Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Chambaili urges the nation to wake up

Updated Apr 30, 2013 05:21pm


Your Name:

Recipient Email:


"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.

Photo Courtesy:

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 ———————————————————————————————


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Author Image

Shyema Sajjad is a former Dawn staffer.

She tweets @ShyemaSajjad

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (17) Closed

Mohammad Adam Khan May 01, 2013 07:11pm
In Pakistan, if you loudly say truth, then no one can hear you , or if you silently say lie, then everybody can hear you.
No hope. May 01, 2013 03:29pm
MR.Abid,although I agree with your over all message here,lets not forget that one man cannot change millions,but millions can persuade a few if they work together towards the betterment of humanity or the country,my point,start with the elections,let your voice be heard,make a difference,its all in the hands of the public.So lets make it count,GO AND VOTE based on what the common man has seen and the results dating back to the last few decades,its that simple,the results are there for us all to determine what not to accept and who gives you the best chance to be what the founders dreamed of when they fought for their own homeland.
Mahzaib May 02, 2013 05:35am
Yeah I guess I went a touch too far there. I'd rather spend 500 bucks on a Pakistani movie than Indian :)
Rayan May 02, 2013 04:12am
Ms. Sajjad writes well. Good to see Dawn publishing something about a Pakistani movie. Thank you. I made a point of checking out the Images section of the In-Paper Magazine last Staurday but "Chambaili" was conspicuous by its absence. Needless to say I was disappointed. The movie seems interesting enough. And I have been hearing good things about it. Which is heartening. Perhaps there will be more coverage in Dawn this week. We can hope so... As for the movie, if I were in Pak, I would have loved to support the local film industry, but waiting for a DVD nonetheless that can be ordered online for those of us living in North American and elsewhere.
aabdul May 02, 2013 01:55am
Pretty ordinary movie indeed. Once again, some institutes in Pakistan continue to sell mediocre stuff to Pakistanis. Bollywood movies are so much better. When it comes to art, there is no enemy - you have to admire good qualities. If your own people are fleecing you with mediocrity, why support it? Let the movie makers take the first step and make good movies.....then, as the saying goes, "You build it, they will come." So, please cut this crap of supporting national stuff because you are promoting mediocrity.
Imran May 02, 2013 12:04am
I have already requested family back home to send me original DVD to Australia, really excited to watch this drama..all the best guys
Khan of Kalabagh May 01, 2013 04:57pm
the atmosphere prevailing in the country and the state of cinema in Pakistan suggests strongly that we must go and watch the movie in theatre specially before the polls are conducted. its a good endeavour to make a point through cinema in the most troubled times of our lives, the crew deserve our appreciations despite of the short comings in the movie.
No hope. May 01, 2013 03:20pm
I suppose you missed the point all together friend,I for one will figure out a way to get the film on DVD or Blueray,I've heard nothing but good things about the movie from young people in my family in Pakistan.I wish I could buy it online,if there is such a place please feel free to reply to my comment.
Amer Fatima Bahleem May 01, 2013 04:05am
The message it gives is extremely important for every pakistani to get it seriously regarding upcoming elections..
azhar May 01, 2013 02:07pm
Agree fully! we really try to find faults rather than concentrating on positive sides.
bush May 01, 2013 04:16am
i agree with you Sarah.I will try to buy a dvd in usa Hopefully not a bootleg one.i like the plot very much
Hassan Nasir Apr 30, 2013 06:20am
happy to see your honest and critical conclusion; i haven't watched the movie yet; but having watch trailers and read the website and facebook page, also listened to OST, i felt an element of naivity was there; but still good that we have more local films and even better to know that opening day was sold out; that's is celebration in itself!
Abid Sahi Apr 30, 2013 07:20am
than for those who didn't watched the movie as of now, do watch it, the theme of the movie is change, a change in the country and changing your own behaviors, you cannot rule out an amazing movie just because you don't think, it can be done in Pakistan, there can be flaws in the story line but all in all a must watch movie for any Pakistani who thinks he do not matter, there can be number of examples across the spectrum in pakistan where one Pakistan changed things, you can look at missing persons case, or Dr. Afia case, even they haven't been able to change things for them selves, but they have broken the taboos of pakistan, like before no body could dare to talk about military establishment and agencies, they broke this barrier. All in all a must watch.
Mahzaib Apr 30, 2013 07:30am
I was at the show yesterday. The direction of the movie was ridiculously bad. Some basic camera skills were lacking. Some of the acting (or lack of) was appalling. Liked the message, but the story line was a little far fetched. Wouldn't recommend spending 500 bucks on this one.
Sarah Apr 30, 2013 10:37am
aww too bad, but you did spent 500 rs, so let the others do the same too
Kazim Apr 30, 2013 10:30pm
Why do we never encourage anything good here ?
faryal saleem Apr 30, 2013 02:22pm
very thought provoking movie.