Waar, the Pakistani action movie/intelligence-agency-manifesto that just came out is already said to be the “highest grossing Pakistani film of all time”, which is a bit like saying it’s the tallest hobbit in the room, or the cleanest toilet at the zoo.
Our slickly shot, sexily edited movie opens with a rescue operation in an unnamed village. The Pakistani commandos, a motley but muscle-y crew dressed entirely in slimming black and sporting a wide variety of American accents (more on that later), barge into a building and shoot terrorists about to decapitate a Chinese man. It’s all very thrilling and competent. The day is saved, and the swaggering commandos escort the grateful Chinese man past the ring of paparazzi that has somehow materialized at the site of their triumph.
Conspicuous by his absence from this crew is the “best” amongst the commandos: Shaan, obviously. The lead actor plays the valiant but tortured Mujtaba, a now-retired agent of unknown provenance who loves to take his dark glasses off to underscore dramatic moments in his life, as one is apt to do. He is wrestling with some demons, having suffered a tragedy at the hands of a Machiavellian RAW agent with whom he dueled years ago.
Next we are shown Meesha Shafi as a white-clad NGO worker coming out of a refugee camp and looking like a cross between Asma Jahangir, Lady Di and the ghost from Lekin. Very quickly you realize she is not what she seems as she calls up an important politician to ask a favor. This turns out to be the spectacularly unwatchable Ali Azmat, who plays a philandering playboy politician called Ejaz Khan (no marks for guessing who he’s meant to be), and with whom Shafi’s character (her real name is Laxmi) is having an affair. But our politician is trying to build a dam in the country, and the underlying message here is “bless him, for he works for the people even if he sleeps with them.” Being so close to victory, Khan realizes the error of his way and wants to dump Meesha and go back to his knocked-up wife (I’m not sure which historical figure she is playing). He arrives at Shafi’s house as she walks out slowly in a black mini-dress holding two glasses of wine. He breaks up with her in a bizarre speech, and then leaves her to walk around her fabulous apartment in heels that echo off the empty hallways. (Shafi’s heels echo throughout the film as she circles around people seductively and with no apparent purpose.)
Finally, we are taken to “somewhere in Northern Pakistan”, a small but well-lit council of tribal lords sitting around a fire in an inexplicably Mughal fort. They debate how best to take advantage of the “Pakistani people” as a white light cascades over them, making them look alternatingly divine and mad, while they twirl mustaches with practiced villainy. I maintain: offensive is having Mughal architecture in North Waziristan with overhead lighting.
What I was not expecting was that the movie would be almost entirely in English. Not just any English, but American accented, lets-pretend-this-is-Brooklyn-and-your-name-is-Vinny-English. The man who plays the head of the Intelligence agency, father of the filmmaker and a prominent bureaucrat in real life, has perhaps the worst of the accents: “Moojtaaba, yoar goinna hafta lissen tah may! whatzmadderrrr wiz yewwww?!” (If you think that’s embarrassing, realize that that man has to go into his office after this movie comes out.) Anyway, the story goes on and basically the Indians don’t want us to build a dam, and the Northern Area villains just want to make money, and the black-clad commandos just want to save people (and not be shown up in front of “our best friends”, the Americans. The script really was this blatant, see for yourself).
Five minutes into the film you just know that this is an entirely fabricated narrative, gift-wrapped in high-res shots of Pakistan’s mountains and Meesha Shaafi’s legs, meant to be consumed wholesale. (A simplified explanation that is doing the rounds on the Internet is that ISPR gave millions of rupees to this film and really wants you to believe its narrative.)
In this narrative, the Pak army and its “premier” intelligence agency work on macs and solve crises before we know they have happened; NGO and human rights campaigners should be treated with suspicion because actually they are just foreign agents waiting to seduce and sedate you before dismantling the state; certain deluded politicians in Pakistan, rich and philandering as they may be, are still honorable because they at least salute the portrait of the Quaid-e-Azam that hangs in their houses; the head of our spy intel branch is a woman who wears jeans and hacks into files on her MacBook; the Indians just want to destroy everything for no reason other than a bit of fun; and the tribal terrorists have absolutely, positively and completely nothing whatsoever to do with the Pakistani Army. At all. God Promise.
