Continued from Cult Pakistan - I: Forgotten mysteries, bygone strangeness & odd folk


Cult Hit: A cult film/TV show, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a work of ‘art’ that has acquired a cult following. Cult hits are known for their dedicated fan-base and a subculture that engage in repeated viewings and exist just beneath the conventional mainstream scene.


Cult TV


Such Gup (1973-75)

In an era when John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman had begun to redefine comedy shows on TV through BBC TV’s Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74); writer, actor and university lecturer Shoaib Hashmi decided to create a local version of Monty Python for Pakistan Television (PTV).

When Hashmi unveiled Such Gup (Truth & Fib) in 1973, Monty Python had already bagged a dedicated cult following in the UK by satirising and parodying British society, politics and the bureaucracy through sardonic sketches that were absurdist, non-linear and almost anarchic in nature.

Such Gup did the same in the Pakistani context, using a highly minimalist set, stream-of-thought humour and on-the-spot improvisations, as it parodied the social idiosyncrasies of Pakistan’s urban middle-classes of that time.

Within a year, Such Gup managed to bag a dedicated following and viewership among sections of Pakistan’s middle-classes (especially in Lahore and Karachi) and became a particular favourite of college and university students.

Such Gup ran for almost two years and was soon replaced by another Hashmi-penned sketch show, Taal Matol which used exactly the same format as Such Gup.

A popular 1974 ‘Tichkan Tootie’ sketch from Such Gup

Hashmi and his wife, Saleema Hashmi (painter, teacher, actress and daughter of famous progressive Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz), were banned from performing on PTV in 1979 by the reactionary military dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq.

Zia (who had come into power through a military coup in July 1977) blacklisted a number of actors, writers and directors from working for PTV. His regime believed these artists were ‘communists’ and supporters of the government Zia had toppled.

But a number of young men and women who were part of the core team of Such Gup went on to become famous TV actors and actresses.

Such Gup also influenced the making of one of Pakistan’s most popular comedy sketch shows, Fifty-Fifty (1978-84).


Dada Dildada/Quratulain (1975)

One of the most loved TV serials to appear on PTV in the 1970s was Aik Mohabbat Soh Afsaney (One Love, A Hundred Stories).

Written by intellectual and playwright, Ashfaq Ahmed, the 13 plays that he scripted for this series celebrated the liberal signs of the times and the sense of freedom and experimentation exhibited by the middle-class youth of the period. But the bottom-line of almost each and every play was always a plea to balance modern notions of liberalism with the country’s traditional religious lineage.

Though on the surface, that may simplistically read as a plea for moderation, the real problem was deeper: nobody was quite sure exactly what this traditional religious lineage even constituted.

Pakistan was (and is), a diverse population of various ethnicities, Islamic sects and sub-sects; so much so, that one’s ethnic roots matter more than the generalized concoction of a singular brand of faith – as proven by the Bengali nationalist movement in former East Pakistan.

Ashfaq’s balancing pleas emerged from his self-professed Sufi disposition, and since for a while he was a supporter of ZA Bhutto’s socialist initiatives, Ashfaq had to rip into the ‘hypocrisies of the modern bourgeoisie’ before advising a balance between modern materialism and traditional spiritualism.

The above example is clearly visible in one of his most potent plays that he wrote for the series. It was called Dada Dildada (The Hearty Grandfather). Directed by Muhammad Nisar Hussain, it’s a story of a loving and liberal grandfather and his favourite young grandson who (with his long hair, charming personality and liberal ideas), is the stereotypical 1970s middle-class Pakistani youth.

The grandfather loves to drink (mostly whisky), and the family is happy radiating within the comfort of their liberal bourgeoisie cocoon, until the grandson falls seriously ill. The helplessness of the liberal belief system is then ‘exposed’ when the doctors fail to cure the grandson and the family (especially the doting grandfather) start to crumble.

Ashfaq alludes to the fact that the glue keeping the family happy and together (materialism), was of superficial quality because it had detached the family from its more spiritual moorings.

In a scene inspired by Mughal Emperor Babar’s sacrificial undertaking – in which to save his son Humayun’s life, Babar is said to have given up alcohol – the grandfather prays to God that his life be given to the grandson, and for that, he is willing to give up drinking.

The grandfather then enters the grandson’s bedroom where the young man lies dying. There the old man starts to walk around the young man’s bed until he is exhausted and sits on the edge of the bed. The next thing we see is the young man opening his eyes. He is cured. But when he approaches the grandfather, the old man is dead.

