This blog post is the unedited version of “Son of Pakistan” review, published 23nd of December 2011 on Dawn.com. The published version is linked at the end of the post.
Faux Patriotism, Long Drawn Out
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Practically sandwiched between Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl and Don 2, which opens on 23rd December, “Son of Pakistan”, directed by Jarrar Rizvi, has a one week window to accumulate as much revenue as possible. With a total domestic screen count of 17, the film has to seize over 3 million per screen to break even its budget of 35 (plus) million – an improbable eventuality, even if this were a best case scenario.
“Son of Pakistan” is a haphazardly paced, pro-Pakistan propaganda action movie (heaven knows we have a lot of them). It features a pool of thinly interlaced plotlines that quixotically converge into a screen-mess.
“Son” also features a smattering of actors who may not have any idea what they’re doing in this film.
Somewhere in the middle of the first act, Meera, who plays a homebound wife, responds to her in-film husband Alam Khan: “Prem Singh Ka Aana Bohat Khusi Ki Baat Hai”, without a proffer of “khushi” or interest – a mode of expression she’s professional enough to maintain throughout the 2 and a half-hour running time.
Prem Singh is Ghulam Mohiyuddin, an Indian Sikh visiting Pakistan on a pilgrimage with his wife (Sila Hussain, a lonesome saving grace), and apart from raising some very in-your-face opinions about forging Indo-Pak friendship, a song-and-dance number (a half-decent one at that) and an insipid action set-piece, he has little relevance in the film.
As an actor – and a character – he’s not the only one suffering from lackluster superficiality. There’s Babar Ali too.
Ali is Abu Zahid, a bog-standard Muslim extremist, who finds salvation (and common sense) when his body is riddled with bullets at the film’s overblown climax. But before that he talks a lot about warped-fundamentalism while initiating a bomb-threat or two. You know, ticking off the usual terrorist checklist.
Abu Zahid’s on-the-field guy, Jibran (Babrik Shah) and his slutty-looking gal-pal Maria (Asheeta), are both crack-shot assailants, who, between romantic songs (with unpracticed choreography) find time to target practice on Rooh-Afza-like pet bottles that had their stickers hastily torn out. The couple’s daring is self-evident from the fact that they hone their skills in public places in broad daylight.
Eventually, Abu Zahid and his confederates – Shafqat Cheema, (an angrez of unknown origin named Isaac, delivering dialogues so over-hammed that they needed subtitles) and Rehmat Ali (a local benefactor just in for the money) will go down by the law.
That law is Islam and Hussain (Alam Khan and Shamil Khan), blood brothers and police officers exercising the license to kill without prejudice. Hussain’s romantic interest is Sana Nawaz, almost always in some manner of exaggerated makeup. Oh, and she’s also the villains blatantly nationalistic daughter.
One can almost see “Son” boiling down for a climax a full hour before the interval, but we’ve still to stumble into less relevant side stories. One has Laila Zuberi as a UNO officer, and another is about undercover CID-cum-tourist guide (the late) Bilal Khan and his newly wed Laila.
It’s painfully self-evident that “Son” is a byproduct of substandard, worn-out filmmaking ideals slapped over a hastily undercooked screenplay (credited to Muhammad Tariq). The theme, preponderantly marketed as a gesture of open-minded nationalism, screams “bloody murder” on almost everything under the sun. But alas, the scream itself is a thinly disguised ruse to cash the “I am a patriot and this is my freedom of expression” bit.
Judging from the films lackluster audience turnout, people just ain’t buying into it.
This sensationalism might have been a better fodder for, say, “Khuda Kay Liye”, “Bol” or even “Ram Chand Pakistani”; they, at least, had their storyline in place.
“Son”, whose production was delayed by four years, shows its age on the scripts’ paper – provided there was a script. It is common film writing practice to break down a movie into three acts: the first act, introduces characters, the second act, plays out the plot and the third act works out the climax. By the time interval rang, I was scratching my head, trying to determine if we were actually in the second act.
At every instance, the filmmakers tried to rationalize their overabundance of actors by staging scenes where that actor would “act” as if he was the lead. This stark indecision creates a narrative jolt that’s amplified by the cast’s universally amateurish performance.
Mostly, the production itself is amateurish. The cinematography, by Waqar Bukhari, is inundated by focus and lens issues (almost every scene had one horribly blurred camera set-up), as well as uncorrelated camera angles. The dubbing’s sync was inconstantly off, especially in the songs; but for that I blame the actors for tripping their miming job. Even the editing by Z.A. Zulfi and Syed Umer (credited as Editor on Avid) was hampered.
As “Son’s” world falls all around itself, it finds uncharacteristic salvation in the music of Naveed Wajid Ali Nashad. “Bhangara Panjabi”, performed by Saima Jahan, Ameer Ali, Nadeem Abbas and Amir Ghulam Ali is a pepped-up number, which strikes a subliminal chord of having heard it before (where though, that is the question).
Ahmed Jahanzeb voices “Kali Kali Teri Aankhen”, an eclectic mix of pop and filmi melody that sounded good on the big screen. The title “Son of Pakistan”, performed by Ameer Ali, plays like an old Junaid Jamshed song (I don’t know if that counts as a pro or a con).
As a film critic it is a pain to write a negative review on a Pakistani movie, especially in an age when all of our prime screens are taken over by international features. I won’t say it’s wrong to make an archaic seen-it-all-before flick on terrorism. It’s just that the sensibility of making good cinema has gone rogue.
“Son of Pakistan” is Produced by Ch. Hameed Khan and directed by Jarrar Rizvi.
The film stars, in no particular order: Babar Ali, Meera, Sana Nawaz, Shamil Khan, Laila, Babrik Shah, Sila Hussain, Alam Khan, Laiba Khan, Rehmat Ali, Shafqat Cheema, Laila Zuberi and Ghulam Mohyuddin.
Released 16th December 2011. Rated “U”. “Son of Pakistan” is surprisingly family friendly, and at the very least entertaining – but not in the way filmmakers would’ve wanted.
Published version linked: http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/23/movie-review-son-of-pakistan.html