Review: ‘Maalik’ shines through the scratches

Published: April 7, 2016
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Maalik stands out for its flashes and sparks that otherwise fail to put up a great show. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Maalik stands out for its flashes and sparks that otherwise fail to put up a great show. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

KARACHI: 

To say the least, Maalik is an unpolished film. It lacks coherence, makes aesthetic compromises on the stylistic side and tests the bladder’s optimum resistance. Yet you don’t feel like leaving the cinema.

While Ashir Azeem’s cinematic debut is a master class on how not to pace a film and how extended melodramatic scenes can cross the line between film and TV, it also manages to stand out from the league of extraordinarily-bad Pakistani films by getting two things right: having a soul and staying true to its purpose.

The core of the film lies in jingoistic propaganda but the fusion with human drama is what forms its essence; something we have longed for with preachy films, off late.

Censor watchdog gives ‘Maalik’ Universal rating

The skeleton however is deformed. As deformed as that of a man who after writing and starring in the country’s most popular crime drama, goes into slumber and wakes up for some action after 22 years. Unlike the passage of his film, Ashir himself has aged gracefully and sports white stubble with Asad, a retired army commando who runs a private security agency along with his father, General sahab (Sajid Hasan), an ex-army kingpin. Their team, like any other squad of heroes, has an angry bad guy, usually found in the interrogation room, a hot female officer (Tatmain Ul Qulb) who charms her way into situations and kicks her way out, and a bunch of ex-servicemen still very much in service. Together they form an untitled company that either charges hefty sums for services or does them for free if they feel it’s the right thing to do. Then one odd day, Asad tells his father that he is “going to do it” and goes to the police station to make a confession. So begins the story.

A presentation of PTV Quetta centre, Dhuwan had a huge cultural impact during the 90s. It was a moving picture of brotherhood, an echoing plea of loss, which made people laugh and cry, quite literally.  With Maalik, Ashir tries to invoke similar feelings but he only succeeds partially. Not that the dramatic tension within the film isn’t high enough; sub-plots such as the journey of the Afghan family are heart-wrenching and brutally honest, but perhaps the better days of our society have also passed and now it really takes a genocide to tickle the nerves that are so numb.

Whatever the case may be, the audience can’t be blamed and certainly not for the scenes where actors are forced to talk in English, a language they were not comfortable communicating in, at all. As much as a certain chunk of our society has become bilingual, speaking in a different language on the big screen requires a lot of fluency, finesse and more so, a situation to keep it natural and all of that was missing. One wonders why this trend started by Waar was consistent with another film with guns and C-130s; I guess love for the country sounds better in English.

Although Ashir manages to resolve most of the major sub-plots in an otherwise non-linear narrative, it is the pacing and duration of the smaller stories that make the film into a complete mishmash of ideas. While the smaller stories are complete and interesting on their own, the director takes too long to connect them with the central storyline which the audience forgets by this time.

Maalik is a film that stands out for its flashes and sparks that otherwise fail to put up a great show. Despite all its bruises and rusty weaponry, it survives like the soldier who has lost the battle but is surviving to tell the story. Maalik manages to create a sense of ownership amongst the audience while not sacrificing on attention-to-detail and sociopolitical history of this land.

Verdict: ‘Maalik’ is not a masterpiece yet isn’t something that should be missed. Watch it without any expectations and you might as well be surprised

Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th,  2016.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Rafay
    Apr 9, 2016 - 11:21AM

    I felt Maalik was extremely incoherent, lacking a consistent structure in many areas throughout the film. And I would second you on the fact that speaking in another language requires ‘flueny’ and ‘finesse’ which certainly was absent.
    However, Hassan Niazi and Adnan Shah portrayed their roles beautifully and succeeded because of their sheer determination to the role. Ashir Azeem’s comeback to the industry after Dhuwan is certainly praiseworthy. Recommend

  • Apr 11, 2016 - 12:04AM

    Totally agree with the review. It was painful sitting through the English dialog. Hassan Niazi, Adnan Shah and the guy who played the UN security guard, that about sums up the good acting. Sajid Hassan was not convincing as General Shb, stuffing a man’s chest with pillows doesn’t make him a General. I like the story, but it should have been executed better, much better.

    But I will keep going to see Pakistani movies, unless they have born-of-a-cess-pool story like Fikar Not (had to watch the trailer 5 times, I will not forgive or forget this atrocity).Recommend

  • Zeeshan
    Apr 17, 2016 - 12:38AM

    The humour could have improved.. Recommend

  • Khalid rashid
    Apr 17, 2016 - 12:14PM

    I saw MAALIK.
    with my family a nd friends.it is an excellent movie.it is true reflection of our society presented boldly and congratulate the director for covering such a big canvass in two hours time
    I wish all Pakistanis watch this film and feel proud of being Pakistani for a change .I congratulate mr ashir azeem for this beautiful work please keep it upRecommend

  • Yaasir
    Apr 24, 2016 - 12:34AM

    Simply pathetic to say the least. Utter waste of time. Worst crap I ever saw.
    He must’ve learnt a thing or two from Manto or Moor. Or even Waar.
    Should be banned from even thinking of making any other crap. Recommend

  • Yaasir
    Apr 24, 2016 - 12:39AM

    Simply pathetic to say the least. Utter waste of time. Worst crap I ever saw. No coherence what so ever. Very long scenes. Full of loon holes and goofs, both in story and execution.
    He must’ve learnt a thing or two from Manto or Moor. Or even Waar.
    Should be banned from even thinking of making any other crap. Recommend

  • ahmad
    Apr 27, 2016 - 4:42PM

    totally agree with the writer. The movie had too many sub-plots and no central theme. It was some part of vigilante action, part history and no follow up.Recommend

  • Naila malik
    Apr 27, 2016 - 9:58PM

    The views about this movie though cinematic point are not that encouraging. Whatever it is but why it is Ban in Pakistan? What our sitting incumbent wants to conceal.Recommend

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