The man who played the grandfather did not appear on TV again and the grandson (played by youthful TV star of the 1970s, Zafar Masood) died tragically in a car accident (in 1980).

Zafar Masood in a 1973 play. Popular with the youth in 1970s, he died young in 1980.
Zafar Masood in a 1973 play. Popular with the youth in 1970s, he died young in 1980.

Another outstanding (and still remembered) play from the series was Quratulain. It tells the story of a young, carefree man, who has a socialist bent of mind and is a follower of Sufism. Though his father is an industrialist and often makes fun of his son’s idealism, both father and son are extremely close.

The young man has a beautiful girlfriend (Quratulain) who loves him deeply but wants him to become a bit more mature and practical. When the couple agree to marry, the young man decides to join the Air Force. But after he goes for a medical examination, his doctor tells him that he is slowly going blind and that there was no known cure for his illness.

A scene from 'Quratulain'

The young man does not tell this to anyone and in fact pushes away his girlfriend, telling her that he does not love her anymore and that she should get married to another man.

In shock and confused, she finally breaks away and gets married to another man. After a while, she visits the young man’s father who tells her that his son suddenly vanished after he broke his relationship with her and nobody knows why he did that or where he is.

The stunning discovery at the end

In the last scene, the woman is visiting a Sufi shrine with her husband when she stops to buy some bangles from a faqir (spiritual vagabond). The faqir turns out to be her former beloved. He now has long hair and a rough stubble and has gone completely blind.

When he holds her hand to put the bangles over her wrists, he realises who the girl is. He panics, gets up and runs away, leaving behind the bewildered woman and her surprised husband. But the expression on the woman’s face gradually turns from that of shock to that of an albeit tragic sense of closure.


Baleela (1979)

Though Zia came in power in 1977, Shoaib Hashmi was not immediately banned by the Zia dictatorship. Hashmi managed to script, act in and screen a drama serial in 1979 called Baleela.

He was allowed to do so because he had pitched it as an entirely non-political serial about a house occupied by a lazy family that maintains its slacker life-style by selling off parts and pieces of a vintage 1950s car that it owns. The family calls the car, Baleela.

The serial was to run for 13 episodes but was suddenly discontinued and taken off by PTV after only a handful of episodes.

An older and wiser Shoaib Hashmi in 2000s.
An older and wiser Shoaib Hashmi in 2000s.

It took some time for the censors to realize that Baleela was not exactly the harmless, trivial story about an indolent family living off scrap metal.

According to the censors the play was a ‘symbolic attack on the Zia regime’; the lazy, pleasure-seeking family was the military regime and Baleela was Pakistan being sold piece by piece by the members of the regime, to keep them fat and rich.

Some surviving footage from 'Baleela' that was aired on a PTV show in 2005.

The play also introduced actors Asif Raza Mir and Shahnaz Sheikh, both of whom would rise to become star actors in the 1980s.

Baleela became one of the first TV plays to be banned by the Zia regime.


Fifty-Fifty — the Shervani sketch (1979)

Influenced by Shoaib Hashmi’s Such Gup (1973-75), young director and producer, Shoaib Mansoor, got a handful of talented stage comedians from Karachi and launched Fifty-Fifty – a comedy sketch show that used the same minimalist format first introduced on Pakistani TV screens by Such Gup.

But unlike Such Gup, Mansoor attracted a much larger audience through concentrating on parodying the more populist quirks of Pakistani society and by using everyday Urdu spoken on the streets and markets of Pakistan.

Fifty-Fifty became a huge mainstream hit and ran for a good seven seasons. It often managed to dodge past the Zia regime’s strict censor policies by avoiding making any political comments. Instead it ferociously mocked and satirized the social consequences of the regime’s many draconian laws.

Some members of the core Fifty-Fifty team with Shoaib Mansoor in 1979.
Some members of the core Fifty-Fifty team with Shoaib Mansoor in 1979.

For example, apart from parodying things like the collapse of the country’s film industry, cricket and hockey defeats, the bureaucracy and corrupt cops, the show also began to satirize the effects of the Zia government’s ‘moral dictates’.

One stand-out sketch in this context was called the ‘Shervani sketch’ (1979). It mocked the Zia regime’s orders to PTV stating that anyone on TV should only be allowed to appear either in kameez-shalwar or a shervani.

In response, Fifty-Fifty prepared a sketch which shows that after the order is given, PTV realises that it only has one shervani in its wardrobe. This one shervani then becomes vital and is now to be used by actors, newscasters, talk show hosts (etc.) – all at the same time!

