The cinema hall roared with laughter. It was packed to the hilt with people. The last time one saw a crowd this thick for a film directed by Abu Aleeha was at the premiere of his first film Kataksha — a film that evokes the scary vibe of Harry Potter’s nemesis Voldemort for this writer: the very mention of that film gives me nightmares, and is something that “must not be named”.

Like Aleeha’s debut, Udham Patakh’s (UP) biggest crowd gathered at the premiere — and they bucked up the morale just fine. And they should, for whatever lacks UP has — and they outnumber the pros without breaking a sweat — this is easily Aleeha’s second best film to date after Tevar.

Aleeha has made four films till now. His atrocious last venture, Sheenogai, easily headbutts Kataksha for the top spot, so being number two in the list is far from an achievement.

Udham Patakh is a comic zombie movie that has the bare bones of an interesting idea that’s never developed

Or is it?

Some jokes really do work in this zombie comedy. Hypothetically, let’s say they number at 7 (that’s about as many times I actually let out a guffaw). So, at 700 rupees a ticket, that’s 100 rupee per joke.

Aleeha’s film is about a crew of a fake reality horror show, Jo Darra Woh Marra, who decide to take a street drug (a massive blue pill) that turns them into zombies. Those who survive the night — the lot includes the lovestruck owner of the place they’re staying at, the dim-witted host of the show, the tough and irritable associate director, the bickering camera guy and the director — make their way back to the city at dawn.

In case one is wondering, this is UP in its entirety. The story doesn’t even ponder the basic questions necessary for world-building, like: how do people know what zombies are? And since they do, were there cases of zombie infestation before this? How can one become the undead after taking a drug? And who in their right mind is pushing such a drug out in the streets in the first place?

Like so many other Pakistani films, “just because” is no reason.

UP has no act breaks, no highpoints, no twists or turns, no relatability, negligible character development, just a few good punchlines — most of them courtesy of Faizan Sheikh, the lead — and some directorial flourishes that shows Aleeha’s growing adeptness in the craft (especially his continuous long takes).

Unlike Sheenogai, UP’s cinematography is mostly in focus, the colour-grade is an improvement and the comedy chuckle-worthy at times. However, like Aleeha’s earlier films, UP needs a rewrite at the drawing board, because one can see the barebones of something good here.

Released by Metro Live Movies, Udham Patakh stars Faizan Sheikh, Hira Umer, Syed Ali Rizvi, Shabana Hassan, Taha Humayun, Aamir Yamin, Aisha Faraz, Imran Sonu, Younas Khan, Javed Ahmed Kakepoto. Produced by Kakepoto, the film was released in cinemas on December 10

Published in Dawn, ICON, December 19th, 2021

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