movie, Maira Khan and Mehreen Syed, also break the taboo and play powerful roles, and although Mehreen needs a lot of coaching before becoming a sensation, Maira does well as the free-spirited woman of the modern Pakistan who refuses to be deterred even when it comes at tremendous personal cost. As for the dialogues and lyrics of the movie, also by Shahzad Nawaz, they are a treat because they keep you engrossed in the narrative that never loses its pace and commands the viewers’ attention in every scene.
The entire film has been shot on location which is against the norms of Lollywood.
No director besides Shoaib Mansoor has done that, and Ismail Jilani must be commended for using unseen locations in Pakistan for his film, giving it a touch of realism. The pace of the film is fast and the direction is slick, more indie than commercial. The debutant director shows that he has command over his craft, and if more people like him come forward with new ideas, the revival of cinema in Pakistan can become a possibility instead of a fantasy.
Released under the banner of Geo Films, and produced by Seventh Sky Films and Coup d Etat films, Chambaili has all the right ingredients of a successful film. Its timing is impeccable since it has been released two weeks before the elections, giving people ample time to decide whether they want to rule, or be ruled. As co-producer Shahzad Nawaz says, “The impact of Chambaili may not be visible in the upcoming elections, but it will prove to be a catalyst for change, whenever it comes, be it 10 years or even 15.”
Chambaili may finally have blossomed on April 26 2013, but its work is half done. Come May 11, and the work could be complete if it inspires Pakistanis to get out there and exercise their right to vote for the best leaders possible.
Omair Alavi works for Geo TV and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org