Swaarangi (Review): A movie with a soul despite serious shortcomings but not “controversial” at all

The release of Swaarangi became highly eventful because of the series of events and incidents that took place before release. The film was already amongst the eagerly awaited releases because it marked the comeback of Lollywood’s ace-actress Resham after around nine years to the silver screen. The Resham factor was quite big for the spectators but to their disappointment the film was first banned by Central Board of Film Certifications to be released in Islamabad and cantonments areas because of being controversial and “representing an inappropriate image of Pakistan”. Later, its release date was changed to coincide with the release of another eagerly awaited drama film Manto as it got passed by the censor board of Punjab. And then just few days before its release, it was also passed by the censor board of Sindh but followed by remarks from the board’s chairman Fakhr-e-Alam about “the extremely poor quality of the film”. This did not only jeopardize the release of Swaarangi but also created a strange aura around the film and made everyone dubious of it.

Before reviewing the film it is important to bust two myths surrounding the film. The first one is related with having controversial and inappropriate content which could tarnish the image of Pakistan and its answer is straight no. Not at all. I am highly surprised why such unfair and incorrect remarks were given about the film by the Central Board. There is nothing in the film which is anti-Pakistan in any sense or which has not been seen by the people before on TV or cinema. Such stories have even been showed on PTV, but may be in different context and style, but it is nothing indigestible except that if the definition of “anti-Pakistan” has been changed recently.

The second myth is related with the extremely poor quality of the film and it, unlike the first one, carries some weight. The definition of quality is multi-dimensional and if Fakhr-e-Alam was worried about the picture quality, camera work and editing of the film then he was absolutely right as the film really lacked in these departments. Especially the picture quality and camera work is of very poor standard and it will really agonize the viewers who have spent money to watch the film. Their money has a value and the filmmakers should really understand what they are selling to the people who are willing to pay them money even before watching the film. Perhaps, in other departments the film does not disappoint much, so it is also unfair to label the film as having “extremely poor quality” and suggesting the distributors to “voluntarily withdraw the application”. Let the people decide its fate.

Now coming to the content of the film and what it has in its plate to offer, beside its shortcomings.

Swaarangi is set in an impoverished and barren area somewhere in Punjab or Baluchistan and the story revolves around the lives of Salma (Resham), her husband Jamal (Naveed Akbar), their two sons and Zaryaab (Waseem Manzoor) the childhood friend of Jamal who has a bad influence on him and has an ulterior motive to destroy his life. Zaryaab is the supplier of drugs in the area and he works for a powerful and ferocious syndicate Saeein (Ayub Khooso) who has a control over a vast area. Zaryaab makes Jamal take his sons to Saeein to put them on work and it starts a long turbulent journey for Jamal and his two sons. Salma knowing that Zaryaab has done a damage to her family takes steps to teach Zaryaab his lessons. The unconventional ending of the film will surely be a surprise and will stay with you for quite some time.

Phida Hussain, who also gave a cameo performance is the film, as a writer and director of the film tried to give his best but he failed to deliver fully. The major onus of film’s shortcomings fall on the shoulder of Hussain as the leading man behind the project. The film heavily and sinfully lacked in the picture quality, camera work and editing departments. Perhaps, Hussain’s work is not a total mess as it shows his passion and skills both as a writer and director despite some shaky and blurred shots.

Another obvious issue with the film is the language and accent of its characters. Being a story set in a highly deprived and destitute area, the characters speak great Urdu in a an accent that would put many to shame.

Film’s small cast is mostly comprised of the new comers with notable names Waseem Manzoor and Naveed Akbar. Both actors gave good performances. Naveed Akbar’s  performance in the later parts surely impresses as compared to the starting portions. Waseem Manzoor is a gem and has potential for delivering excellence. The actor must be taken seriously and all directors should sit up and take notice of this young gentleman who has a brilliant screen presence. Its his strong performance as Zaryaab which is one of the major plus points of the film.

Besides the male actors, the only lady in the film, Resham was equally good in the film. However, her role was quite limited which gave an impression of guest appearance by the actress. Also, she was looking too beautiful for her character and she probably forgot that women fo such background dont have perfectly manicured nails. Oops.

Ayub Khosoo had a guest appearance and he was as amazing and terrifying as he used to be in the days of yore on PTV as a perfect antagonist.

The background score of the film is an average effort. It could have been better. I had listened to three songs of the film on Patari which are really amazing but to my dismay these are not included in the film. Peeran by Asrar could have been a very good addition.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
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