Sherdil (Review): Poor writing and direction take away from an otherwise good film

Movie Name: Sherdil

Release Date: March 22, 2019

Director: Azfar Jafri

Review by: Hassan Hassan 

There is a rather thrilling sequence in Sherdil where Varun (Hassan Niazi) maneuvers to chase Haris’s (Mikaal Zulfiqar) JF 17 and just when he is about to shoot down his target, the tables turn against him, making him lose what he aimed for.

(Un) amusingly, you’ll probably find yourself in a somewhat similar perplexing state while watching Sherdil. Just when it convinces you that your hard earned money is ACTUALLY spent on a paisa wasool entertainer (that’d be after the first half), the second half leaves no stones unturned in turning the tables against your high expectations.

What the movie is about

The film revolves around an aspiring fighter pilot who is born to fly, against his father’s wishes, and soon lands at the PAF Academy. There, Haris, finds a jolly but a “Phattu” sikh, a “pendu” Punjabi and “player Isloo boy” as his gang members; the manifestations of almost every kind of cadet that you find at the academy. The aforementioned characters add a comic yet an authentic feel to the cadet life shown in the movie. They are all, however, introduced in a rather haphazard way.

Where it goes wrong

The movie then progresses to their practical lives, with challenges from personal lives. As soon as the movie reaches that point, one starts wishing that it never had progressed to that point for neither the characters nor the movie shows any kind of growth from thereon.

Some predictable sequences and unnecessary songs follow, ultimately leading to a well-shot dog fight, which by that time, is too meager in isolation, to save the film from whatever wrongs it has done to itself. The action sequences, however, with a strong background score somewhat act as saviors and also end up giving one goosebumps.

(Mostly) sloppy writing

The writer (and the producer) pleasantly excels with dialogues and screenplay in the first half,  probably because of his own military background that ensured some authentic academy and army/air force life sequences. From the classist mentality where people judge each other on their accent and clothes, the comradeship the cadets develop with each other, to the goosebump-inducing passing out scene; pretty much all of it is spot on.

However, he considerably fails at a number of other fronts; taking the story forward to keep the audiences engaged, writing a romantic sequence, giving a solid reason for a heartbreak, confrontations between (the supposedly) best pilots of two rival nations and them dealing with it subtly, without sounding jingoistic, and many more aspects of storytelling which, honestly, should have been left to a professional writer.

Music and more

The sound design of the film impresses on many occasions. It, however, also disappoints by ripping off Bryan Adams’s “Here I Am” from the movie Spirit. Most of the songs are forgettable except, maybe, the Mehndi song, which by the way is poorly choreographed and picturized, like all the other songs.

Our main cadets look older than their coursemates (we all know why) yet they don’t show a sign of aging when years have passed; something that’s not expected from a director like Azfar Jafri. The makeup and wardrobe departments are two other things where the film lacks yet again. I mean who wears heels in their living room during a tense discussion? Armeena, we are looking at you.

This, combined with the fact that Armeena didn’t do her own dubbing, only added further shallowness to her poorly written (& probably slashed) character.

Had  Sherdil not suffered from ‘Checkbox Syndrome’ and ‘we-have to-wrap up-this movie syndrome’, it could have easily made it to the list of well-made films. In an attempt to check all the boxes, it mentions India rather blatantly and insensitively (somewhat similar to how Bollywood has always treated Pakistan on most occasions), gets a hero to save the girl from baddies, adds a club song & then a shadi song followed by sudden reunions that just don’t make sense. Better editing and direction could have saved the film but unfortunately, they never come to help Sherdil.

Not all hope is lost

Amongst the supporting cast, Samina Ahmed and Debutant Ibrahim Alvi (playing Mikaal’s close friend) deserve a mention. Especially the latter, who has both good looks and better acting chops (and also good dancing skills). The young actor should definitely take his acting career seriously. To be honest, at some, places he even outshines Mikaal. Mikaal too, however, looks good on the screen and definitely has a silver screen presence that we weren’t really aware of, before. He does well but as mentioned earlier, the writing fails him. Now that we are talking about the good parts of the movie, the cinematography is impressive too and ensures a visual treat, despite everything.

Despite all its flaws in script direction and editing, the film isn’t a bad attempt at all for it still suffices as a one time watch; a masala entertainer that one can watch on a lazy weekend.

Verdict

The first half alone should satisfy your entertainment cravings, and if you are a “Sherdil” in digesting a few potholes here and there, you may even enjoy the second half too. We give the movie 2.5/5 stars.

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I am a doctor,a foodie and a traveller. The aroma of Popcorn ,the peculiar sensation of being in a darkened theatre,enjoying a Film, intrigues & gives me a reason to promote Pakistani Cinema. anjumhassan87@gmail.com

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