Article By Mahwash Badar (The Good Life – Express Tribune)
When I walked out of the cinema after watching Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, I felt proud.
Pakistani cinema has finally arrived where it was supposed to. (It was supposed to arrive a decade or two ago but anyway.)
I am not happy when people start comparisons between a multi-billion dollar industry such as Bollywood to a flailing, haphazard, mainly notorious industry such as Lollywood. The comparison is not only unfair, it is silly and, from all rules of economics, a failure to begin with. Pakistani cinema-goers, however, cannot help but compare the two and hence, every time we watch a Bollywood flick, we sigh and go,
“Haye, Pakistan main kyun nahee banti hain aisi movies?”
(Gosh, why aren’t films like these made in Pakistan?)
When I walked out of the cinema after watching Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, I felt proud. I felt proud to have spent Rs450 to watch something that did not make me want to crawl under the foldable seats (awkward that we saw two girls kiss even before there could have been a makeout session between Humayun Saeed and Mahnoor Baloch – and here I thought that the censor board doesn’t miss much.) I was happy and enamoured with the idea that Pakistanis can do something beyond their repetitive failures at cinema. I hope you’re listening, Shoaib Mansoor, because Khuda Ke Liye was one big fat disappointment.
Humayun Saeed plays Akbar Deen, a small town cricketer who makes it big and gets accused of narcotics and womanising, thus ending his high profile cricket career. The story line shifts to another small town boy with big eyes and big dreams hoping to achieve what Shahid Afridi (and many others like him) did. Their lives collide as the Pepsi Cup approaches and Akbar Deen is asked (emotionally blackmailed) to come out of retirement and coach a group of dirty, uncouth, naive teenagers who love cricket and are giving up everything for it.
The story has multiple arcs and it all comes down to the final of Pepsi Cup where it’s the average Joe versus the gentleman. You have to see it for yourself to experience the emotions that ran high, the joy of watching a high-quality cinematic production (finally, thank you) and a good thumpy, Punjabi soundtrack that brought the audiences the kick they need.
The film was true to the audience and true to the national sentiment associated with cricket. The audiences whooped and cheered as the hero fought and cried and sat motionless as he got beat. Not one cheap leer as Mahnoor Baloch ran on the beach in skimpy shorts (shows our audiences are growing up too, thankfully) and not one sarcastic hoot as the new boy on screen broke into uncontrollable sobs (the tears were real but still need work).
Bravo to the director for knowing the people who will be watching the movie and playing to their emotions, needs and level of understanding; goes to show you that a movie doesn’t have to be a social revolution, sometimes it just has to be a movie. Shoaib Mansoor, this last line was for you – next time try to copy Karan Johar instead of Clint Eastwood.
I especially loved the subtle messages given to the audiences; the cross between the Moulvi and Michael was a wonderful depiction of how tolerance builds nations and becomes our strength. The dialogue was strong, overall acting deserves a round of applause (except for the random chick here and there, wish they’d selected better actresses instead of better-looking actresses) and apart from a few sloppily tied loose ends, the film gets full five stars from me.
Way to go, Pakistan. Pakistani cinema has arrived.