The deserted islands, the cinema houses of Pakistan, finally saw two fresh releases this Eid ‘Chhalawa’ and ‘Wrong No. 2’. With Chhalawa being the hottest property thanks to Mehwish Hayat (Post her Presidential Accolade) and it’s theatrical trailer including the catchy title track. Azfar Rehman (Finally getting a Lead Role) with debutant-couple Asad Siddique and Zara Noor Abbas and the Veteran Mehmood Aslam with Wajahat Rauf on the Director’s chair were all the positives that made it an attractive, colorful and fun outing this Eid.
Does Chhalawa deliver? Before getting there look at the general situation of Pakistani cinema. After the ban on Bollywood content, resultant of February Dog-fight, a very long dry spell hit the multi-million rupees properties who were keeping their fingers crossed for some magic to happen. Some screens were shut down and others ran some shows of the older films to pay the bills. On March 23rd, they got their hands on the 2 releases in the name of ‘Laal Kabootar’ (a thoroughly brilliant piece of work but failing to provide the Rickshaw-wala the desired Paissa Vasool entertainment) and ‘Sher Dil’ (a weak film but unbelievably lucky for carrying a relevant subject-matter of the day, a film on Air-Force dog-fights and Indo-Pak conflict, spinning some money on the box office), followed ‘Project Ghazi’ that released and sank the next week. The cinemas went into a dry spell again because ‘Captain Marvel’ couldn’t come fresh and the only breather and savior before the Holy month of Ramzan and the film that fetched them from there to Eid was ‘Avengers: The Endgame’. When Maula-Jutt (or The Legend of Maula-Jutt or whatever it is or will be called) an expected Eid release and the biggest film of Pakistani Cinema to date got delayed, all weight to bring cinema to life came on the shoulders of these two films.
The announcement and the trailer of Chhalawa received the warmest welcome and everybody was eagerly waiting for it to do what ‘TIT’, ‘YJHD 2’ and ‘PHJ’ did the last year and every cine-lover was hoping that it must deliver, Wajahat Rauf must deliver and yes they did in a very strange way. Chhalawa is not a cinematic marvel, nor is it path-breaking or the best entertainment available, still it works. It is a clever film winning on all the technical fronts other than its story and it delivers you with a 2 and a half hours of escapism that Lollywood and Bollywood are known for.
It isn’t saying anything that one can bring home, even ‘Load Wedding’ last year tried to say something, but at the same time your time flies in between. The stealer of the show is its ‘Editing’, they knew that they are working on the thinnest make-believe and convenient story arch with no depth and character-building or conviction so they kept it simple and fast-paced with good-looking and colorful backgrounds and clothes and stood the beautiful looking actors on that huge silver screen. Once the hall becomes dark, the things start flowing towards the most predictable and beaten to death finale with panache.
The WRITER has tried to fill every dialogue with a joke or two (unluckily majority of them go as flat as anything), the background score (mostly classics and folk tunes) try to drown you in emotions (but confidently fail to even soak you in) and the DIRECTOR dictates us to ‘believe’ what is said. The title track (Thank God) is the best song that came as a film’s score in decades and is comparable to ‘TIT’s’ “Item Number”, the other song ‘Chiriya Yeh Urr Jayegi’ is added as a formula ‘item number’ of Mehwish Hayat with no place in the screenplay but a better dance performance sucks you in and makes you forget “why this song was even there at the first place?”. So Brownie points to Shiraz Uppal. The end is so clichéd, the fall and rise of the Hero, the goons, demise of the villain, the Nikkah, everything, But somehow it works. Something inside your head laughs on your own stupidity for actually waiting to see it all end exactly knowing what’s next, and that is why I give Wajahat Rauf full credits because even he held you in that dark room for such a long time without saying anything at all (just think what he could have done if he had a story to tell).
Mehwish Hayat looks as good as she does. She is gorgeous, has a screen presence but we have seriousrreservations about the choice and more importantly the fit of her wardrobe . On performance side, whatever was written for her, she delivered. Azfar Rehman, after a cameo in ‘MPNJ’ is a surprise addition to our ever skinny Hero List, he looks good and if given anything to act, he may surprise you with a stellar performance as he shows promise. Asad Saddiqui played a good side-kick. What can one say about Mahmood Aslam that is not already been said. He is the master of his art.
Zara Noor Abbas, for me, is the best thing that Chhalawa delivered, the camera loves her and with a couple of roles and characters under her belt, she has the potential to become the next big thing (if she doesn’t limit herself to playing against her husband only and try not to subtly but surely copy her Evergreen Aunt Bushra Ansari). If she manages to make an independent screen-persona for herself, in a couple of years she will be the hottest Pakistani Heroine. The worst thing in the cast is the irritating Jr. Rauf. Yes he’s the producer-director’s son and has ‘Full Right’ to get the heaviest of dialogues but still how can you enjoy those redundant dialogues from a teen-age boy that you have heard from Sultan Rahi to Shaan to Azhaar Qazi to Moammar Rana to Ghulam Mohiuddin in every 80’s and 90’s film. If he is the future of Pakistani Cinema then kindly train him and present him with age-appropriate stuff.
For an entertainment starved public, this average budgeted, with minimalistic plot and sub-plot twists, acted by good looking cast and colorful ambience of where it is all happening works in totality and with a strong distribution partner (HUM Films who made sure that it gets the maximum screens all across the country) and finally the 5-day extended weekend will help it become a successful venture for everyone involved.
I won’t give it stars because it is a film not a hotel but I can say that it will be a profitable film with over all good numbers (200 Million or above).
*Guest post by Ali Tanveer
Author is an encyclopaedia of Urdu/Hindi Language Film, His Major interests are movies as business as well as movies as the art. He reviews films based on their script value and market potential