WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
In times when every other filmmaker is coming up with a formula film to ensure success at the box office, we rarely see someone go against the tide as Uzair Zaheer Khan and his team at the 3rd World Studios did with Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor (AYATLOM). Being already hailed for having Disney or Pixar quality animations, AYATLOM had many heads turning prior to the release. However, as the film finally hit the theaters we found that it delivered much more than what it promised.
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AYATLOM is a story of an 8-year-old Pakistani boy who lives with his father somewhere in the northern areas of the country. He has a soft corner for animals and other nature’s gifts. He somehow lands in a harrowing situation while saving Mehru, the markhor from an evil hunter Mani, the antagonist of the movie. In return of this act of valor, Allahyar gets the power of speaking to animals, the premise of which is established right in the beginning of the film. What follows is a journey of thrilling encounters with Hero (the Chakor), Chakku (the snow leopard) and a nail-biting chase where Mani tails Allahyar and Mehru.
There are many high points in the story. However, two moments clearly stand out for me because of the extraordinary approach of the makers. One being the opening scene in which not only the sketch signifies the importance of saving Markhors, the national animal of Pakistan and an endangered specie but also brings back the nostalgia of bedtime stories that were loaded with tales of Darveshes. An aura is created right there as a result.
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The other moment is the climax where Mani the villain surrenders after being surrounded by herds and herds of Markhors. Just when I thought I was about to see violence on the screen, the scene faded out and the next thing we saw was policemen arresting Mani. This not only reflects on the responsible and ethical approach to storytelling but also highlights an underlying message of how violence cannot breed positive results – a message that is very important for our kids to internalize.
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With conservation and protection of animals at the heart of the film’s theme, you can also find important moral lessons subliminally embedded in the narration. Hence, children are bound to leave the theaters with more than just an experience.
This takes us to the USP of the film which sets it apart from its predecessors. The quality of animation is worth the accolades. Even more praiseworthy is the attention to details in the visuals and a conscious effort to keep it 100 percent Pakistani, be it landscapes, traditional housing and dressing, fauna and flora, dialogues like “Himmat-e-marda, madad-e-khuda” or even inclusion of places like Siyah Koh. Cultural relevance makes up for a very strong feature of AYATLOM in every possible sense.
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The magical cast has done complete justice with their characters. Anum Zaidi (Allahyar), Natasha Humera Ejaz (Mehru), Ali Noor (Mani), Arieb Azhar (Babloo Chacha) and Azfar Jafri (Hero) have given some remarkable performances. The fact that I would not have been able to recognize any of these voices if I had not been informed speaks volumes about the hard-work that has been put in by these talented voice artists to preserve the personality attributes of the characters rather than overshadowing them with their star persona.
Since, an actor can only do well if the character is written well; much credit goes to the brains behind the characterization. Allahyar is the right amount of mischievous and the right amount of sensitive for an 8-year-old. Likewise, Mehru is graceful, strong-headed yet has some flaws of her own; Mani succeeds in infuriating the audience at many junctures; Chakku can break you into sudden “Aaaws” and Hero is a “fraaand” who knows how to give you laughter fits. That being said, cameo roles by Hareem Farooq, Ali Rehman and Arshad Mehmood have a charm of their own and do not seem unnecessary at any point!
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When it comes to music, be it Natasha Humera Ejaz’s rendition of Muskuraye Ja or Ali Noor’s Ham Hain Raahi, each fits the scene appositely and further enhances the experiences of the viewer. The idea of playing title song in the beginning rather than forcefully inserting it in the movie is clever. Need not to mention that each song has a recall value to it and chances are that you might come out of the cinema humming one of the numbers.
AYATLOM may feel a bit long at some point and the discontinued transitioning of one scene into another may concern the viewers a little but it surely does not take away much from the film.
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Last but not the least, the clarity of director’s vision to create pure Pakistani content reflects greatly in the film and becomes a source of immense pride for the audience. Indeed, this is reason enough why you should rush to the nearest cinema with all the kids in your house to watch Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor this weekend!