KARACHI: It is not often that a film-maker reinvents his or her work so much that the end result is surprisingly unexpected. Documentary film-maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy did exactly that when she delved into animation and produced Pakistan’s first animated feature, 3 Bahadur last year.
Two-time Oscar winning Chinoy is known for making documentaries which address social issues most are reluctant to talk about, and that is indeed commendable. After watching 3 Bahadur: Revenge of Baba Balaam, the sequel of 3 Bahadur, it is best that we remember her that way. While the sequel undoubtedly tops the first offering, it still doesn’t present anything worth remembering after leaving the theater hall.
The sequel, which stars Fahad Mustafa and Sarwat Gillani, follows Kamil, Saadi and Amna’s journey as they continue to fight Baba Balaam and thwart his devious plans. Baba Balaam on the other hand has brought new goons to fight the kids and trapped the watchman, Uncle Deenu, who had given children their powers.
While there’s surely a need for heroes to look up to, the three main characters appear far too hollow to be considered as children’s idols. It is interesting that despite the film-maker following an archetypal hero’s journey formula, the film lacks the finesse of a storyteller who knows how to make us believe in the heroes and their nemesis.
When we watched Dexter’s Laboratory or The Incredibles, what made characters memorable were the constant conflicts and higher stakes. And that is exactly what 3 Bahadur lacked because the odds weren’t strong enough to create any form of hindrance between the kids and their eventual goal. Pakistani film-makers must understand that a few laughs for the children don’t create memorable characters.
However, credit should be given where it is due. The songs are catchy and entertaining. John Angier’s soundtrack added much needed depth and intensity, especially in the climax. In terms of visuals, the team has outdone itself and come a long way. The colours and textures spring out and the world creation is better than the film’s predecessor.
Granted our animation industry is still nascent, the next step would be to break away from the Safeguard commercials-lookalike visuals and create a unique style that would set new benchmarks, rather than relying on being the first and only ones to do it.
Furthermore, what really made the film an uncomfortable watch was its blatant product placement. The film appeared like an extended infomercial as entire scenes revolved around promotion of various sponsors, which compromised the narrative flow and took away from what could have been a better film experience. In a nutshell, Chinoy let the blatant promotion compromise her artistic vision, or whatsoever of it was there in the first place.
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