Waar Strikes

Waar is a Pak­istani film that tack­les the sub­ject of ter­ror­ism in a more con­vinc­ing man­ner than has been done be­fore.

Southasia - - BOOKS & REVIEWS - By Muham­mad Omar Iftikhar The writer is a for­mer As­sis­tant Ed­i­tor of SouthAsia Mag­a­zine. He free­lances on re­gional and so­cial is­sues.

Waar is an at­tempt to tell the world that the armed forces of Pak­istan are do­ing ev­ery­thing in their ca­pac­ity to curb the men­ace of ter­ror­ism and its in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are fight­ing, be­hind the scenes, against the en­e­mies of the state.

Waar, di­rected by Bi­lal Lashari, has raised the bar for Pak­istani films, set­ting the cin­e­matog­ra­phy bench­mark even higher. The English-lan­guage film fea­tures Shaan, Aye­sha Khan, Shamoon Ab­basi, Mee­sha Shafi and Ali Az­mat. Al­though Zinda Bhaag, another film from Pak­istan di­rected by Meenu Gaur and Far­jad Nabi, be­came an Os­car nom­i­nee, Waar re­ceived un­prece­dented pub­lic ap­pre­ci­a­tion be­cause of its pa­tri­otic theme.

The movie re­volves around Ma­jor Mu­jtaba ( Shaan Shahid), who is a re­tired army of­fi­cer and spe­cial­izes in coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence. Af­ter an In­dian spy Ra­mal (Shamoon Ab­basi) ar­rives in Pak­istan and the au­thor­i­ties learn about his de­vi­ous schemes, they force Mu­jtaba to come out of re­tire­ment and help them catch Ra­mal. Al­though Mu­jtaba doesn’t want to be a part of the game any­more, it is his de­sire for vengeance that makes him re­think his de­ci­sion. The ma­jor had lost his wife and son in a bomb blast a few years ago and Ra­mal, he is told, was the one who had planned the at­tack.

Ac­tor and singer Mee­sha Shafi plays the role of Laxmi, an In­dian spy dis­guised as a so­cial worker, who takes or­ders from her su­pe­ri­ors in In­dia and di­rects Ra­mal about his ob­jec­tives. Singer Ali Az­mat makes his big-screen de­but in the role of Ejaz Khan, a politi­cian who wants to build a dam to pro­tect Pak­istan’s fu­ture. His char­ac­ter reminds one of Imran Khan be­cause of sim­i­lar­i­ties in their body lan­guage and his rev­o­lu­tion­ary vi­sion to bring about a change in the coun­try.

Al­though the film has a strong cast, it seems more like a col­lec­tion of good shots put to­gether. Many scenes sim­ply do not have any link or co­her­ence. There is no ex­pla­na­tion for some ac­tions taken by the char­ac­ters. For in­stance, you are left guess­ing what could be the mo­tive be­hind the killing of Ejaz Khan and his wife. It is also strange to see Tal­iban com­man­ders join­ing hands with an In­dian spy to wreak havoc in the coun­try. Sim­i­larly, no ex­pla­na­tion is given about how an In­dian spy be­comes the Tal­iban’s as­so­ci­ate in the first place.

Th­ese and other unan­swered ques­tions in the plot lead to am­bigu­ous sit­u­a­tions which make the movie look like a com­pi­la­tion of well-ex­e­cuted scenes hav­ing lit­tle con­nec­tion. This is prob­a­bly be­cause Bi­lal Lashari is still in­ex­pe­ri­enced in film di­rec­tion and Waar is his di­rec­to­rial de­but.

Some movie crit­ics may term the film as an ISPR-funded pro­pa­ganda, but di­rec­tor Lashari re­futes all this. Writ­ten by Has­san Waqas Rana, the film was screened in 42 cine­mas across Pak­istan and bagged Rs.11.4 mil­lion on the open­ing day. This means that Waar did strike a chord with the au­di­ence.

From a broader per­spec­tive, Waar is an at­tempt to tell the world that the armed forces of Pak­istan are do­ing ev­ery­thing in their ca­pac­ity to curb the men­ace of ter­ror­ism and its in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are fight­ing, be­hind the scenes, against the en­e­mies of the state. The movie fo­cuses on the se­ri­ous mat­ter of for­eign hands desta­bi­liz­ing the coun­try and per­haps that is why peo­ple think it is mil­i­tary pro­pa­ganda.

Re­gard­less of what the crit­ics say, Bi­lal Lashari’s ven­ture needs to be praised. His ac­tion se­quences are com­mend­able. The open­ing scene, for in­stance, where Eht­e­sham (Hamza Ali Ab­basi) and his team in­fil­trate a ter­ror­ist hide­out to res­cue a Chi­nese looks like a scene out of a Hol­ly­wood film. It re­quires a cer­tain level of vi­sion to ex­e­cute some­thing like this.

The Waar plot is a straight­for­ward one with Ma­jor Mu­jtaba chas­ing Ra­mal and the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies try­ing their best to pro­tect the coun­try. There may be loop­holes in the story but the act­ing is mostly flaw­less. Shaan takes most of the screen time and de­liv­ers his part with per­fec­tion. His ex­pres­sions, body lan­guage and di­a­logue de­liv­ery shows why he is still Pak­istan’s most soughtafter ac­tor. Al­though Aye­sha Khan, who plays the role of an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer work­ing un­der Shaan, is a good ac­tress, her per­for­mance on the big screen is not up to the mark.

The pro­fi­ciency with which ac­tors use firearms, es­pe­cially in the scene where Mu­jtaba is dis­play­ing his skills in the fir­ing range, is a text­book scene that sends chills down the spine.

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