Fifty-Fifty: The Shirvanee Sketch (1979)

PTV censors had initially disallowed the sketch to be included in the show because supposedly it not only mocked the regime’s ‘noble moral pursuits’ but also made fun of ‘decent clothing.’

Mansoor managed to get the sketch included but the night it was aired, the Fifty-Fifty team received a call directly from Zia who thought that the shervani should not have been made fun of. But to the relief of Mansoor and his team, the dictator concluded that he had actually ‘enjoyed the clip.’


The Amarnath knock-out (1978)

There are numerous iconic sporting images that have cut across Pakistani TV screens and into our memories: Pakistan winning the 1982 Hockey World Cup; Miandad hitting the winning last ball six against India in 1986; Pakistan cricket team lifting the 1992 Cricket World Cup; and many more.

But before all these there was the ‘Amarnath knock-out’ – an image taken from a 1978 Test match between Pakistan and India at Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium. PTV had begun to cover Test games more elaborately and during this game, a young 25 year-old Imran Khan was bowling with great pace on a green-top wicket.

One of his bouncers lifted sharply and hit Indian middle-order batsman, Mohinder Amarnath, on the face. Amarnath went down and the thirty-thousand or so people sitting in the stands roared and chanted (in Punjabi) ‘Hik aur, hik aur' (one more, one more!).

Imran downs Amarnath in Lahore (1978)

The image was constantly repeated by PTV in its ‘propaganda war’ against India and became iconic for a number of young boys, some of whom grew up to become fierce quick bowlers for the Pakistan team in the late 1980s and 1990s, namely Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Aqib Javed.


Jaydee

In the mid-1970s author, satirist and poet, Athar Shah Khan, created a uniquely funny and at the same time tragic character called Jaydee. He first introduced him in a 1975 PTV serial, Intezaar Farmaiyey ('Please Wait') and then again in 1976 in another series called Hello Hello.

Both the series turned Jaydee into a popular character. Played by Shah himself, Jaydee was a homeless vagabond who (in both the plays) ended up staying in middle-class homes torn by domestic strife.

Jaydee was always in a crumpled raincoat, a torn tie and circular glasses; and he claimed to be a double PhD in English. Very little is known about his past. He is extremely clumsy and is always trying to prove that he is highly educated by speaking a rather hilarious version of English concocted from using immediate English translations of Urdu words and terms.

For example, in Hello Hello he constantly refers to an old-aged women called Chaachi Gul Badan as ‘Aunty Flower Body.’

In his bumbling ways, Jaydee actually ends up solving the domestic problems of the houses he has managed to stay in. But in both the series, this hilarious and good-natured fool dies tragically.

A scene from 'Hello Hello' (1976).

Jaydee turned Athar Shah Khan into a TV sensation. But when Shah tried to further cash-in his newfound popularity by writing some serious plays, the plays flopped. In fact, by the early 1980s, Shah almost vanished from the small screen and so did the memories of Jaydee.

Athar Shah Khan tried to revive the character on PTV in the 1990s but the generation of TV viewers who had turned him into a cult hit in the 1970s had moved on and the new generation could not relate to Jaydee’s peculiar humour.


‘Bata by choice …’ (1987)

The late 1980s saw the initial makings of a Pakistani pop scene that would become a vibrant industry in the 1990s before fading away. Even before the demise of General Ziaul Haq and his dictatorship (August 1988), sections of young urban middle-class Pakistanis had begun to challenge the cultural restrictions imposed by the Zia regime.

Forming pop bands was one way of doing this and one of the first in this context were the Vital Signs in 1987. However, the same year, a similar impact was created by a TV commercial for Bata shoes.

Made by Interflow Communications, the commercial (and especially the jingle) became an immediate cult hit! No Pakistani jingle had achieved the status of a hit pop number before, but this one did; so much so that at one point young Pakistanis were listening to the audio recording of the jingle in their cars and Sony Walkman.

The jingle and imagery of the commercial – mainly inspired by 1980s pop music and fashion (Duran Duran, Wham, Maddona, A-Ha, etc.) – became a cult sensation and can actually be seen as an accurate reflection of the ‘newness’ that had begun to emerge in the country’s then nascent pop culture and urban cultural pursuits.


Cult Cinema


Insaan Aur Gadha (1973)

Directed by actor and producer, Syed Kamal, Insaan Aur Gadha ('Man & Donkey') provided the slapstick comedian par excellence, Rangeela, his first major chance to exhibit his comic talents in a more meaningful manner.

