Movie Name: Salute
Release Date: Dec 2, 2016
Director: Shahzad Rafique
Review by: Momin Ali Munshi
When I first heard that Shehzad Rafique was making a film based on the life of martyr Aitzaz Hasan there was only one thought on my mind: was there enough source material to justify a feature length film? Obviously, the director would take creative liberty and would add some masala to make the film more palatable to the average cine-goer but how the director would extract an entire film from one incident was something I was really looking forward too. So now having seen the film I can answer the question that whether Shehzad Rafique succeeds in his efforts? And the answer is a resounding yes!
The director effectively manages to paint the story of the little boy from Hangu who gave his life while protecting his schoolmates and has the audience invested from the word go. Yes, there are far too many sub-plots which serve as distractions and take focus away from the main story but as the plots are somewhat interlinked and centered around one major theme the film has the desired result.
The story of the film begins with little Aitazaz Hassan’s (Ali Mohtesham) birth and the joy that his birth brings to the family which comprises of an elder brother (Adnan Khan), mother (Saima Noor) and father (Ajab Gul) who is working as a driver in the UAE so as to provide for his family. The story progresses and we learn more about what’s happening in the bigger picture which involves corrupt Taliban in Waziristan , certain incidents in Swat and generally many inter-linked subplots set in the KPK.
Now while these sub-plots were necessary to move the film forward and provide a larger context when it comes to the main theme, at times these sub-plots overshadowed the main story in itself and served as distractions. I, as a viewer was more interested to see what was happening in the Aitzaz Hassan household but was shown more of what was happening in the neighboring areas and this was rather disengaging. I felt that the balance between the sub-plots and the main plot was off and the screen time could have been better divided.
However moving on to the main story itself, one needs to appreciate the director and the actors for a convincing portrayal. Director Shehzad Rafique who has is an industry veteran has sort of mastered the art of story telling where the main characters are simple individuals from humble backgrounds and this shows in Salute. The way he shows the day to day life in Hangu could not have been better and the fact that they shot at real locations only adds to the authenticity. Moreover the camera work is on point, cinematography sharp and KPK is captured beautifully. The only issue I have is with the editing and pacing for as mentioned earlier the sub-plots took away from the pace, also the ending seemed a bit rushed. But the director makes up for all that with the main scene at the climax where Aitaz Hassan confronts the suicide bomber. I will not go into much detail but the entire sequence has been shot really well with a complimenting background music, visuals and leave the viewer teary eyed.
A huge reason why the film works well is because of the super strong acting department. Be it Saima Noor’s portryal of the over-protective mother who is deeply attached to the kid or Ajab Gul as the distressed father , everyone makes their presence felt and add to the film.I will go on to say that this is probably Saima’s best performance to date! Her acting is so effortless and she comes across as such a natural that there is nobody who could have done a better job with this role.
Here I also need to mention the brilliant selection of Ali to play the lead character of Aitazaz Hassan for when making a biopic it’s very crucial that the main lead is someone who convinces the viewers and elicits the kind of response that has been envisioned while planning the film. And boy oh boy does Ali do that! He not only looks the part but plays the part rather well and its his portrayal that gets you all teary eyed towards the end of the film.
Moving on to the baddies, Nayyer Ejaz proves yet again why he is a force to be reckoned with and gives a stellar performance. Sheraz Ghufoor who makes a come back after the 2014 release ‘The System ‘ has surely grown a lot as an actor and that shows in his strong performance. Also a special mention for Meera who had a brief sequence but gives an applaud worthy performance. The only issues in the acting department is with the minor supporting actors who are all just bad! Be it the couple on a vacation ( played by Meera’s real life brother), Ajab Gul’s friend in the UAE or the police force, everyone gives weak performances. But since they have tiny roles it’s all good and not much is lost.
The music of the film is another plus point as the background score by Aamir Munnawar is definitely on point. It does get a bit too loud at times but then I’m told there was an issue with the screen at Luxus Grand where I saw the film. Furthermore, even the songs ‘Tu Hai Mera’, ‘Aye Rah-e-Haq Ke Shaheedo’ and ‘Lab Pay Aati’ have been beautifully composed and used in the film. The music definitely gets a thumbs up from me.
To sum it up I would say that this film is one heartfelt tribute by the makers and should definitely be on your must watch list.