Pat on the back for Shah

Published: August 15, 2015
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The film is based on the life of Pakistani Olympian boxer Hussain Shah. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

The film is based on the life of Pakistani Olympian boxer Hussain Shah. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

KARACHI: 

Making a biopic is like adapting a classic novel on screen, you can never do justice to 700 pages of elaborate details by writing two hundred pages of screenplay.  That is perhaps why writing biopics demands immense command on storytelling and a thorough understanding of the cinematic canvas and its ability to increase the emotional quotient of any situation.

But when you have a real-life rags-to-riches plot than the least you can do is put the story across in a remotely engaging manner and that’s exactly what Shah is: a film that bleeds passion, sweats honesty but doesn’t have life as a whole.

Directed by Adnan Sarwar and based on the life of Pakistani Olympian boxer Hussain Shah, the film begins with an interview. Played by Sarwar himself, Shah sits in front of the camera, clad in a shalwar Kameez and waist coat and recollects his journey from the slums of Lyari to being the king of the boxing ring.

And so it begins, Syed Hussain Shah is found in the slums of Lyari by Chacha (Gulab Chandio) who adopts him and gets him work to do. As time passes by, Shah realises that his true potential lies in his ability to knock out people and get knocked out and that’s when he joins a local boxing club. From here on begins the struggle of a boxer, in fact let me say a Pakistani boxer. There is also a female journalist in the story played by Kiran Choudhry but her existence in the story is as pointless as her mention in the end of this paragraph.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Shah is a bad experience. For a country that has never seen an inspirational story on the big screen, Shah is a welcome respite. Through the life of a champ that was never celebrated, it brings forward what Jung would call the ego and the shadow of our society — what we want others to know about ourselves and who we really are. And how things can change for good if we find a balance between the two — this quintessential reality check is where Shah makes a stand.

However, the greatness is only restricted to the theme and flashes of brilliance on the stylistic front, beyond that it’s just an amateur attempt at making a feature film. And despite the entire Hullabaloo about the film being made in a very “limited budget”, none of these problems are related to the budget.

The script literally has nothing to offer to the actors, who often deliver dialogues without any clear motivation. Any film that showcases an epic inspirational journey is bound to have a few one-liners that stay with you for the rest of the life but this sadly doesn’t have any of those. And even legendary performers such as Chandio are wasted despite a consistent effort by him to somehow fuel up the screen. Sarwar himself tries his level best to adapt the Balochi accent but in managing to do so he loses on the emotion of his character.

The grand and power packed score by Salman Albert and Sarwar keeps the film alive but no melody can suffice, if the jabs and punches in a boxing match have been dragged to the point of looking boring.

As a whole, the film does seem like a wasted opportunity; maybe someone with a better understanding of aesthetics of filmmaking would have pulled it off in a better way. But, no one even thought about putting time and attention into the life of an unsung Pakistani hero, who doesn’t live in Pakistan anymore.

Verdict: Shah is a tad over-ambitious but sincere effort to tell a story that needed to be told, and Sarwar deserves to be commended for that.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Abid AZam
    Aug 15, 2015 - 10:53PM

    What an extraordinary movie. I went to see this movie with my family and everybody loved it. It’s an inspirational movie but tells you the rotten Pakistani system that doesn’t recognize its talent.

    It’s a must must watch movie. Even I can tell now that this movie will be a big hit in Pakistani film industry.Recommend

  • Abid AZam
    Aug 15, 2015 - 10:53PM

    What an extraordinary movie. I went to see this movie with my family and everybody loved it. It’s an inspirational movie but tells you the rotten Pakistani system that doesn’t recognize its talent.

    It’s a must must watch movie. Even I can tell now that this movie will be a big hit in Pakistani film industry.Recommend

  • Hitler
    Aug 16, 2015 - 12:37AM

    I haven’t watched the movie but I am disappointed by this review. Pakistani movie makers are not from Hollywood and will take time to learn. Lots of people were looking to go and watch this movie but this immature review will change minds and that is why our cinema is not where it should be!Recommend

  • JM
    Aug 16, 2015 - 4:21AM

    I went to see Shah on opening night. What a great movie it is. Adnan Sarwar has done a great job in telling us about the boxer we never appreciated. Shame on our system and sports setup for insulting a boxing hero who deserved lots more. Shah deserves to be a major hit. Please watch it. It’s an eye opener about how difficult our system is. It’s a must watch..Recommend

  • Nadeem Mazhar
    Aug 16, 2015 - 7:02AM

    I totally agree with another reader that this is a poor and immature review. In your zeal to be a so called ‘critic’, your unfair account of an otherwise beautiful film may eventually hurt it. My late uncle, a great movie buff, used to say “try to realise the time, efforts and resources that have gone into making a movie before you say anything bad about it.” Words are powerful. Use them with responsibility and caution.Recommend

  • Aug 16, 2015 - 7:28PM

    I went last nite with my family to watch this movie despite of knowing there is no heroine there is no song and various flawz in the movie. I want to show my kids that liyaari is a heart of Karachi as far as the sports is concerned and we should not ruin the talent as we did with hussain shah.
    Must watch movie. At least in this way we could encourage people like adnan sarwar.
    Who made his efforts in limited budget.Recommend

  • sara
    Aug 16, 2015 - 11:17PM

    Fabulous movie. Commendable performances by Adnan Sarwar & Gulab Chandio. A treat for Pakistani movie lovers. Thank you Adnan Sarwar for telling us the inspirational story of syed hussain shah. Massive respect for the entire team of the film. Hopefully, it will trigger the right message & we as Pakistanis would learn to respect & recognize our heroes.

    Well as far as this review is concerned, its an amateur effort with little life as a whole and its existence is of even little significance.Recommend

  • Ahsan
    Aug 17, 2015 - 1:07AM

    Had a choice between Shah and Moor. I chose Moor and extremely disappointed with that movie. I hope Shah is better. Will watch it for sure after reading positive comments by viewers.Recommend

  • shehryar
    Aug 17, 2015 - 9:50AM

    i don’t understand the criticism directed at the reviewer. r we expected to praise something just BECAUSE it’s pakistani? is he supposed to praise clunky dialogue n shaky acting just because filmmakers ki niyyat achi thi? should we applaud the beating of children because the objective – making them well-behaved – is noble?

    no, i don’t think so. the action needs to be judged on its own merit irrespective of ppl’s emotional attachment to the subject matter.Recommend

  • Nida
    Aug 17, 2015 - 2:11PM

    Good Job Express Tribune: Blocking my comments at this review. I wrote a detailed analysis of the writing style of Mr. Rafay Mahmood. Needless to say, it was blocked.

    Sara, you said exactly what I wanted to say.. This reviewer desperately needs to justify his education in films… thats why he is criticizing the movie from a technical point rather than with the whole context..

    Sheryar: You sound like Rafay Mahmood himself, trying to justify this absolute cringe inducing piece of writing. Recommend

  • aamir
    Aug 19, 2015 - 12:32AM

    best pakistani movie till date. reviewer wanted item songs in it i guess.it was not a bollywood movie raffay where marycom sings and dances.i loved it. not a single scene was unnecessary. pakistan anthem played in india best part for me.Recommend

  • Murtaza
    Aug 25, 2015 - 12:20AM

    Another one of those negative 30 something disgruntled youth writing about films as if he is some kind of expert. Please spare us these negative reviews. Why is this guy even writing reviews if everyone expects just negative rants from him? Recommend

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