The Legend of Maula Jatt is a Pakistani Punjabi language action-drama film directed and written by Bilal Lashari and produced by Ammara Hikmat and Dr. Asad Jamil Khan under the production banner of Encyclomedia. It is a modern interpretation of the 1979 cult classic Maula Jatt but set cinematically back to the era when the legend started.
A lyrically entertaining new version, reminiscent of the kitsch, gyrating hips, thrusting bosoms and testosterone drenched characters of the 70’s Pakistani film series. A genre that is iconic in Pakistan, fuelled with popular songs and seduction worthy of any outrageous prudish imagination.
This cult movie follows a young noble boy Maula Jatt, adopted by a poor village woman when a rival clan, the Nath family, slaughters his parents.
From the moment of the opening scene till the end, my childhood memories came flooding back to my visits to Jhelum and Mandi Bahawaldeen, architecturally the huge wooden studded gates, big turbans, huge walls displaying an array of weapons from swords, guns and small knives. Which I’m sure were used on occasions needing proof of our family’s supposed power and wealth, killing anyone that crossed them, to the extent where dad even killed his own brother.
Big burly dad with his brothers, all wearing crisp starched cotton Tareeza kurtas (shirts) and a Taymutts (sarongs), shouting as if they’re all hard of hearing, one could never tell if they were fighting or just having a jolly chat. Smoking home grown tobacco in their hookahs. With a matriarch in the form of a grandmother at the helm running the household, she is a proud Jutty, mother of 6 boys and apparently, the daughters all died in ‘early childbirth.’
I can see the attraction of The Legend of Maula Jatt, as its still many families’ reality today in some parts of rural Pakistan.
From the 1980s Maula Jatt films to today’s version, there’s a big difference stylistically. The cinematography is slick and stylish, costumes muted and majestic, characters are much more developed, emotions such as pain and laughter are all part of the storytelling. The dialogue of the film still cutting as ever but delivered with panache. Each character’s performance is worthy of an award.
Both Maula and his rival enemy Noori were doused in sex appeal, the moody hero and villain duet were dark, smouldering, wounded and pained. More than Maula Jatt, Noori Nath was a villain of principle, a hint of feminism and heart. Nath in an Ertegul-esq vibe saved his sister from female infanticide and crowned her the leader of his clan. This villain with lust appeal, kindness, animalistic roar captured our imaginations and revived any whimpering ‘feudal has-been’ cinema goers’ hunger for the ‘mother land’.
Not only did the characters have to hold their head high for the integrity of their clan but Pakistan’s film industry too can hold its head high with pride for creating this long-awaited cult masterpiece.
The female characters were armed with grace, beauty and Punjabi femininity yet Maula Jatt’s love interest Mukkho, originally played by a confident, busty curvaceous actor in the 70’s, was now lack lustre with little stage presence and unable to capture one’s imagination or romantic mojo.
In contrast, Daro, the sister of Noori was mesmerising and elevated the sense of fear, control and the most seductive of all, power.
This gladiatorial, Vikings palate of set design, colour and blood shed was beautifully shot and the fight scenes smoothly choreographed. Complimented by an outstanding display of period jewellery and costume. However, the hair department budget failed the caterpillar moustaches and was a tad too free with the blow dryer on Maula Jatt and the crimping irons on Mukkho.
It’s a shame the hair stylists didn’t take inspiration from hairdo’s in the Vikings as this Pakistani period drama needed at least one Punjabi paranda (decorative hair accessory).
As part of Pakistani history from the Punjab, whether this story is one of fiction, legend, myth or history, it is iconic in depicting an era where women were somewhat equal in society and held their own, in the land of feudalism.
This film shows yesteryear in the Punjab, with a pub culture, where women also sitting drinking in the same rugged bars as the gladiators and their servants.
While there is little mention of religion, virginal capital, forbidden fruits, alcohol, The Legend of Maula Jatt shows history through a lens where drinking dens were common. These places were not frowned upon or regarded as a place of disrespect for women, with a father and daughter run a drinking hole serving free flowing Sura, a beverage brewed from rice meal, wheat, sugar cane, grapes, and other fruits, was popular among warriors and peasants.
The film has little substance but is a huge dollop of fun. The Legend of Maula Jatt was a thoroughly enjoyable film. The cinema hall packed with viewers whooping, cheering, predicting the dialogue brought forth from childhood memories.
Deliciously crude, raw, fresh Punjabi dialogue bellowing from the speakers, was a great comfort and for a couple of hours where my imagination was transported back to our Haveli in Mandi Bahawaldeen.
Fawad Khan · Maula Jatt
Hamza Ali Abbasi · Noori Natt
Mahira Khan · Mukkho Jatti
Humaima Malik · Daaro Nattni
Gohar Rasheed · Maakha Natt