[quote]Shaan says things like “In my book, Good always defeats Evil”[/quote]
There are some scenes that are informative, like when they show a terrorist attack on a police building, a sequence as terrifying as it is completely plausible (watch out for a fatty woman suicide bomber, a bit actress who is all kinds of fabulous were it not for her, you know, suicide). What is not plausible however is the Dance of Death that Meesha Shafi and Shamoon Abbasi (the RAW agent) do in their apartment while the carnage is unfolding in the police academy. I need to speak about that. Honestly, someone has to. It goes on for a good four minutes without explanation. By this stage in the movie you’ve heard Shaan say things like “In my book, Good always defeats Evil”, so your belief is somewhat suspended. It’s still difficult to cut from scenes of battle to Shafi/Laxmi running through her apartment, arms outstretched, expecting to be airlifted by an agent like this is the end of Dirty Dancing.
Nothing I’ve said here should take away from the plot of the movie (I use the term loosely). Most of what I’ve described happens in the first half hour (except for the Dance, which you must wait for, like a special drug-induced delirium) and the rest develops predictably. It’s implausible, laughably obvious and sickeningly transparent. But Waar is also well-shot (apparently it’s all about the camera), fast-paced, gripping and funny (unexpectedly, but hey, whatever works). Go see it if you have a few spare hours, if only to see for yourself exactly what you are being expected to believe and how very far it is from reality.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @fkantawala on twitter
To add more to what you missed out telling was that it should had been completely in Urdu as a person speaking in Urdu to whom and replies back in English made no sense (saab aapka truck tayar hai)… second there were some minor technical flaws like you could literally see a guy holding down a reflector through shaan’s black shades twice… third the accent of the pathan’s were bad and didn’t seemed like one….
These all little issues happen when you make a movie for the first time so let it be, apart from the positive income for the revival of lollywood industry it has given… Review can be written by anyone but one must go first have a word with the people behind it gain more knowledge about it and talk the movie out with them ask why so? did you knew this was not correctly said or acted or was it you just ignored the fact and rushed the movie to release asap and then post the article 🙂 would be fair enough then for the people who put hard amount of work into it…
no hard feelings 🙂
It is so easy to criticise then to paint a picture………
A film is a film n it is always supposed to be far far away from reality . WAAR had one good thing n that was good camera work along with good scenic locations…..if it is making good business then it speaks how bad our film industry is (quality wise) n how good a hype was created and public always falls for a hype……lets hope that films like these become a starting point n not the bench mark…….though it is an over glorified and over rated but go ahead n watch it as it is better to watch it then just exclusively watching bollywood films.it is an open secret that RAW has been funding n influencing bollywood film producers n directors to dish out anti ISI n anti Pakistan films so what if ISPR n ISI do the same……if we can watch those movies without any qualm then why not WAAR.
the heroes of this movie who are supposedly fighting terrorism in this country have been depicted as belonging from a class that speaks american accent n has a western satire with tattooed bodies ,where as in reality it is the “gaaf bey” of our society that has been entrusted to do the job.hopefully they will be making it in urdu next time.
Mr. Kantawala… I can imagine level of agnoy you’re being through these days. Alas, there was no crap bolloywood action, cheap romance and Katrina Kaif. Literally, you wasted your money and the time. What a loss!
You better acknowledge that someone somehow has finally managed to come up with quality work in ever falling and ever failing Pakistani Cinema. Try to understand that there is a big difference between reality and the cinema. Come out of fools paradise and start enjoying movies.
If we keep hating ourselves, our own people and our own products nothing will change ever.
Waar was a brilliant Pakistani effort. Try saying something good about that. Even if ISI fund
Such a shallow and low graded analysis of WAAR. People like Kantawala are a real disease this country has brewed so far…. they would ALWAYS find negativity in everything Pakistan produces and worship what others would do…. if Ram Gopal Verma can praise WAAR…. and if it has revived the cinema culture in Pakistan…. then why criticise it and not look at its positive aspects….
The likes of Kantawala prefer a naked Salman Khan throwing villains across the village and have Kareena dance semi naked around him…. those are the types of his preferences….
IF ISI & ISPR REALLY FUNDED THIS MOVIE, I THINK THE HIGH DEFENCE BUDGET IS JUSTIFIED!!!!!!
I completely disagree with this analysis of what can be considered as one of the better efforts at revitalizing the Pakistani film industry. What I don’t understand is how on the one hand, people can claim that Lollywood should move away from its typical image and when such an effort is made, the same people go ahead and criticize it. Let us now take a deeper look at all that this article finds wrong with the movie.
