Azad (Review): Pakistan ventures into comedy melodrama, somewhat successfully

Movie Name: Azad

Release Date: February 9, 2018

Director: Rehan Sheikh

Review by: Momina Mindeel

Unlike the recent disasters to come out of Lollywood – Azad – the new Pakistani movie starring Rehan Sheikh and Sanam Saeed, was rather underpublicized. There were no publicity events as such and the social media appeared to be unaware of its existence, even after it came out. I, too, entered the cinema hall with zero expectations but came out unexpectedly staggered.

Azad has a penchant to surprise you, well to some extent. The movie’s genre is similar to the likes of Breakfast at Tiffany’s from Hollywood and Peepli Live from Bollywood except that it is not that well made. Given the slow pace of such movies and their tendency to get boring if not handled correctly, the filmmakers have to be extra careful with the plot. Azad’s director, Rehan Sheikh, however, seems not to take that into consideration, at more than one occasions in the film.That being said, there is no denying that the film is still a decent effort and if you’re fond of super slow and poetic movies, Azad might just be for you.

The movie revolves around an RJ named Danish (played by Rehan Sheikh himself) who hosts a morning show at a radio station in Islamabad and goes by the name of Azad because he thinks himself to be free. Consequently, much to his bosses’ (Sanam Saeed and Salman Shahid) distaste, he usually does not stick to the show format and the pre-written script which often puts him in a hot spot with them. He is shown to be helping his listeners get rid of their past baggage while he himself harbors a colossal amount of it, on account of his failed love life. One day, he comes across his ex-beloved (Sabreen Isbani) and is suddenly confronted with the baggage he has locked away, somewhere inside of him, all these years.

The movie, in essence, is a man’s constant attempt to deny his inner demons that keep coming out every now and then because they have not been addressed properly until he is forced to face them. While the concept is great and execution isn’t so bad either, it is the slow pace of the movie that defines it. While for the majority of the audience, the movie tends to be a tad too slow and boring, for some, however, it is just the right pace. Especially for those who are struggling with the idea of who they are. Besides, the slow pace allows for a gradual yet a complete development of its characters. Rehan Sheikh makes sure we are acquainted with every character in entirety.

The cinematography of the movie is commendable, to say the least. Beautiful shots of Islamabad and its day to day life are incorporated beautifully into the movie. Besides, Rehan Sheikh attempts to give the movie a rather vintage look and appears to be successful in doing so, to a great extent. The song ‘Huzoor’ is one its examples; a pub with a vintage, colonial outlook (post-colonial inferiority complex is real, I tell you), a few couples dancing around with glasses of champagne in their hands, a man playing piano in a suit etc. etc. You get the point, right? The video of the song, beyond any doubt, is laced with clichés but what cannot be denied is that it is indeed aesthetically pleasing to the ears, just like all the other songs in the movie which brings me to my next point; music.

Every sequence in the movie is accompanied by a new song. The background score by Abbas Ali Khan, in particular, is a delight to listen to. The music, all in all, is incredibly soothing which, therefore, adds to the slow pace of the movie, positively.

In the acting department, everybody manifests at least 80 percent of their potential, if not all of it. Sanam Saeed portrays the character of the brooding boss naturally while Rehan Sheikh and Sabreen Hisbani – the two rather stuck-up exes – do exactly the same. Salman Shahid’s character is genuinely witty and his frequent quips at Danish, the RJ, are a fun to watch. The supporting cast including Nimra Bucha and Imran Abbas, put on stellar performances too. Amidst all the good things, however, I found Rehan Sheikh’s obsession with filming close-ups of its characters, rather infuriating. While the exceptionally tight frames are aesthetically appropriate sometimes, they tend to make the audience uncomfortable, every now and then.

Verdict: Azad is probably the only Pakistani movie that has dared to venture into the genre of comedy melodrama somewhat successfully.

Rating: 2.5/5