Criminal filmmaking | Pakistan Today

Criminal filmmaking

When we – repeatedly, painstakingly, relentlessly, on a loop – talk about the revival of Pakistani cinema, the only thing that Wajood appears to have revived is Javed’s Sheikh movie-making count.

What the film has also revived is the idea that our local films – on average – are actually farther from competing with their Bollywood counterparts than they were when this so-called revival began a decade ago.

Wajood, meanwhile, couldn’t even capitalise on the Bollywood ban and did mediocre business in the first week. Of course things have only gone downhill since then for the crime and revenge thriller.

In his comeback directorial venture Javed Sheikh himself stars as a ruthless investigator. Pity he didn’t investigate what actually qualifies as a decent film in the year 2018.

Faizan (Danish Taimoor), a pilot, flies the movie plot with his return to Pakistan. Since he earns good cash, his family wants him married. After all, what else will he do with so much money?

On cue, Faizan goes along with his friends to a wedding. They meet Arzoo (Saida Imtiaz) and Q (Ali Saleem). Scenes featuring Q are marred with the age-old idea of using homophobia as humour fodder in our beck of the woods.

Faizan falls for Arzoo – at first sight of course – and takes his one-sided affair to a whole new level. He’s shown to be a constant stalker who is unable take no for an answer. He follows her everywhere and makes her feel unsafe with all the creepiness he could muster.

On the other hand, Arzoo sticks to her refusal, with her parents backing her decision. They tell Faizan to bugger off since they have already selected someone for Arzoo. But Faizan stays put.

As is evident, political correctness wasn’t given much consideration here. And of course given the audience in general, the odds are that a perfectly politically correct film would actually bomb in Pakistan.

But why be so brazenly crass? Does nobody at the helm of the film watch news? Every day, there are reports of murder, torture or kidnapping over rejection.

Pakistan is the second worst country in the world in terms of violence against women. Wajood promotes stalking, hence justifying brutalities the name of ‘love’.

As the story goes on, Arzoo gives in and all of a sudden – evidently abetted by the playing of a romantic song – she starts liking Faizan as well. They get married and are living happily ever after before a twist changes everything.

Considering Wajood is supposed to be a revenge thriller, the film takes eons to make the move. Audiences are already eying the exit door before mustering any damns about what is and isn’t a twist.

We are shown Faizan’s darker side, his past relationship with a stalker and ‘crazy’ ex-girlfriend with whom he made promises and abandoned for Arzoo. Jessica (Aditi Singh) is Faizan’s new boss who hired him only to get back with him. Wait, didn’t we witness the exact same in the Akshay Kumar-starrer Aitraaz?

The cherry on top of the cake is Danish Taimoor’s acting, which is excruciatingly below par. Despite having done several movies, he remains in his TV mode.

The story focuses on Danish’s character and the female leads Saida and Aditi are either ignored or misrepresented. Maybe the revenge should’ve been taken against someone completely different.

Also, Aditi’s sensual and bold avatar – not to mention her item number where she seduces Danish – isn’t done aesthetically and gives shades of B-grade cinema.

Sahir Ali Bagga’s music coupled with Osman Khalid Butt’s choreography does manage to give a few foot thumping moments.

The songs are shot in overseas’ locations, capitalising on the scenery, however, it results in a pale imitation of 2000s Bollywood songs – you know, the main leads performing slow desi dance steps in the fields, ahead of the mountains and among the flowers. Danish’s avatar is no less than an old Ajay Devgan or Sunny Deol who’s struggling to pull off the romantic face.

Needless to say, the movie relies on stereotypical gender roles where objectification is constantly sold. The glorification of stalking and ‘forced’ consent for marriage through persistent proposals is painful.

Despite the film’s best efforts to paint Jessica’s character bad, one feels bad for her because she was once the victim. Faizan, on the other hand, is innocent, even though he lied to two women.

The film did manage to increase its tempo at the latter part, and unveil the suspense that it is indeed a mystery movie. A murder investigation, betrayal and new alliances can capture your attention for a minute or two – and could’ve actually mustered more minutes had these bits sprung up earlier.

What makes matters worse for the film is that the plot actually had potential. A few fixes here and there could’ve made it a top-seller on Eid – especially when there was no competition from across the border. However, Wajood lacked all thrill, considering the buzz kill from the very onset.