(1) The movie is English. Here is my question, why is your article in English then, if it is so important for media communication to be in the language of the indigenous people. After all, this article shares many similar features with the movie. It’s a mass communication; it addresses the same public as the movie (after all it is commenting on the movie so the audience is essentially the same), etc. etc. Need I go on? Oh and one more thing, aren’t there other film industries of non-English speaking countries that make movies in the English language such as the Iranian movie “A Separation”; Dutch “The Zu’s Zoo” ; the Brazilian “Four Days in September” the Finnish “The Man Without The Past” and our delightful neighbour’s “Slum Dog Millionaire”?
(2) Meesha Shafi and her allegedly long legs on full display in the movie. Ever heard of the term ‘to dramatize’? Badass Digest’s article on “The Importance of Dramatizing Characters’ explains in a language every Tom, Dick and Harry can understand how dramatizing ‘makes the audience experience something as if it happened to them”. And considering the number of times this article mentions Shafi and her legs, I am sure the experience was quiet up close and memorable to who ever saw the movie.
Oh and other examples of dramatization include tribal lords curling moustaches, accentuated lighting in scenes containing the bad guys, and huge fortresses for the bad guys to live in, the antagonists to have secret operatives mixed in polite society, a hot male and female lead, the antagonists having only one-dimensional pure evil characters, inter-cut scenes of Shafi-Abbsi dance, the protagonists and his team being not only well-built physically but also having appeasing personalities and being passionate about their jobs etc.
(3) The American accents of the actors. Why I am making this a separate point is because the article has made a point of poking a lot of fun at this aspect. What is wrong in a picture where Pakistanis have American accents? It’s pretty close to the truth from where I am sitting. Is that not a genuine accent for Pakistani people to have? So what if some of the actors were not able to pull it off to a tee? This is a movie, not an American accent exam. Also, it is not unbelievable for Pakistani brass to have foreign accents. A lot of these bureaucrats have foreign degrees and often go on correspondence courses to top international institutes including the Ivy League.
(4) Northern Pakistan having a Mughal looking fort. Now this is just finding faults for the sake of finding faults. Northern Pakistan is filled with forts because it was the traditional gateway to Indian subcontinent for whoever fancied invading it. There are bound to be historical forts there. And not all forts are Mughal. Just having a bit of detailed art work does not make something Mughal. Residents of this land have always been a creative lot. Also, so what if the fort actually used for the movie was Mughal? There is such a thing as theatrical license you know.
(5) The narrative is fabricated. Where in the movie is it claimed to based on real events or people? Obviously, if it is set in Pakistan, they have the right to use at least the names of some real places. And here I would like to make a direct reference to the Indian film industry. They make movies left right centre blaming Pakistan directly for every tiny firecracker that goes off by accident in their country. Just because, for once, Pakistani movie makers have been finally bold enough to out-rightly name India in a fictional setup, they are suddenly fabricating the story? And how many US made movies have blamed Russians, Germans, Iranians and even Pakistani’s out-right for whatever is going wrong in the film? In my point of view, this has been long overdue and these movie makers should be lauded for their efforts, not criticized for their story telling.
Here, I would also like to quickly raise a few other points which this article insinuates as implausible and unrealistic. (a) No one has any idea about what actually goes on in Pakistani secret services. It’s a secret service for a reason. It is therefore moot to argue whether they are using a MAC or have a woman as the chief correspondent. (b) How many times and in how many theatrical performances have we seen an actor give up his or her bad ways in favour of the good, so why is it wrong if Ali Azmat does it? (c) Also, are we all not aware of politicians and their many indulgences, so why is Ali Azmat having an affair with Meesha Shafi weird? (d) Nowhere in the movie is it said that NGOs should be looked upon with suspicion. Meesha Shafi’s moving illegal items is merely a vehicle for the plot to seamlessly progress. There is no sinister message behind it.
Finally, not to disregard Shoaib Mansoor’s efforts, but isn’t it better to have a movie that finally shows Pakistan in a good light. This movie shows our people in a good light and is a display of us having more than just the bad stuff! We should all learn patience and the ability to shut our mouths if we can’ say something positive about other people’s hard work.
What crap he has written. I lovedddd the movie no matter what flaws it has. I saw it twice n will see it again. While watching this movie ittna josh atta hain and want to say aloud “Naraa-e-Takbir” “Allah o Akabar”
I don’t know about others but I loved it and it’s way better than what we were producing previously.
Two thumbs up for WAAR