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The recently released Na Maloom Afraad could veritably be perceived as an insider’s roller-coaster ride through Karachi.

Director Nabeel Qureshi is very obviously a Karachi-dweller — he traverses the city, even as he regales with the story of three hapless no-gooders scheming to make a quick buck. Not that the movie won’t appeal to audiences outside of Karachi. Laden with inside jokes, cityscapes and social commentary that simmers beneath, but never overwhelms, the main plot; Na Maloom Afraad packs in the punches with chutzpah, verve and piquant metropolitan angst.

And even as it skims the travails of poverty and zooms in on scenes of burning roads and violence, this movie refrains from being depressing, refreshingly remaining a comedy, twisting and turning its way to the happy ending.

In a country hampered by poverty, load shedding and political instability, there are many who may resort to becoming na maloom afraad – as do the movie’s three protagonists.

Fahad Mustafa plays Farhan, an insurance agent who is fired and needs cash so that he can marry his sweetheart Naina, endearingly enacted by Urwa Hocane.

 Fahad Mustafa and Urwa Hocane in a scene from
Fahad Mustafa and Urwa Hocane in a scene from 'Na Maloom Afraad'. – Courtesy Photo

Mohsin Abbas Haider is Moon, an ex-wedding band player who dreams of making it to Dubai even as he barely makes ends meet in Karachi.

The two share a room rented out to them by Shakeel Bhai, played by Javed Sheikh, a befuddled government servant on the verge of retirement, desperate to gather enough funds to marry off his younger sister, Naina.

Together, the three scheme to become part of the city’s Na Maloom Afraad, cashing in on the violence that inevitably springs up at times of unrest.

 Javed Sheikh, Fahad Mustafa and Mohsin Abbas in a scene from
Javed Sheikh, Fahad Mustafa and Mohsin Abbas in a scene from 'Na Maloom Afraad'. – Courtesy Photo

What unfolds is a madcap plot, replete with goons, guns, chases and umpteen spurts of hilarity. There are moments of sobriety when buses and cars are smashed and burnt in strikes and a criminal casually lights up his cigarette from burning tires on the road.

On lighter notes, the news show on the city’s criminal activities is called Chori ke peeche kya hai and when Kubra Khan, playing a do-gooder banker, tearfully empathises with the plight of mobile-snatchers, a smitten Moon tells her that she should be a morning show host.

A bearded prospective groom offers Naina non-alcoholic itar, Naina dreams of wearing jeans and going to 'Amreeka' and Salman Shahid’s villainous Gogi is accompanied by a troupe of confused hoodlums.

There’s witty repartee, subtle quips against bhai log and plenty of one-liners. Holding the script together is a superbly talented ensemble caste.

 Javed Shaikh, Fahad Mustafa and Mohsin Abbas Haider in a scene from
Javed Shaikh, Fahad Mustafa and Mohsin Abbas Haider in a scene from 'Na Maloom Afraad'. – Courtesy Photo

Taking centre stage is Javed Sheikh, brilliant as the baffled, innately shareef Shakeel Bhai. Mohsin delivers a watertight, energetic performance as the tempestuous Moon and Fahad Mustafa manages to hold his own, though he is prone to overact.

Salman Shahid is suitably diabolical as a murderous money-lender while Mehwish Hyatt, as the salacious Billi, is somewhat unnecessary to the script, although her item song certainly draws in the wolf-whistles.

 Mehwish Hayat makes a cameo appearance in the film to perform
Mehwish Hayat makes a cameo appearance in the film to perform 'Billi'. – Courtesy Photo

The soundtrack fits well into the story there are quirky, frivolous numbers like 'D.O.G.' and 'Goli teeti main phans gayee'; the romantic 'Darbadar' and the item-song 'Billi.'

The movie could have been shorter and snappier. The second half does occasionally drag although it never becomes boring. There are also some very identifiable ‘inspirations’ straight from Bollywood’s Hera Pheri. Both movies are, after all, about a trio scheming to make money.

Also, the scene where Farhan and Naina go to a mazaar to pray is absolutely typical Bollywood. The similarities cease, though, as the plot thickens.

 Fahad Mustafa and Urwa Hocane in a scene from
Fahad Mustafa and Urwa Hocane in a scene from 'Na Maloom Afraad'. – Courtesy Photo

There are also slight holes. Why, for instance, are the women in the house quite so oblivious to the frantic activities of the men? But these are all just minor cribs for Na Maloom Afraad doesn’t have any intellectual aspirations and a few holes here and there don’t count.

It’s an all-out, tongue-in-cheek, cleverly-crafted entertainer that leaves you pining for more movies of the same variety. This is how fantastic Pakistani cinema can be – even without veering towards the ever-convenient topic of terrorism – with the right scripts, smidgens of originality, good cinematography and a mélange of talented actors who have hitherto remained restricted to dramas.

Local cinema is well on its way to being ‘revived’.

Overall score: 4.5/5


Maliha Rehman is a fashion and lifestyle journalist with a penchant for writing, all the time! Log on to Twitter for more updates @maliharehman