Disclaimer: SPOILER ALERT
"Tu aam sahi, par ehem hai, tu kuch nahi yeh vehem hai!"
Welcome to Falakabad, a volatile, angry city located in Mulke Khudadad. Here unfolds the story of a group of ordinary folk pushed around by the system to such an extent that they are left with no choice but to take matters into their own hands and bring about the change they want in their country. Marked by sacrifices, heartbreak and initial defeats, their journey isn’t easy – but they embark anyway.
Directed by Ismail Jilani and produced by Abdullah Kadwani and Shahzad Nawaz, Chambaili managed to secure fans even before it was launched. A powerful voice boomed in its trailers, chanting “Tum sothay raho … tum sothay raho” and just like that, Pakistanis were left mesmerised, wondering what awakening this feature film will bring to the nation.
Chambaili begins with the arrival of Sarmad (Ali Tahir) to his motherland from Canada. At home, awaiting him is his cousin Kiran (Maira Khan), a bold young woman who lives in an old family house with her mother and sister. Sarmad’s arrival also brings into the picture his two friends, Saif (Shahzad Nawaz) and Musa Azeem (Ehtishamuddin).
As Sarmad goes around the city, he laments how nothing has changed and makes his mark on screen as that friend everyone has who lives abroad and coaxes others to come join him every time he witnesses something tragic happen in the country. Saif, on the other hand, seems to still have some lingering hope left in his country which causes some troubles between him and his lady love Nida (Mehreen Syed). Nida is adamant to leave the mess of a country behind and move to Dubai with Saif.
We see Saif’s lingering hope falter when he is caught in the middle of a political rally held by the Inquilab party. Beaten and bruised, he heads to the police station with Musa’s help but the police in Falakabad are no different than the one in your neighbourhood in Karachi and Lahore. They refuse to file an FIR against the party which is led by Sardar (Salman Peerzada). While all this is going on, Sardar’s son, Sultan (Humayun Bin Rathore) sets off his goons to empty out Sarmad’s house which is coming in the way of his new housing scheme plans. What follows these two incidents is a protest that leads to a hunger strike and eventually the birth of a new political party.
And thus begins the story of Chambaili.
The film is marked by scenes which are very familiar to all of us Pakistanis – be it Sultan and his resemblance to the popular “waderay ka beta” or his father Sardar who like today’s feudal lords, believes that indeed the country is their personal property and democracy is just a sham. Both actors playing these roles did not seem to struggle at all with their characters and Peerzada’s performance won my vote throughout the film.
Sadly, I can’t say the same for Mehreen Syed’s character who perhaps Chambaili could have done without. Emotional dialogues meant to highlight her character’s anguish instead turned into comical deliveries which ended up erupting giggles amongst the audience which otherwise sat tense and serious. Since Saif already had various struggles to deal with, his relationship with Nida seemed rather forced and not as crucial to the film as the rest of its tangents.
Ghulam Mohiuddin and Shafqat Cheema are no strangers to the screen and did justice to their roles as politicians along with Khalid Ahmed, the mischievous maulana who gave the audience a good dose of hypocrisy each time he spoke.
Although set in a make-believe place, the audience knows they are watching present day Pakistan and all of its mayhem. However, in order to make sure that the censor board passes the possibly controversial movie, the fictional country was created along with its own currency, flag, police uniforms, taxis, car number plates etc – an impressive effort when one looks into details.
At the end of the day, if you’d ask me if Chambaili gave me goosebumps, I’d have to say no. Will it push me one step closer towards the polling station? Perhaps. Often naïve and too simplistic, the film tried its best to jolt the country with the idea that each person matters; that obstacles in the way can be removed through unity and determination – but it gave no hint on what to do when unity itself is faltering? Rescuing the country from its current mess can’t be as easily achieved as Chambaili portrays. But having the will do it is something Chambaili can perhaps help us with.
“Khawab dekha karo, khawab, junoon khud hi ajai ga.” ——————————————————————————————— The writer is the Deputy Editor at Dawn.com ———————————————————————————————