This past weekend, my friends and I decided to finally head to the cinema and watch the much hyped, Yalghaar. What transpired in the next 150 minutes was a mix of multiple face palms (I literally don’t remember face-palming this much – ever!), disbelief and confusion. In fact I’m still at a loss of words and don’t know precisely how to review this film.
Now conventionally the second paragraph of a film review usually outlines the plot of the movie. However, the issue here is that there was – and again I mean it very literally – no plot at all to discuss. So, instead of going the traditional way, allow me to break down this review into categories to see how the film performed in each of them.
Perhaps the most important part of pre-production is script development, however, as already stated, the film had none. Yalghaar went from one scene to another with disconnected plot lines and too many characters to keep track of.
While the script left a lot to be desired, the dialogues were a complete face palm fest! It’s not that the dialogues were entirely terrible – in fact there were times that one would genuinely find them witty and well-written. However, the problem lay in dragging the dialogues too far ending up losing the scene’s charm and impact. For instance, there’s a scene where Umair Jaswal (who appeared and vanished from the movie without any reason) tells Shaan (his senior) that a lady is waiting to meet him. The exchange between the awkward subordinate and his superior made the audience crack up in honest laughter but then the scene ended with a close-up of Jaswal saying something to the effect of, “Love is a mess,” and I could see people on my right and left hiding their faces behind their hands! Did no one from the entire cast and crew feel the need to point out how ridiculous that dialogue sounded? The problematic part was that this was not the issue with just one scene but there were multiple instances throughout the film’s run that featured cheesy dialogues that had no connection with what was going on!
Here the team deserves a thumbs up in some departments. The cinematography for instance was brilliantly done. Waleed Ughur’s grip on his craft is especially visible during war scenes. Every motion and detail is excellently captured, making action scenes immensely engaging.
The cinematographer’s hard work is however compromised by the director’s vision – or lack of it. The director is perhaps the single most important member of a film crew because it is basically his/her imagination that is brought to life on the screen. There is no disputing Hassan Rana’s caliber as a producer. We saw a wonderfully lavish effort in Waar and we see sufficient glimpses of the same in Yalghaar. However, (I know there are too many “howevers” in this review) as a director Rana grandly disappoints. While his heart might have been in the right place, the overall jerky execution of the film prevents him from invoking the sentiment that Yalghaar should have been able to communicate effortlessly. In the end instead of empathizing with the plight of our soldiers and leaving the hall feeling patriotic, the audience stepped out giggling and demanding to know the logic behind Ayesha Omer’s character in the film!
Then there are prop and make-up failures that simply cannot be forgiven. In one scene, this captain dude sees Uzma Khan’s character for the first time and is mesmerized. Music plays in the background, the guy ogles and imaginary breeze begins to blow. For a moment there all is well but then you realize that the fake lashes on Khan’s eye have partially come off and are billowing on the screen and you can’t un-see that visual!
That said, Rana deserves credit for lending authenticity to war scenes. The visuals are a treat on the big screen and by far the most engaging part of the film.
Instead of comments, as a cine-goer I have some serious questions regarding the quality of Yalghaar’s post production.
For starters, I want to know what was going on in the mind of the editor and the director when they sat on the editing table? There a number of scenes in the film that are chopped at important junctures, leaving the audience confused about what happened and why. At best the film was a loosely edited compilation of two and a half hours worth of footage with many aspects of the story left to the viewers’ imagination.
Then there was the dubbing. How can a film made in this time and age and with such a heavy investment not get its dubbing right?! Throughout the film there is no sync between the sound and the lip movements of the actors – this is a grave mistake for which even an indie film cannot be forgiven, let alone Pakistan’s most expensive movie to date. No excuse is good enough to justify this glaring negligence! In my head I’m literally scolding team Yalghaar for the oversight in the dubbing department!
The film features an ensemble cast with some of the biggest names in Pakistani entertainment gracing the screen. Most of them deliver well. Shaan and Humayun Saeed lead the pack and give decent – if not memorable – performances. Adnan Siddiqui is largely wasted but he holds his ground well. Ayub Khoso, like a true veteran has excellent screen presence and delivers the few scenes that he is allotted most craft-fully. Khoso’s eyes speak each time he appears on the screen, instantly engaging the viewer. From among the new comers, Bilal Ashraf, Gohar Rasheed and Ahmad Taha Ghani do a good job, although often the dialogues that they are given to mouth compromise their acting efforts.
Among the female cast members, Ayesha Omer tries very hard to impress but the sheer question mark on her character’s presence erodes the viewers’ interest in her acting prowess. Armeena Khan, Uzma Khan and Aleeze Nasser give forgettable performances. Sana Bucha pleasantly surprises with an honest performance that leaves a lasting impression.
With its many flaws Yalghaar deserves credit for giving some extremely important messages to the Pakistani audience.
Isolated from the debate surrounding the balance of power between the civil-military leadership, there’s no denying that brave soldiers continue to embrace martyrdom on multiple war fronts everyday in Pakistan. While we can never truly grasp the lengths at which they go to protect us, it is important for us as a nation to remember and hold their valor in high esteem.
Another important message that is repeatedly featured in the film is that of gender equality. Through various characters the film emphasizes the importance of treating women as equals and highlighting their contributions in various walks of life. For a war film, where it is taken for granted that men will inevitably take-up the greater share of screen space, this effort is especially commendable.
In a nutshell Yalghaar could have been a brilliant product to have come out of Pakistani cinema, however it ends up as a mushy mess resting on a non-existent plot and weak execution. The final result could perhaps have been entirely different with a seasoned director at the helm of affairs.
Watch it because none of what I’ve said will make any sense unless you do!
Rating: ** 1/2
* – I just threw up
** – Meh!
*** – One time watch
**** – Just a little short of genius
***** – Why are you still sitting here? Go watch!