The post is the updated copy of the review published in Mag the Weekly on May 28, 2016.
In ‘Aksbandh’, a Lot of People Will Die (Sometimes Laughing)
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Aksbandh is a far better title for a found footage film, let me tell you. The last one, Paranormal Karachi Nights, sounded a tad off, especially because the movie is set on a rest house deep in the woods around Drigh Lake – which is quite a bit of walk away from the city (well, approximately a 77 hour walk, if you trust Google maps). The goofier aspect of the previous title, however, is still embedded in the story.
Actually, calling the event a story, would be giving the movie too much credit; a much better word would have been “incident”.
Aksbandh is about a group of aspiring filmmakers – six in total – who venture into the woods to make a found-footage movie of a couple that meets its demise by unknown supernatural forces. Ayaan (played by Daniyal Khan, the sleeveless hoodie wearing actor who is the most amateurish of the on-screen talent), tells his leading actress (Mahrukh Rizvi) that their film is basically a rip-off of Paranormal Activity. Well, at least he is honest.
Technically a zilch, with overexposed highlights (the background is over-lit by the sun), missed focus marks, and slapped-on scenes mis-labled as “editing”, Akshandh reminds me of my previous conjecture (which I often quote), that anyone with a DSLR can make a movie.
Aksbandh also reminds me of something else – a relatively unknown Kannada horror film called 6-5=2 (Not kidding).
While more of a failed math problem than a successful motion picture, the concept is incidentally a rip-off of this and the Blair Witch Project. Unlike the latter though, the fear never quite materializes in either movie. Most of the “horror” here, with its shaky camera angles and laughable acting, happens very late – almost like an after-thought. What little was blatantly injected in the first half, however, is stricken by bad glitch video effects that tell us, that indeed, there is evil afoot on-screen. (Oh! the horror). There is no build-up or lucidity.
Aksbandh would have been a catastrophe if it took itself seriously. It’s a good thing, then, that it doesn’t.
Ayaz Samoo (Moor), who plays Sunny, the lead of the movie (and is the co-writer and co-Producer), elevates the mood with his nondescript, even maybe non-scripted play-acting. His performance, and that of the others, including the jittery Bilal Yousufzai, remind us that this is definitely a Pakistani motion picture – and that, by itself, is an achievement.
Well, not because we, the media, have a bad habit of congratulating even the weakest of efforts, you see (rarely in journalism here people know how to evaluate movies).
There is another reason: Pakistani movies, you see, (especially the not-so-serious ones, of recent years), have a distinct tone. It’s often amateurish enough to not sound as serious, and at the same time exhibit a tendency to attract the laymen with the way the characters talk and behave on-screen.
Like laymen, armed with dud jokes (which we, the audience, laugh out loud on), our movies perceptively allude a tint of familiarity we come to expect from each other. This characteristic, excellently left over (maybe by design or accident), helps off-set the inconsistencies of the narrative.
The audience, (I was, again, at the first show of a 70% packed house), laughed with the movie and not at the movie. For a movie – regardless of it being horror – that’s an achievement, yes.
Aksbandh is rated U (as far as I know) for scenes of comedy and mild jump-scares.