The film is a social commentary on the economic and political exploits of man against man. Kamal does that through the tale of a donkey who, after being mistreated by his owner, prays to God to turn him into a human. God does exactly that and the donkey transforms into a human (Rangeela) who (rather hilariously), retains some of the behaviourisms of a donkey!

Rangeela is extremely funny and convincing in his role and his performance helped turn the film into a box-office hit. The cult aspect of the movie, however, was provided by a scene in the film that ended up offending the then prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

In this scene, Rangeela is seen making a passionate and revolutionary speech to a gathering of donkeys. Though both Kamal and Rangeela were supporters of Bhutto’s populist and left-leaning Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Kamal had nevertheless decided to include a symbolic scene which satirised the demagogic style of Bhutto’s speeches.

The speech scene

The scene was pulled out from the film by the censors after it begun to generate comments in the Urdu press, but in 1975 when the film was re-released, the government allowed Kamal to reinsert it.


Dulhan Aik Raat Ki (1975)

By the mid-1970s, the screening of British and American ‘Adult films’ in Pakistan had turned into a very popular outing for young middle-class Pakistanis and couples. By 1974-75, cinemas (especially in Karachi) that had signs saying ‘For Adults Only,’ were doing a roaring business.

Karachi’s Rio Cinema and Palace Cinema became known for running such films. These films were mainly low-budget American romantic farces in which nudity scenes and sexual content were allowed to be shown by the censors, thus the tag: ‘For Adults Only’.

Inspired by the times, director Mumtaz Ali Khan helmed Pakistan’s first Urdu ‘Adults Only’ film. It was appropriately called Dulhan Aik Raat Ki (Bride for One Night).

Starring the ‘Charles Bronson of Pakistani (and Pushto) cinema,’ Badar Munir, the film was a meat fest of quivering female bodies and muscular, hairy-chested men.

Amoral and unapologetic in its gaudy, blood-splattered setting, the film tells a story of kidnapping, honour and revenge. The movie gave birth to the prototype of the Pakistani cinema’s angry-young-man.

Rough stuff: Badar Munir and Musarat Shaeen in
Rough stuff: Badar Munir and Musarat Shaeen in 'Duhlan Aik Raat Ki'

Badar Munir’s angry role was quite unlike that of Indian cinema’s angry-young-man of the time (Amitabh Buchan). Where Amitabh’s role in this context was street-smart, brooding and ideologically charged, Munir’s role was that of a man steeped in the rugged and earthy myths of honour and revenge in rural Pakistan (mainly in the Punjab and the former NWFP).

Munir and friends live it up in the mountains.

The character eventually evolved and was perfected by Punjabi film actor, Sultan Rahi, in many Punjabi films of the 1980s, a majority of them based squarely on the action-packed and sexual formula discovered by Dulhan Aik Raat Ki.


Aurat Raj (1979)

In 1978 actor/comedian and director, Rangeela, began plotting a film that would make him stand out as a film-maker. It was at this point that someone told him about an idea of a short story that famous Pakistani novelist, Shaukat Thanvi, had once mentioned somewhere about a world in which societies were entirely matriarchal.

Original 1979 poster of Aurat Raj.
Original 1979 poster of Aurat Raj.

Excited, Rangeela decided to expand the idea into a film. He signed on a number of the time’s most famous actors and actresses, and completed the film by early 1979.

But the distributers were shocked at what they saw: A scathing satire on male-dominated societies.

The film also parodied the concept of heroes and heroines in Pakistani films and was entirely sympathetic to the feminist point of view.

The film is actually like no other ever made in this country. It sees a repressed wife (played by Rani) married to a flamboyant male chauvinist (played by Waheed Murad) — a man who treats women like objects.

The wife finally puts her foot down and organises a women’s movement in the area. The movement dramatically spreads and mobs of women begin to get hold of oppressive men and beat them up in the streets.

The government intervenes and decides to hold an election to resolve the issue. The election is swept by the Aurat Raj Party, and the women gain political power. Rani becomes the country’s new leader and purchases a special bomb from a foreign country. The bomb is special because after exploding, it turns all men into women!

All (original) women are elevated to the domestic, social and political positions that were once dominated by the males, and the men are relegated to wearing women’s clothes and pushed into occupations and duties that are stereotypically associated with women.

What follows is a hilarious, biting satire that attacks male chauvinism, social conservatism and female stereotypes constructed by the popular media in a patriarchal society.

