The System is a Lollywood action drama film, directed by Norway-based Shahzad Ghufoor. The film, starring Sheraz, Kashaf Ali, Nadeem Baig, Shafqat Cheema, Irfan Khoosat and Nayyar Ejaz is set in a neighbourhood in Lahore and focuses on the corrupt legal system and lingering social issues within Pakistani society.
Veteran actor, Nadeem Baig plays the character of a neighbourhood maulvi and is also the father of the protagonist of the film, Haider Ali, an unconventional looking commercial cinema character who looks to challenge the formations of localised corruption which start from the very bottom. The character is played by Shehraz a new edition to the Pakistani film fraternity. He brings out Pakistan’s own version of Salman Khan with his shirt-tearing actions and heroic dialogue, particularly (Iss system kay saath mein nahi chal sakta, ab system ko meray saath chalna paray ga [I can’t follow the system, the system will have to follow me).
After last year’s buzz surrounding the action-intensive film Waar, there has been an on-going divide over the potentialities of localised commercial thrillers which have both, easy consumption value and also a relatable character that can reach the diverse and divided audiences across the country.
When speaking about Pakistani cinema, it’s about the small gains. It is commendable how Ghafoor managed to release and make the film in under a year. The director successfully brought his own stylistic value and emphasised on the quality, something that has been missing from Lahore for several years. Utilising flashbacks and simple narratives, he has been able to bring cinematic quality.
The film builds on the narratives given through the 1980s and 1990s; action-thrillers which focus on masculinity and machismo laced with moralism, which have become inherent to the culture of nationalism that has developed over the last couple of years.
The rival of the protagonist is corrupt police officer played by Shafqat Cheema. Ali fights against a corrupt legal system which has negative impacts on society. In an attempt to take down this system, Ali becomes part of the system itself by joining the police force. Even Ali’s love interest, whose character is played by Kashaf Ali, is the daughter of a corrupt inspector in another government office (Irfan Khoosat).
Ali becomes the unlikely anti-hero, as he works his way up the policy ladder and infiltrates the network of corruption which leads its way up to the Chief Minister (Nayyer Ijaz). He then tries to obliterate the corrupt individuals who have sold the nation for money and power.
The film does not have a shortage of talent and Shehraz has proven himself to be promising and determined. A lot was expected from the supporting cast of villains in the film, considering the vast amount of experience that people such as Nayyar Ijaz hold, more depth could have been added to the characters they played. Cheema, however, acted brilliantly.
The film has moments where the story is unnecessarily stretched; however the score keeps you engaged throughout the film. The music of the film was composed in India and has four songs; each of them is different from the other. It’s a shame that the energetic dance number called Naughty Saiyyan sung by Supriya Ramalingam and Mohit Pathak is not being played in every neighbourhood in the country.
The film fits in the tradition of Lollywood which has long been looking for its time back in the spotlight. This will be an interesting and original experiment of commercial cinema which the masses will be able to connect to.
Verdict: The System is as poignant as the trailer of the film, full of sound and fury signifying nothing in terms of content but spot on stylistically. Shehraz however is a good contribution to the league of Pakistani actors and given the time can prove to be one of the better new faces.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2014.