Yalghaar (Review): A star-studded hot mess!

Movie Name: Yalghaar

Release Date: June 25, 2017

Director: Hassan Waqas Rana

Review by: Momin Ali Munshi

Touted as the biggest film to ever come out of Pakistan, Yalghaar pays homage to the brave soldiers of our country by showing what all actually happens during a military operation and how it affects not only those involved but their families. The film boasts of a mega-budget, has the ISPR backing and an envious star cast (Shaan Shahid and Humayun Saeed together is definitely a casting coup). However, all that glitters is not gold and this holds true for the ambitious film which on paper though may have it all, but in reality, fails to impress and ends up being a disappointment.

When the film opens we are right in the middle of the action as we see Col Asad (Shaan Shahid) leading a mission alongside Capt Bilal (Bilal Ashraf), Capt Umair (Umair Jaswal) and a few others. These first twenty minutes or so are wonderfully executed and definitely set the right motion for the film. Then as the film progresses we’re introduced to a plethora of characters including the baddie Humayun Saeed and the film slowly drags towards the climax with an emotional last twenty minutes.

Now for a film that has so many written characters, it was obviously going to be a challenge for the director to do justice to all of them and this is where first timer Hassan Waqas Rana stumbles. All the characters appear one-dimensional (barring Shaan and Humayun to some extent) with weak or non-existent backstories further alienating the viewers.  Humayun is bad for the sake of being bad and you never really get a justification for his actions. Shaan Shahid’s character has somewhat of a layer courtesy the Sana Bucha track filled with the artiness. But generally, there is no depth to the characters which definitely takes away from their performances.

Performance wise almost everyone puts up a good show. I was particularly taken aback after seeing Bilal Ashraf and Armeena Rana Khan who both have improved tremendously post their last film ‘Janaan’ ( although I think both films were shot at the same time).  Shaan Shahid underplays the role to some extent but with the kind of screen presence he has he just needs to appear on the screen and the job is half done. Humayun Saeed I believe has been miscast in the role of Torjan for whatever he does, you just don’t hate him! He performs well with a rather impactful monologue towards the ends but Humayun as the baddie did not work for me. Sana Bucha definitely stole the show with a powerful debut performance. Yes, she was playing a journalist so it was a home ground for her but nonetheless she looked stunning and left an impact.

Ayesha Omar and Gohar Rasheed suffered the most from bad writing but nonetheless, they shine bright in whatever little capacity they can. Adnan Siddiqui is wasted and except for one last scene at the battlefield, he has nothing much to offer. The other ladies Uzma Khan, Aleeze Naseer, time Atiya Khan are just there to fill in the slots for the army wives/love interests. Umair Jaswal and Ali Rehman Khan are hardly seen and one wonders why would they even agree to do a blink and miss kind of a role. Debutants Ahmad Taha Ghani and Naeem Haque do well and both the characters stay with the audiences. It was interesting to note that Ahmad’s share of screen time was almost as much as that of Shaan or Bilal Ashraf despite him being a stock character added for comic relief! Not that Ahmad did bad, but it would have made more sense to have Ali Rehman do this character especially since he had wowed everyone with his comic timing in ‘Janaan’.

Moving on to the writing of the film, the less said the better. There is no easy way of saying this but the film has no story! When ‘Waar’ came out in 2013 the biggest complaint I had was that it was a collection of wonderfully shot scenes without much coherence. Well, now that I compare this film to ‘Waar’ and I do that because obviously, it was ‘Waar’ which inspired then producer/ screenwriter Hassan Waqas Rana to take up the director’s role, this one, unlike the predecessor, has absolutely no trace of a story. It’s just scene and sequences put together to make a film!

There is the action sequence, some romance, comedy, another action scene and so on. While the romantic tracks were endearing and showed the human side of the army the comedy which was in the form of punches and dialogues was extremely forced and did not evoke any laughter! Yes, we get that the director wanted to provide some comic relief but when in the middle of a war sequence you crack a joke it does seem misplaced. And when that happens every 15 minutes and a pattern emerges it just gets annoying!

Directing, writing and producing a film is definitely not an easy job and somewhere Hassan Waqas Rana couldn’t juggle the three jobs. Also, he had an acting role in the film, so that didn’t make things easier for him. Furthermore, I don’t get the fascination with the English language. Yes, ‘Waar’ worked at the box office but that’s for many other reasons, I hope we let go of our fancy with the language after this one.

Talking about the music, the background score of ‘Yalghaar’ is well put and the songs aren’t bad either with ‘Yaad Na Awien’ still on my mind. However the other number ‘Nahi Milta’  featuring Armeena and Bilal Ashraf was not only average at best but was rather awkwardly placed too. While Hassan Waqas Rana definitely had his heart in the right place and wanted the average cinemagoer to know what goes on in an army man’s life but a poor development of the idea resulted in a mediocre end product.

It’s a ‘Waar’ sequel you never asked for!

I might be an Economics graduate from LUMS, but cinema is where my heart truly belongs. Always up for a discussion on fims and I guess you could call me a Pakistani Cinema aficionado. Email: [email protected]


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