The film was so visually and conceptually startling (for its time) that the audiences were not sure exactly how to respond. Rangeela went bankrupt.

In a 1990s essay of hers, the well-known TV producer, Shireen Pasha, wrote that some very good films began to flop from the late 1970s onwards. According to her, one of the reasons was a demographic shift in the country’s film audiences.

As the populist and extroverted social and cultural zeitgeist of the decade began to recede and a more conservative mind-set began to take its place, the middle-class audiences of Pakistani films became introverted and stopped venturing to the cinemas.

Romantic and social films began to flop and action flicks became popular. So one can deduce that though Pakistani cinema’s middle-class audiences (that constituted a huge female audience) would have been more appreciative of a film like Aurat Raj, those who actually went to see it belonged to an emerging new audience who had come to watch Waheed Murad as a smouldering Casanova and Sultan Rahi as a muscle man.

But what they got was Murad being beaten black and blue by Rani and Sultan Rahi in a blonde wig, playing the role of a moustached mother-in-law!

A scene from Aurat Raj after the women topple the supremacy of men.

As for Rangeela, he never recovered from the loss he concurred from this (albeit pioneering) cinematic debacle.


Sangram (1980)

When the Ziaul Haq dictatorship accelerated its efforts to ‘Islamise’ the narrative of Pakistan’s creation and raison d'etre (in school text books and state media), director Iqbal Yusuf decided to offer a helping hand.

In an attempt to escape the Zia regime’s ‘blacklist’ (that contained names of filmmakers, actors, actresses, singers, poets and journalists who were to be banned for being ‘against Zia’s moral dictates’), Iqbal helmed a film whose plot and script were almost entirely based on the reactionary narrative which was being developed by ‘historians’ who had backed Zia’s 1977 military coup.

The film takes place in a land where there seems to be nothing but mud brick villages separated by miles and miles of rolling sand. One is not sure exactly what year, or for that matter, what century the story is taking place in, because even though there are no electoral appliances to be seen, there are plenty of pistols and a rickety Jeep driven by an evil Hindu police officer. Yet, there is an abundance of camels too.

Famous film star Mohammad Ali is 'Sangram', a Hindu in a Hindu majority village, most of whose men prefer wearing tight leather pants and shirts made from what seems to be jute.

Ali’s character is a robber, who also has a petite girlfriend (actress Mumtaz) who often turns surprisingly more voluptuous while dancing around Sangram during the songs.

One day, Sangram bumps into a holy Muslim man who looks like a cross between an ancient Byzantine priest and a 20th century Tableeghi Jamaat evangelist.

  The ghostly cleric converts the amused scoundrel.
The ghostly cleric converts the amused scoundrel.

The holy man succeeds in converting Sangram to Islam and renames him Ali – a scene marked by a flash of lightning strike across the night sky on a perfectly sunny afternoon.

From then on, somehow, whichever scene Ali appears in, palm trees can be seen and his girlfriend’s voluptuous moves become drastically understated, but the songs keep rolling.

Of course, like all "good" converts, Ali is aware of his duty to convert his contemporaries whether they like it or not. He gives up his life as a thief, discards his leather pants and takes to wearing the Arab thawb and spending rest of the film on the back of a camel.

After first converting his gang and entire village (through a few emotional speeches and a couple of punches thrown at one of his doubting partners), he decides to lead an army of committed converts (on camels) on a mission to convert the Hindus of all the other villages. This is an unnamed, surreal land populated by bumbling Hindus and a sprinkling of Muslim clerics who seem to emerge from behind sand dunes and then melt back into the sand.

After he is able to convert village after village, and after palm trees begin to dot the scenes one after the other, a time comes when holy Hindu men begin to worry.

The desert lion beats up a South Asian schemer.
The desert lion beats up a South Asian schemer.

They conspire with the area’s police to eliminate Ali. This pushes him into becoming a guerrilla leader. He cuts down the Hindu priests until he is cornered and killed by the cops. But, of course, by then it’s too late.

Only at the end does one discover that the film took place just before the creation of Pakistan, because as Ali lies on the sand dying from his wounds, he looks up to see a Pakistan flag on a fortress. Yes, the symbolism is unmistakable – ‘Pakistan is the fortress of faith’.

As Ali’s character rolls to his death over the sand dunes, it makes you wonder if Jinnah just rolled in his grave.


International Gorillay (1990)

International Gorillay (international gorillas) was perhaps the last Pakistani film that roused some interest in international media.

No, it wasn’t quite Oscar stuff, but it has remained to be a much loved cult classic.

