It is always easy to pray for a revival of Pakistani films than actually do something for the revival. A lot of directors, actors, film producers and distributors have come in and gone by claiming that the revival is round the corner, but nothing of the sort happened because usually their movies tackled issues that were too hot for their frail minds, too big for them to grasp and too difficult for the viewers to understand. Some films like Chambaili did manage to do well because it was well made and was believably good, but the rest failed to impress. Thankfully, Humayun Saeed's Main Hoon Shahid Afridi manages to give you back your money's worth because it deals with a subject that is in every Pakistani's heart - cricket!
Instead of giving blazing guns (and sometimes firing axes even in the madcap tradition of Lollywood!), Main Hoon Shahid Afridi has blazing bats blasting runs; instead of unlimited ammunition, there is emotion that takes you along as the movie progresses; and instead of a careless script and mediocre acting that we expect from Pakistani movies, there is a well-crafted story, thought-out dialogues and loads of cricket action. The movie is easily the most expensive Pakistani film ever made and that shows on the celluloid where the craftsmanship of every individual - from the recently departed editor Azam Khan to the director Syed Ali Raza - is visible in every frame. I have continuously said that had this movie been released on Eid, it would have derailed Chennai Express on the very first day, because in front of the real Khan (Shahid Afridi), others always pale in comparison!
Why Main Hoon Shahid Afridi succeeds where others fail…
It doesn't look like a Pakistani film because it hasn't been made by people associated with Lollywood. It is time we should move away from Lahore where the gujjars have dominated the scene and polluted the minds of the audience. The film looks fresh because most of the actors are TV artists, newcomers or veterans who are no more part of the film scene. This is the first feature film by director Syed Ali Raza as well, and it seems that first-timers like him (Ismail Jilani of Chambaili, Bilal Lashari of Waar, Meena Gaur and Farjad Nabi of Zinda Bhaag) are more likely to herald the new era than those buddhay baabay (old fogeys) who criticize the showing of Turkish plays on TV and screening of Bollywood flicks in cinema but don't seem to watch their own movies that are more pathetic than Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Let's play ball … Afridi style!
In the land of sports good - Sialkot - a talented cricketer Shahid Bhatti (Noman Habib) dreams to emulate his idol Shahid Afridi on the field. One thing leads to another and in no time, he and his friend are preparing for an Under-19 cricket tournament, they have to save their club from becoming a tabela, he has to help his family and above all, prove his mettle to the community that once a Shahid, always a Shahid! A tainted former cricketer Akbar Deen (Humayun Saeed) coaches the bunch of misfits for the clash of the titans and this is their story.
Writer Vasay Chaudhary is the off-the-field star!
He may not be in the movie but Vasay Chaudhary is the real star of MHSA. The comedian-turned-script writer must be commended for bringing in freshness in the script. 'Udhar Deewar-e-Cheen mashoor hai, aur yahan Deewar-e-Teen!' 'Baray Mizaaj Hain', 'Puncture Hogaya' and 'Piyo Mera Hai Aur Ghairat Tujhe Aarahi Hai' are some of the one-liners one would have expected in a Bollywood flick, not in a film from this side of the Wagah. Furthermore, he must be credited for coming up with the names of the characters - Deewar-e-Teen, Michael Magnet, Kaleem Gum Sum and Kaali Aandhi.
Humayun Saeed leads, the rest follows!
He had been part of the hopeless Inteha 14 years ago, and the hapless No Paisa No Problem (as Shah Rukh Khan's lookalike, a few years later) but Humayun Saeed the film actor has come a long way by learning from his mistakes. Yes, some might say he donned a track suit like King Khan did in Chak De India but you can't coach a side in kurta shalwar, can you? One of the many celebrities at the premiere suggested that Humayun's beard reminded her of SRK and I wanted to inform that lady that most of the scenes from King Khan's flick were blatantly plagiarized from Kurt Russell's Miracle which was based on a true story!
When Humayun Saeed delivered the speech, it was not in the dressing room or the dugout but at the mazaar of Quaid-e-Azam (a first for any Pakistani film), when he fought to save a member of his team, the punches and the kicks were not synced out (another first) and above all, when he was in the dugout, he looked every inch a coach, unlike Pakistan cricket team's head coach Dav Whatmore who 'high-fives' his team mates like a kid on beating teams like the West Indies!
Veteran actor Javed Shaikh as the antagonist is amazing as always because he makes you hate him every time he comes on screen. Nadeem sahib is his usual great self as Akbar Din's father, whereas the rest of the cast - especially Noman Habib (who plays the title role), Gohar Rasheed (Kashif), Asim Mehmood (Sheikh), Ainy Jaffri (Aleena) and Mikaal (Shehzad Sheikh) - do well on their respective film debuts. Ismail Tara keeps the audience laughing as always while Shafqat Cheema's Bhatti sahib has shades of both good and bad, and he makes his presence felt whenever he gets the chance.
There are friendly appearances by Aijazz Aslam, Ayesha Omer (as a wannabe Marilyn Monroe), Faisal Qureshi (he is everywhere, isn't he?), Saleem Mairaj (as Azhar Majeed) as well as many TV journalists but the most memorable character award goes to Hamza Ali Abbasi, who plays Moulvi Majeed. His portrayal of a fanatic Pathan was outstanding and the audience loved him for being natural. You may forget everything about the movie, but on exiting the theatre, you will not forget him and his lines!
There were a few standout 'Zara Hatt Kay' scenes!
'Cricket khelna hai, milaad thori parhna hai'. That's one of the lines by Sheikh to Moulvi who refuses to shake hands with the team's Christian wicket-keeper, terming him a kaafir. When the foreign coach of the opposition asks Humayun's character 'Where is your Allah?' a drop of water (followed by rain) answers it all. One must commend the director Syed Ali Raza for not copying Chak De India or Lagaan and the countless films one expected the movie to be 'inspired' from. The central idea resembled the one from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story but that's not a bad choice. What's 'bad' is the wrap up after the final which seemed haphazard and the director's failure to overlook the fact that the 'deed' presented in 1998, was incidentally dated 2013 (Ooops!).
Forgettable songs, unforgettable dance!
When you can't dance, you shouldn't dance … that should have been the policy. In order to promote our very own Mahnoor Baloch as Pakistan's answer to Katrina Kaif (ours is far better actress!), she was made to dance on ‘Teri Hi Kami’. The problem is: While Katrina is beautiful and can dance, she can't act. Ms. Baloch is ravishing beauty and can act, but sorry to say, the dance of the cheerleaders in the movie seemed better than her rehearsed item song (shots plagiarized from the Race song 'Touch Me Touch Me' didn't help either!). Host and model Mathira seemed more in tune than Mahnoor Baloch but then again, she also can't act like Katrina. As for the rest of the songs, you will forget them when you exit the theatre. A better music director than Kami-Shani would surely have helped!
You can't lose it with cricket!
A decade back, Aamir Khan's Lagaan told the world that cricket is not just a game but also a dependable subject for a feature film, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi does exactly that in Pakistan and with success because to play with emotions, to keep people guessing, to play to win is something only the national cricket team of Pakistan is able to do. Now it's Humayun Saeed and his team's turn to play ball and win it for the Shaheens! And yes, a friendly appearance by Shahid Afridi himself will surely go a long way in promoting the movie, and in reviving the ailing Pakistan film industry. It's Boom Boom, all the way from here!
Article Written By : Omair Alavi works for Geo News.