For anyone vaguely interested in rolling along with Pakistani cinema’s new-blood revival would have given a smidgen of consideration to Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (MHSA), the ‘first’ Pakistani sports-flick dunked deep in family drama starring Humayun Saeed, Noman Habib, Javed Sheikh, Nadeem Baig, Ismail Tara, Shafqat Cheema – and about a gazillion cameos from anyone abstractedly linked to the industry.
Bearing in mind the bash of a premiere yesterday, think of the cameos as family-support for Mr. Saeedand Shahzad Nasib’s sure fire blockbuster; And, in case anyone forgets about either their or ARY Films’ – who distributes the movie along with Mandviwalla Entertainment – place in the industry, this is one extended family.
The love part from the industry is infectious, but it never seeps into the feature film; at least not directly. Mr. Saeed plays Akbar Deen, a pro-cricketer who’s the pride-and-joy of his familythat includes a mom, a pop (Mr. Baig), a wife (Mahnoor Baloch) and son. Akbar gets implicated with illegal drugs after he gets drunk by an orange juice drink and a (quite revealing) dance item by Mathira (the song is Masti Main Doobi by Neeti Wagh and Shani). It is – quite literally – a flash, which dumps Akbar in a jail cell and bats his career out of the cricket grounds.
Years later, Shahid (Noman Habib), an on-the-breadline prodigy youngster from Sialkot who works the cash register in a local restaurant, pushes the owner of his local cricket club (Ismail Tara, playing Malick Khalid) to try the team for a Pepsi-sponsored tournament. A few beats later, and rather vapidly, Akbar signs up as the team's coach.
Their rivals, silver spoons who reach the cricketing grounds by choppers, are employed by Mian Asif Qureishi (Mr. Sheikh senior), and includes Mikaal Qureishi (Shahzad Sheikh), Akbar’s son.
For those of us who are still biased to put MHSA along Chak De India, I have one thing to say: please don’t.
Mr. Saeed’s film written by Vasay Chaudhary, working from a scarred-underdog/least bet-team that wins the cup formula,devises enough deviations in its revved up pace to make the distinctions obvious. A few unresolved angles (the husband-wife split-up; the rich father-in-law vs. the cricketer son-in-law) do dig ruts within MHSA’s narrative. Nevertheless these are just minor botches that are easily swept under the rug by the speed of MHSA’s execution.
As performances go, I have a sincere advice for Mr. Saeed: stop acting for the small-screen.
Mr. Saeed, who mostly equips his acting arsenal with scowls and growls and a tear drop or two, kicks in some class nuances in unexpected nooks and crannies. And with 70% (maybe more) screen-time to his Akbar, Mr. Saeed becomes a central point of weight for MSHA.
Noman Habib, as the engaging rural Shahid Afridi, piles on the innocence, but more often than not his naiveté and unsophistication (acting wise) becomes rather apparent.Ms. Baloch is plastic, and like the most expensive kind is (unblinkingly) fixed in place. Ainy Jaffri, the big city girl with big,big eyes, who falls for Shahid is flimsy, because of the way she’s placed in the film – rather like Asym Mehmood, Ainan Arif and Gohar Rasheed, who are fairly good to average depending on the scale and cliché of their exposure.
Mr. Arif plays Michael Magnet, a Christian who makes way for some minor obligatory racial biasness.Like every conflict, the resolution is nippy if not shrewd (case in point: the estranged father-son dilemma between Mr. Baig and Mr. Saeed, which piles up, only to open a separate narrative track). Sometimes – for example, the climax and the cricket matches – the hastiness works against the anticipation.
Still, for a bulk of its entirety, MHSA swaps between characters one ends up rooting for: the roll-call includes Majeed Maulvi, the slightly racist, short-tempered Pathan played by Humza Ali Abbasi, Mr. Sheikh’s stereotypical villain Asif Qureishi and Mr. Cheema’s brilliantly played Bashir Bhatti, a worthless, gambling self-indulgent father to Shahid. The only other actor who stands up to Mr. Cheema’s vivid charisma and dexterity is Mr. Tara, whose presence even dominates Mr. Saeed in some scenes.
MHSA isn’t unblemished as far as technicality is concerned. A few issues with color grading (sometimes apparent within cuts in a continuous location), camera/resolution/sharpness issues in cricket matches (and no, we aren’t fooled into thinking we’re seeing a televised broadcast) pop up and fade away, oft times by the sheer aesthetic diligence of putting on the show. This aesthetic diligence includes three groovy songs by composers Shani & Kami – Jera Vee (Shafqat Amanat Ali, Shani), Angreja (Momin Durrani, Jabar Abbas) and Masti Mai Doobi; Malaal, the fourth song sung by Rahat Fateh Ali, is an adequate space filler.
Syed Ali Raza (aka Usama), coming from a television background, is proficient in setting up cinema-quality frames with a dastardly penchant to throw the BG out of focus in close-ups. He is also quite practiced in executing film-level performances from a bulk of his cast (of course, the expanded gamut and resolution of the RED camera helps here).
The problem with the industry is that no one wants to appreciate a good mainstream family movie – especially from people within the film fraternity. I could hear murmurs about art and intelligence, as soon as I ventured outside the screening. For these self-made connoisseurs of the medium, I only point to the deafening applause the film collected two or three times.
A film that looks good, keeps you engaged, lets you unwind and then coerces (some if not all) to wild-cheering is a product well-made – and as the tickets will tell – well-sold.
ARY Films and Mandviwalla Entertainment Present ‘Main Hoon Shahid Afridi’.
Staring: Javaid Shaikh, Nadeem Baig, Humayun Saeed, Mahnoor Baloch, Noman Habib, Annie Jafferi, Gohar Rasheed, Humza Ali Abbasi, Shafqat Cheema.
Directed by Syed Ali Raza; Produced by Humayun Saeed and Shahzad Nasib; Written by Vasay Chaudhary; Cinematography by Asif Khan; Editing by Asad Ali Zaidi; Umer Gulzari, Production Designer; Art Director, Jari Khushnood; Costumes by Jazib Qamar; Lyrics by Sabir Zafar, Nadeem Asad. PR handled by Syntax Communication.
The film is family friendly – given that one shields the young-one’s eyes when Mathira belly-dances like an Arab slave-girl.
Despite living movies 24/7 (http://kamranjawaid.com), the writer is still truly, madly, deeply in love with cinema; the root cause of this anomaly requires further clinical trials.
He tweets @kamranjawaid
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