It was a huge hit when it was released in 1990 and has become a favourite of oddball Lollywood aficionados. Directed by eccentric Pakistani film director, Jan Muhammad, the farce was also one of the first Pakistani films to be banned (on video) in Britain.

Although International Gorillay took on author Salman Rushdie as the main villain, the ban on the video was lifted when Rushdie himself stepped in and asked the British censor board to allow its release. Since the film is an epitome of tacky demagogic cinema, one can understand why Rushdie didn’t feel threatened or offended by the content.

According to some Lollywood insiders, Jan’s original plot of the film was a lot wider, revolving around a group of Pakistani mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan. But then Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ controversy erupted in 1989, and Jan decided to make Rushdie the film’s main villain.

Thus, instead of the 'mujahids' returning from fighting a successful war against atheists in Afghanistan, the film kicks off by presenting Pakistan and the Muslim world in grip of a grave crisis and being swallowed by the evil schemes of a sinister lobby of diabolic men. Rushdie (played by veteran TV and film actor, Afzal Ahmed), is part of the lobby.

The author is shown as leading a menacing social and political onslaught on Pakistan through a gang of anti-Pakistan agents.

With Rushdie are some very South Asian-looking men in curly blonde wigs whom we are told are men working for a secret Israeli agency. And, oh, they all speak fluent Punjabi.

Since Pakistan is the leading defender of the faith, the film suggests that if Pakistan falls to Rushdie’s menacing schemes, so shall the rest of the Muslim world.

Interestingly, Rushdie’s assault on faith includes the unfathomable opening of a chain of casinos and discotheques in Pakistan – despite the fact that nightclubs and bars in Pakistan were closed down in April 1977.

Alas, there is a heroic reaction to such conspiratorial debauchery. In a jarring scene involving some terrible acting and rhetorical dialogue, veteran Punjabi film actor, Mustafa Qureshi, playing an ex-cop, decides to create a ‘mujahid fauj’ (holy army) whose sole aim is to destroy Rushdie and save Pakistan from Jewish conspiracies and, of course, from obscenity too.

The latter is a vital plot tool, giving the director the opportunity to show some lecherous dance scenes without the danger of himself (and the audience) being labelled as soft-porn fans.

Apart from being an Israeli agent and an advocate of gambling, alcohol and free sex, Rushdie is also a master torturer. He torments captive Muslims by making them listen to sections of his book, ‘The Satanic Verses’!

The ex-cop has two younger brothers who are both unemployed (maybe because there are now only casinos, pubs and night clubs to work in?).

To counter Rushdie, the ex-cop inducts two of his younger brothers in his ‘mujahid force.’ After getting combat training, the three-man-army decides to infiltrate Rushdie’s baleful gang by going undercover. And no, they don’t adorn blonde wigs, but slip into Batman costumes instead.

Obviously, who would notice three middle-aged men in Batman costumes, right?

No respite for the wicked: Rushdie sees the light but it slices through him.
No respite for the wicked: Rushdie sees the light but it slices through him.

Two of the brothers, played by known film actors, Javed Shaikh and Ghulam Mohiuddin, were well in their forties at the time, a fact underlined by the wobbling bellies protruding from their Batman costumes.

After making their way into the conspiring gang of anti-Pakistan thugs, the three brothers — with the help of zany reactionary one-liners, karate chops, expert gun slinging and a few SAM missiles — make a meal out of Rushdie and co. and save the day.

What’s more, they even manage to convert Salman Rushdie’s equally evil mistress called Dolly (played by the lovely Baabra Sharif).

  Dolly frolicking shortly before her conversion (and/or acid trip).
Dolly frolicking shortly before her conversion (and/or acid trip).

Voluptuous, wicked, scheming, drunk (and blue-eyed) Dolly finally sees the light after watching middle-aged men in Batman suits obliterate Rushdie.

Dolly’s conversion is quite a scene. Lights flicker, clouds thunder, the room whirls round and round, and the music reaches a crescendo as she weeps, sweats and shakes – it’s as if she’d just consumed a highly potent concoction of LSD and magic mushrooms!

It's certainly my favourite scene in the film.

And, oh, there’s also a shot of a huge palm tree at this visionary moment.

International Gorillay is a stroke of genius when it comes to campy demagogic cinema, and only an idiot can take it seriously as anything beyond being a highly enjoyable cinematic farce with lots of unintentional laughs.

Flabby men in Batman suits are deceived by Salman Rushdie despite the fact that they use the word ‘kuttay’ (dog) over a dozen times.

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