In Azaadi, Moammar Rana plays Azaad and as his name (and the film’s tagline) implies, he wants freedom. Not for himself but for India-held Kashmir. This revelation is a problem for his wife Zara (Sonya Hussain), a journalist from the UK who didn’t even know she is married to Azaad. The fact becomes doubly perplexing for her Hindu beau Raj, an enterprising young man often seen strutting around in cinema lobbies. How can he have married an already-married woman?
For Zara, religious differences are an after-thought that is promptly sidelined by far grander circumstances: Azaad, who also happens to be Zara’s cousin (hence the childhood marriage she knew nothing about), is a celebrated rebel and the more Zara learns of him the more she begins to sympathise. Or so we’re led to believe in long, talky scenes of back-story build-ups that hardly lead anywhere.
As an omnipresent point of discussion, Azaad is mentioned in every scene — and yet doesn’t actually appear on-screen that much. Whenever he does pop up, he lobs nationalistic one-liners towards the audiences that are intended for deafening applause.
Like most Pakistani movies made in the same uber-patriotic vein, Azaadi is chock-full of good intentions … and ruinous filmmaking decisions.
All three Eidul Fitr releases, Azaadi, Wajood and Na Band Na Baraati share one principal flaw: as movies they are illogically and haphazardly structured
This particular fallibility is magnified three-fold this Eidul Fitr because Azaadi is joined by cohorts Wajood and Na Band Na Baraati (NBNB).
Each enterprise — one a half thought-out actioner, the other an antiquated Bollywood-ish thriller and the last one, whatever that was — flaunt their own individual spins on what it takes to make a below-average motion picture (producing a ‘good’ film is simply out of these filmmakers’ league at the moment).
As the lesser of three evils Wajood, co-written and directed by Jawed Sheikh, pivots around Faizan (Danish Taimoor, just about okay), a private pilot who boasts of earning a 35,000 dollar salary. Because Sheikh’s film likes hyperbole, it is not clarified if Faizan earns that much monthly or yearly — making him either too rich or too poor to be a pilot.
Anyways, on a trip to visit his parents in Pakistan, Faizan spots Aarzoo (Saeeda Imtiyaz) — a near-emaciated, horrifyingly fair-skinned hottie (to him at least) — and falls truly, madly, deeply in love. A career-oriented woman, Aarzoo wants Faizan to jump into an active volcano not because she has no time for love. She simply doesn’t dig him.
Her brother “Q” (Ali Saleem) is a music video director and for reasons known only to Sheikh, is the hackneyed representation of gayness. Q (short for Abdul Qadeer) is happy to fling sexual invites towards Faizan, irrespective of the knowledge that the man is attracted to his sister.
Faizan ultimately wins Aarzoo over by flaunting his business connections to get her a big contract (those of us intelligent enough can deduce if the marriage was for love or not).
The two leads hardly finish a customary musical number when Faizan gets a 70,000 dollar work offer from the mysterious CEO of a mega-corporation. Taking its time, the CEO is revealed as his jealous ex-girlfriend Jessica (Aditi Singh) — an overly voluptuous, former ugly duckling who miraculously traded stocks and became a multi-millionaire overnight. As a woman scorned she, of course, wants bloody revenge.
The third film on the list, NBNB — a supposed rom-com about the botched-up love lives of two aloof brothers Shahid and Zahid (Mikaal Zulfiqar and Shayan Khan) — hardly qualifies as a movie.
All three titles share one principal flaw: as movies they are illogically, haphazardly structured. All three run on the notion of their premises, and nothing more. As scenes roll out lead characters, written without depth or conviction, they manifest their one-dimensionality. We know their motives and how they should stereotypically react in situations. However, even then, this film critic didn’t have the foggiest idea what made them tick — or even stand out.
For Faizan, I guess, it is his inability to make the right decisions and giving in to Jessica’s advances when she hires him. For Shahid and Zahid, I suppose one can blame their lack of common sense, and general tilt towards idiocy. These guesses and suppositions hamper the audiences’ relationship with the people on-screen.
The second impediment is the consistency of tone. Take Azaad as an example. He likes Zara but is compelled to stay away from love because of his freedom-fighting resolve. In the interim, he and Zara have fantasy romantic songs that reject the movie’s tone, which is wrongly advertised as an action-drama (there are only two badly-made action scenes, as per my still-foggy recollection).
The third problem is specific to Azaadi and NBNB: the lack of a proper antagonist. I kid you not. In a commercial film if the hero doesn’t have a villain, who would he fight against?
For an action film with a buffed-up hero, Azaadi doesn’t have a specific villain. There is one evil Indian minister and a rapist soldier, to be sure. However, their overall generalisation and brief screen times limit the two to a cameo-ish appearance.
In NBNB there is no actual villain. But then again, that movie doesn’t have much of anything … except a lot of amateur acting and hard-to-understand accents (it was as if everyone had speech impediments).
Technically, Azaadi at least looks like a movie, even though some frames are either too cramped or too loose. NBNB has badly-lit, clumsier frames and a weird bulky aspect ratio (I am guessing a 5:3 frame size).
Wajood, incredibly, has better cinematography. The movie’s late-90s Abbas-Mustan/Vikram Bhatt-ish plot coupled with the pedestrian camerawork immediately fling one’s attention back to the bygone era … whether they like it or not. However, Wajood, unlike NBNB and Azaadi, has a villainess we can root against (in the latter’s cases, we have no option but to root against the heroes — or the screenplay).
If these titles were in a competition (and in a way they are, since they released on the same day), Wajood would win by the slightest of margins. A hollow victory is a victory nonetheless — not that it would matter to the audience.
Published in Dawn, ICON, June 24th, 2018