It is difficult to say, after the 135-minute run of Superstar, who the superstar of the movie is between Noori (Mahira Khan) and the male lead Sameer Khan (Bilal Ashraf).

The film opens with Noori, a struggling artist who occasionally performs on television commercials and is a permanent feature at a theatre run by her grandfather Agha Jan (Nadeem Baig), a prominent name from the film industry’s yesteryears. Noori aims to enter the industry and become a superstar, despite her mother’s opposition.

Sameer is the son of wealthy industrialist Zulfiqar Khan (Javed Sheikh) and a once famous movie star Laila Khan (Marina Khan). Zulfiqar wants Sameer to take over his business empire, but Sameer expresses reluctance to do so whenever the subject comes up at the dining table. An established heartthrob in the Pakistani film industry, he is still unhappy with his celebrity status and wants more fame.

Noori and Sameer’s paths cross due to a last minute model dropout. Noori replaces the model, and their love story begins.

Although the pair find themselves at opposite ends of the socioeconomic strata, their only common ground is the quest to become superstars. Just as the chemistry between them is beginning to be formed, Sameer leaves for greener pastures and his film director Shaan (Ali Kazmi) with an apology note.

Superstar is the film directorial debut of acclaimed television actor and director Mohammad Ehteshamuddin, but his work here is somewhat of a disappointment.

Many scenes left the audience waiting for a punch line that never came, and some of the costume choices for Noori and her little sister Chutki (Alizeh Shah) do not match with their financial status or middle class lifestyle.

The screenplay and score are the work of another debuting artist, Azaan Sami Khan. Although he failed to make a mark as far as the screenplay was concerned, he scored well on the musical front.

The score and songs saved a sinking ship. From Atif Aslam’s spellbinding In Dinon and Anjaana to Ali Sethi and Zeb Bangash’s Bekaraan, Asim Azhar’s Ghalat Femi and Shiraz Uppal’s Dharak Bharak, the music did justice to the vocalists and helped the film move from a love story to a melodrama.

Both the leads also looked stunning on screen, but the film was unable to establish the intensity of their feelings for each other. The script was also clichéd, with few surprises or twists and turns. It was difficult to differentiate Mahira Khan’s past few roles from her character Noori; even though Mahira Khan’s acting has sharpened – which was quite evident in solo scenes – the romance felt monotonous.

Bilal Ashraf too had screen presence, but much more work was needed on the acting front. Although he had the right look for a traditional hero, there was a disconnect when it came to his dialogue delivery and expressiveness that could not be ignored.

The decision to focus on both leads separately could also be attributed to a lack of directorial skill. Mahira Khan takes up most of the screen-time during the first half of the film, but after the intermission the movie shifts its focus to Bilal Ashraf, with intermittent appearances by Khan.

The showstopper of the film was definitely Alizeh Shah as Chutki. A social media savvy 18-year old, her character and her acting felt fresh and cut through any boredom.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2019

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