Everything in life happens for a reason. There was a reason why I failed the ISSB interview two decades back, a setback that propelled me to become a journalist. Not watching Yalghaar at the premiere in Islamabad was another good thing as I got to watch Pakistan Cricket Team win the ICC Champions Trophy.
Having missed the premiere, I chose to watch the film with my own money after Eid. And I did not dislike the film because I watched it after having just seen worse — another Eid release called Mehrunisa V Lub U (MVLU). Everything happens for a reason.
Yasir Nawaz’s film was loaded with crass humour. After MVLU, anything would get a glorifying review and that’s exactly what happened in the case of Yalghaar. I am amazed how I didn’t find fault with anything: the clichéd way the women were portrayed in the film, the flawed story, the horrendous editing — you name it.
Most Hollywood war movies revolve around an actual incident. That is the only thing that Yalghaar director Hassan Waqas Rana borrowed from the book of Hollywood. Was he reading the wrong book (quoting Shaan in Waar) is topic for another time but yes, even this one was mostly in English language, the ‘father tongue’ of any nation’s armed forces. As a writer, he has evolved since Waar but his obsession with omelettes remains. The director in him (as well as the Director of Photography) needs time to develop and had he realised that during the making of the film, it might have helped. You may not believe it but he stood with the camera in his hand and invited Bilal Ashraf to fire real bullets into the camera in order to give the scene the ‘desired effect’.
While the film takes a few steps forward, there were a few that hit the promotions hard, such as Shaan Shahid’s claim that a) he was playing a guest role, b) he will promote the film but will not lie and c) it’s not his film. Now he may not have as many scenes as the more athletic Bilal Ashraf or the over-the-top Humayun Saeed (playing villain in a Pakistani film for the first time since Inteha), his name did appear first in the titles, he had a meaty role with a backstory, romance and mystery. Above all, everyone cheers for Shaan at the end, not Bilal Ashraf, not Adnan Siddiqui and definitely, not Humayun Saeed. So, who ends the film with a win-win. Guest actor Shaan!
The film got released at the best time possible as well — with insurgents from neighbouring countries inside the border and in different metropolitans of the country. Looking at the crowded hall and the audience response, it appears the sentiments of most people who are paying for the movie are with the forces. There is of course the usual criticism on this being an ISPR production. As for the film, the writer/director must realise that overdoing something is not always good. The patriotism level in the film ought to have been toned down.
The people clap when the villains die right, left and centre but not when their chief is killed because that sequence seemed to have been completed in haste. For an ISPR production, the production values could have been much better — remember Sunehrey Din and Alpha, Bravo, Charlie (television plays) were also ISPR produced but they had recall value as well as repeat value. Yalghaar doesn’t have that since it borrows elements from the two; it doesn’t come across as an intelligently thought-out project and could have been much better considering it took such a long time to complete.
The editing of the film is what kills it, despite most of the post production being done at the home of 007 — Pinewood Studios in England. The skydiving sequence could have been executed better, considering India had attempted the same 17 years back in Pukar and pulled it off with a 46-year old Anil Kapoor, the same age as this film’s lead/guest star.
Those who had gone ahead with the promotions also felt that injustice was done to them and although they refused to speak about it publicly, they did so in private. I feel that the director got too many superstars involved in the film and when that happens, not everyone has good things to say.
Yalghaar did manage to recover some of its investment during the Eid holidays but the test begins the week after holidays; on the first day, the biggest multiplex in Karachi had a houseful of empty chairs. In order to become a hit film, the film must earn three times the investment which seems highly unlikely considering no film has done more than 40 crores worldwide (Jawani Phir Nahi Aani, 2015). Yalghaar must do over 80 crores to regain its investment and one hopes that it manages to do that so that people can also plan ahead for similar flicks like Project Ghazi, releasing July 14.