In the erstwhile onscreen battle between good and evil, the heroes always win, managing to overpower the diabolical, powerful villain.
We all know that and we’ve seen it in movies umpteen times. Question is, would we like to see it again, in Pakistan’s first-ever animated venture, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Waadi Animations’ 3 Bahadur?
For anybody who loves a good, well-told story, the answer would have to be yes, the crowd that gathered for the film's Karachi premiere seemed to agree.
The crux behind 3 Bahadur may be the age-old fight between good and evil, but the plot itself has been twisted, tweaked and peppered with humor, song and action so that it does not appear hackneyed. Cleverly molded, carefully constructed and candy-wrapped in fluent Urdu dialogues, this movie’s an entertainer not just for the kids, but also for the grown-ups snickering beside them.
In 3 Bahadur, Kamil, Saadi and Amna are three ‘bahadur’ children who decide to take on the evil goon ‘Mangu’ and put an end to his reign of terror. ‘Mangu’ is aided by evil powers given to him by Baba Baalam and assisting him is a band of no-good, despicable hoodlums. Together, they wreak havoc over the imaginary city of ‘Roshan Basti’, looting and killing until the once-happy locality is re-named ‘Andher Nagri’.
What happens next is inevitable.
Our heroes’ valor induces them to gain supernatural powers of their own and they proceed to quell the bad guys in a series of often hilarious, action-packed sequences. Predictable? Undeniably. But what makes this movie work are the nuances within. A gigantic thug who practices classical dance for recreation will make you laugh; the children’s repartee is entertaining and the parents’ angst as the heroes march off to overthrow Mangu adds for sentimental value. The voice-overs are spot-on and character development is limited but interesting enough, as the children transform from ordinary school-pupils to superheroes for their long-suffering town.
The movie, however, cannot really be seen for its animation.
We’ve seen plenty of Hollywood’s 3D imagery to appreciate the flawless, almost-lifelike technology employed by Disney or Pixar. Pakistan’s first-ever venture into animation can’t, and doesn't, compare.
The characters’ movements are stilted and the visuals are not very pleasing. However, Hollywood works with big budgets and has honed its animation through years of research and development. We still have a long way to go.
However, the same local audience that consistently watches Hollywood’s animated treats is bound to be regaled by 3 Bahadur.
For the creators may flounder as they take their initial steps into animation but they make up for it with a catchy soundtrack and a plot that keeps audiences gripped for the entire 90-minute duration of the movie.
The mobile-snatching, pilfering, money-laundering and water shortage suffered by Andher Basti at the hands of Mangu are all-too-familiar, echoing the lawlessness of present-day Karachi.
Case in point: the thugs discuss with each other, “Logon ko mamooli maslon mein uljha do toh unhein bari baton ka pata nahin chalta” (“Keep the people busy with everyday problems so that they don’t realize the bigger crimes being committed.”). The underlying message beyond the basic story rings loud and clear: it’s time that our nation looks beyond daily grievances, realizes the bigger issues at hand and gathers the courage to overpower the ‘Mangus’ surrounding them.
3 Bahadur's dialogues in fluent Urdu are another plus. Certain recent local movies have incorporated far too much English into their scripts, alienating a large chunk of cinema-goers. 3 Bahadur is in Urdu and is proud of it; its witticisms and messages are for the nation as a whole and not just the anglicized upper classes.
This movie is, of course, preceded by a great deal of pre-release promotions. Masked 3 Bahadur characters have already made the rounds in local schools, distributing coloring books and T-shirts at times; there’s a smartphone game based on the movie already available for download and the movie’s perpetually being featured in TV ads.
Sharmeen herself has been making television appearances here, there and everywhere; on morning shows and even evening game shows where people come to 'jeeto’ motorbikes and ingots of gold. The publicity has generated enough curiosity about the movie to guarantee a strong opening crowd. Chances are, it’ll later attract in more people based on its own merit.
The one, most glaring error in the movie is the way sponsors feature in almost every scene. It’s understandable that movie-making is an expensive business and it’s great that so many sponsors came on board to support 3 Bahadur. But did certain biscuit brands have to be placed in every shot? And is it so important to stress upon that one soap brand?
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, as our Oscar-winner, has a credible name even though this may be her debut into animated movies. Having their names on the movie’s poster and billboards should be sufficient for the sponsors. The perpetual advertising grates on the nerves and brings down the entertainment value of an otherwise riveting storyline.
Nevertheless, the movie’s worth a watch: for Sharmeen’s intelligent transition from ace documentary-maker to pioneering animation in local cinema; for the messages it gives out; for the laughs and the action. It sets the groundwork for better animation in the future and promotes ‘bahaduri’ in order to ensure a stronger, better Pakistan. That’s a message we can’t ever tire of.
Maliha Rehman is a fashion and lifestyle journalist with a penchant for writing, all the time! Log on to Twitter for more updates @maliharehman