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With a bright yellow Ford Mustang 73 straddling the red carpet and glamorous tuxedo-ed actors and be-gowned actresses hobnobbing with the audience, last night's premiere for the movie Jalaibee was like no other.

Jalaibee is director Yasir Jaswal's latest venture, a fast-paced crime drama starring Sajid Hasan, Ali Safina, Danish Taimoor, Zhalay Sarhadi, Adnan Jaffer, Wiqar Ali Khan as well as British-Indian model/film actor Sabeeka Imam and musician Uzair Jaswal.

The premiere:

The film's stars and their celeb friends came out dressed to the nines, and huge posters of the actors dominated the walls.

'Jalaibee's' mascot: '73 Ford Mustang.
'Jalaibee's' mascot: '73 Ford Mustang.
Uzair Jaswal and Sabeeka Imam at the premiere.
Uzair Jaswal and Sabeeka Imam at the premiere.

The film's premiere got almost everything right except for a late start: we were handed free jalaibees as a movie snack and popcorn was served on the house too.

Jalaibee awaits the audience of 'Jalaibee.'
Jalaibee awaits the audience of 'Jalaibee.'

The red carpet was an unforgettably bright, colorful and fun affair. It was also nice to see other actors and models like Hamza Ali Abbasi, Rubya Chaudhary and Aamna Ilyas come up to support their contemporaries.

Wiqar Ali Khan takes selfies with fans.
Wiqar Ali Khan takes selfies with fans.

When it came time to watch the film the crowd separated and trooped into four cinemas. And so began our Jalaibee experience...

The movie:

It's no secret that Pakistanis are obsessed with the mysterious Na Maloom Afraad (especially these days)... and Yasir Jaswal's latest directorial venture Jalaibee doesn’t stray too far from the pack.

The buddy film, which centres on the humourless Billu, played by Danish Taimoor, and the entertaining Bugga, played by Ali Safina, narrates how two small time crooks get trapped in a whirlwind of debt, crime, robbery and murder.

The movie begins with Bugga and Billu facing the biggest dilemma of their lives — they’ve botched up a bank robbery they carried out for the mysterious city mafia don (referred to as the 'king') and now his mafia, fronted by Dara (Adnan Jaffer) wants them to pay 5 crores in a day’s time. That might be a story arc that’s played out before in countless other films.

Ali Safina and Danish Taimur in a scene from 'Jalaibee'.
Ali Safina and Danish Taimur in a scene from 'Jalaibee'.

However, it gets interesting when the duos’ trajectory gets intermingled with the foreign-returned and heavily accented Ali (played by Wiqar Ali Khan) and his brother Jimmy (played by Uzair Jaswal). They are out to avenge the same mafia for killing their dad when they were kids.

Now Ali is purposefully dating Eman (played by Sabeeka Imam) the daughter of the head of a political party, a soon-to-be prime minister and the presumed godfather of the same mafia. When she gives up some critical information about her dad (played by Sajid Hasan), Ali hatches his plan to kidnap Eman’s dad and reveal all his conduct to the media. But a mix-up with Billu and Bugga leads to complications that he hadn’t anticipated at all.

There had to be a love triangle thrust into the narrative – and so Zhalay Sarhadi makes her entrance as Bannu, a modern-day courtesan or escort. Originally approached by Billu and Baggu to help pay back their debt, she falls madly in love with Ali. She is willing to go to great lengths to help him out.

Zhalay Sarhadi as Bunno in 'Jalaibee'.
Zhalay Sarhadi as Bunno in 'Jalaibee'.

For a movie named Jalaibee, the twists in this caper action thriller film directed by Yasir Jaswal are as predictable as a Disney film. Climaxes are stretched out too long and someone could’ve done a lot of snipping and chopping to make the film crisper.

Still, cinematographer Mo Azmi’s ability to visually capture the polarizing sides of Pakistan – the depraved and the decadent – without taking the focus away from the characters of the films is commendable. The film also does a slick job of combining contemporary animation with live action.

Camera movements, angles and close-up shots of the characters do a great job of revealing more than what the dialogue manages to. The high quality visuals can also be attributed to the ARRI Alexa HD camera on which the whole film was shot. The music score by Qayaas, Uzair Jaswal and Humaira Arshad is fast-paced and fits the rhythm and pacing of the film well.

Now the real downer of the film was Sabeeka Imam and Wiqar Ali Khan’s lacklustre acting. Wiqar delivered dialogues like he was about to introduce the next song on a music channel and Sabeeka looked like a character out of TV show nip/tuck hoping to get a botched facial surgery fixed.

If it weren’t for Ali Safina’s impeccable comic timing and Zhalay Sarhadi’s effortless dialogue delivery, I would’ve curled up on the cold floor of the cinema, covered myself in my dupatta and snoozed out the rest of the film.

But these two show great promise to represent Pakistan internationally and stopped me from catching the Zzs. I wouldn’t be surprised if model turned actor Sarhadi catches the eye of an international director and becomes the next Frieda Pinto. Even while doing an item number, she looked so stunning and moved so gracefully that she managed to turn the sleaziest part of the film classy.

Sajid Hasan as the mafia boss in 'Jalaibee'
Sajid Hasan as the mafia boss in 'Jalaibee'

Another outstanding job in the film has been done by the big bad villain Dara played by Adnan Jaffer who is the face of the mafia. It’s easy to go over the top with a role like his, and become a caricature but Jaffer keeps the theatrics minimal.

It’s nice to see that Pakistani cinema has gotten to a point where we no longer go to watch a local flick just because it’s “Pakistani” and “ours” and we’re all supposed to be patriotic and eyeball it no matter how bland and boring it is. Pakistani films are able to shine on their own without the patriotism mantra marketed to pull in the crowds.

Hopefully, we’ve also graduated to a time that reviews of Pakistani movies will no longer be meant to just stroke director’s egos but really analyze and critique the originality and creativity of scripts, themes, characters, and judge the overall level of acting and direction displayed in the film.