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Set in late 1989, at the time of the Orangi Town operation in Karachi, Tevar, written and directed by Abu Aleeha, is unsurprisingly minimalistic (as all his films are), and yet, after his last endeavour Kataksha, surprisingly well-made.

A father, his two daughters and their visiting cousin are held hostage by depraved looters during a night of police emergency. The family, badly beaten up, try to survive the night, and ultimately take matters into their own hands.

Tevar has a miniscule premise, but that works in its favour. The characters are given ample room to showcase their traits and temperaments and, as a result, the actors have room to perform.

Aleeha’s dialogues are still somewhat pompous, especially when the film starts. Characters — especially the leads played by Sukaina Khan and Taqi Ahmed — speak in heavy-handed Urdu with poetic prose. As the drama amps up, however, the way the dialogues are written changes as well; they become, more or less, how normal people speak.

In strong contrast to his earlier film release Kataksha, writer-director Abu Aleeha’s Tevar is an engaging, if predictable, thriller

The villain, in particular, is a delight. Dawar (played with panache by Sharique Mahmood), is a local hoodlum who has just been released from the lock-up when Tevar starts. Beaten by the police with nary a bruise, Dawar immediately goes about his business — which is to prove his villainy to the audience. Coming out of the jail entrance, he snatches a bystander’s smoke and, later, when a rickshaw driver asks him to pay the fare, Dawar terrorises the driver into paying him instead.

Dawar’s live-in partner, Phoolan (Mathira), waits for him when he gets home (we are never told that they are married). It takes a moment to realise that Phoolan, who is strutting around sensually, is actually mute. The two share brief scenes of carnal energy that, thankfully, are filmed with restraint.

Around Dawar’s house, we see the source of his influence: Amitabh Bachchan. There’s a picture of the superstar in his house and his hideout; in hindsight, even his clothes and his gait resemble Big B from his action-hero heydays.

The film’s production design is excellent, the editing is sharp, and the cinematography, with its long-takes, is fitting for its genre. It does make one think about why this film, produced two years ago and then held back, is such a stark contrast to Kataksha, even though the two films share apparent aesthetic similarities.

Irrespective of the comparison, Tevar turns out to be an engaging, if predictable, thriller.

Published in Dawn, ICON, August 4th, 2019