Chambaili, the latest Pakistani film to hit theatres believes in the combining power that both hope and the vote can bring. With elections just round the corner, Chambaili couldn’t have been released at a more opportune time
It’s a country that looks, sounds and behaves almost exactly like Pakistan. Some of the characters remind you of the friends you could’ve had, the politicians depicted in the film seem uncannily similar to those that have been operating in Pakistan for decades. The situations are either what we’ve been through or heard about from someone else. Falakabad is the Land of the Pure in every sense except in name.
Chambaili: the Fragrance of Freedom, is the latest Pakistani film to hit theatres and with much fanfare. Running a campaign prior to the film’s release that relied almost solely on engaging people through social media, trailers for the film began running on TV just a short while before its release. The film has been co-produced, written and with art direction by Shahzad Nawaz whose previous work includes the commercially unreleased Botal Gali (2005) and Daira (2003) — a film based on Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s book, Mothsmoke. This time around Shahzad Nawaz has taken a backseat when it comes to direction. That task was taken up by Ismail Jilani. And he’s done a pretty decent job. Abdullah Kadwani has also co-produced the film.
Everything in the film was made from scratch — from the national flag to the number plates on the cars to the logo of the local police and the names of the political parties, the visual identity markers to the names of the places and institutions etc. The entire country is, in short, fictional.
Chambaili is the story of four friends in a country called Falakabad where political rallies have a tendency of turning violent, where ruling political dynasties are the norm and corruption is rampant. There is land grabbing, targeted killing, political deals and all that’s on TV is the news, political talk shows or news about how bad things are in the country. Sound familiar?
These four friends find themselves unwittingly caught between a case of land grabbing and extortion by a major ruling party, assault, the police’s utter unwillingness to take action and peoples’ apathy towards the conditions of the country. Through the strength and courage of one friend, Musa, they decide to stand up to the injustice they feel subjected to and see taking place with impunity around them. Sacrifices are made along the way and the friends face a lot of hardships, but stubborn belief in their cause keeps them going.
The film’s main cast includes Salman Peerzada, Khalid Ahmed, Maira Khan, Shafqat Cheema, Omair Rana, Sadia Hayat, Saiqa Khayyam, Ali Tahir, Ehtisham, Khalid Qureshi, Fatima, Ali Fateh, Humayun bin Rathor and Shahzad Nawaz with a special guest appearance by Ghulam Mohiuddin.
Maira Khan hasn’t been as prominent on TV screens of late and she delivers a stellar performance in Chambaili as Kiran, a die-hard idealist with courage that defies any sense of caution. Shafqat Cheema as Musheer (city president of the Inquilaab party) also gives a noteworthy performance as a politician who would switch sides and betray those who trust him simply to get ahead. Fashion model Mehreen Syed plays the role of the protagonist’s love interest and looks breathtakingly beautiful in almost every frame. And she surprised with her acting skill as she was quite convincing in her role — more so than another model-turned-film actor who has starred in two previous high-profile productions.
Salman Peerzada as chairman of the Inquilaab party, Sardar Jan Sher, and Khaled Ahmed as the president of the religious/political party, Hizbe Haq, both are seasoned performers in their own right and have delivered stellar performances.
The real star of the film, however, remains Ehtishamuddin as Musa Azeem — a conscientious, driven idealist who leads his friends into taking a stand against the injustice they are suffering and work to bring about change. It is his words that define the essence of the film’s message. They spurred the ‘revolution’ that takes place in the film.
Except for maybe one or two songs, the soundtrack is nothing to write home about. Most of the songs lacked originality and weren’t memorable. One song that did stand out played towards the end of the film, just when the credits begin to roll. Called Azadi and inspired by the struggle of the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, the song has a beautiful, melodious and haunting quality to it.
Hailing the winds of change
Chambaili has very strong dialogues that resonate long after the film is over. It is a well-made film that flows smoothly throughout its running time and keeps the viewer engaged which is a feat in itself. Chambaili is a testament to how far Shahzad Nawaz has come from Daira and Botal Gali.
The film believes in the combining power that both hope and the vote can bring. With elections just round the corner, Chambaili couldn’t have been released at a more opportune time.