The times are scary – most of us have never seen a viral pandemic this widespread or witnessed our cities go into a complete lockdown. The healthcare system the world over, even in some of the most advanced countries in Europe such as Italy and Spain, is crumbling. International flights have been suspended by many countries, including Pakistan, and most borders remain sealed.
As the crisis hits closer to home and partial curfews begin to be imposed in certain cities like Karachi, the very notion of being bored, let alone debating what to watch from among the millions of movies or TV shows currently streaming may come off as an attempt to conceal ourselves from the harsh reality of our times. Should anyone even care about entertainment when thousands are suffering, and potentially millions more are in the crosshairs?
Escapism need of the hour?
Yet movies, especially of the comic variety, continue to provide a distraction, a much-needed release from the vagaries surrounding us. They help us lift our spirits, offering optimism that a better time will come. And when it comes to escapist comedies, what could be better than to go for some popular Pakistani gems that you may have overlooked?
While comedy has been an intrinsic part of the country’s film legacy going back all the way to the 30s or 40s, the genre experienced a dramatic rebirth in the mid-90s with Munda Bigra Jaye breaking box-office records and emerging as one of the biggest hits of the industry, especially considering the minuscule production cost. Following years saw a slew of entertaining, frothy multi-starrers hit the silver screen, and then there were a few among these that managed to stand head and shoulders above the rest.
This Samina Peerzada directed venture set in the Punjabi hinterland flew under the radar when originally released in early 2003. But trust us, it is well worth your time. Centered around the affairs of a Pakistani-American woman (Mehrunnisa Hassan) as she revisits her roots, the film offers plenty of subtle – and then, even some not-so-subtle comic moments that are sure to keep your attention glued. With a plot that has our heroine falling for the maali’s son (Moammar Rana) against the wishes of her manipulative grandmother, you shouldn’t expect anything less either.
Like most Pakistani films, this one is a masala fare with plenty of song and dance, local village culture and even a lesson on women’s empowerment and an action-packed climax. Enthralling you along the way will be the movie’s authentically ethnic music score and the at times, beautiful cinematography.
Shararat also co-stars Reema Khan, Shaan, and Babar Ali and is available on a crisp, noise-free print. You can watch it here.
Mujhe Chand Chahiye (2000)
Shaan Shahid’s ode to golden era cinema of yore is a romantic drama of literally stellar proportions. As Shaan’s Zain (residing in Hong Kong) chases his love interest Chand (Noor Bukari), he dances, grooves and serenades her in a way we have not seen the Zarrar star since. Among the other things that will keep you hooked are the movie’s rather epic-sounding dialogues (some of which were frankly lost on us) and some beautiful set design that often forms the backdrop for the tuneful music score.
Mujhe Chand Chahiye also features Reema Khan, Moamar Rana, Atiqa Odho and Javed Sheikh in prominent roles, and although there are a few moments where one feels these actors could have toned down the melodrama by a notch or two, their performances seem genuinely sincere here. Moamar Rana’s deer-in-the-headlights act will leave you smiling, and by the time the climax rolls, you just may end up falling in love with this well-made musical like we did.
Mujhe Chand Chahiye can now be enjoyed on a new, digitally remastered print. You can watch it here.
Chor Machaye Shor (1996)
There’s a reason why Syed Noor, who last directed the nightmarish Chain Aye Na, has received top civilian honors (Sitara-e-Imtiaz) and numerous film awards. At his prime, he made some rather watchable cinema which was pathbreaking for its time. And with the 1996 hit Chor Machaye Shor, the director was very much in-form.
Five close friends land at the house of one of their mates, as many romantic plots and subplots, including the hilarious one between Afzal Khan/Rambo and Sahiba, unfold. All of this happens under, or rather despite the watchful gaze of Sahiba’s domineering feudal father, played with hilarious perfection by Ali Ejaz. The screenplay makes good use of this crazy what-could-go-wrong scenario.
While the production value here has much room for improvement, and the movie may be a little rough around the edges, what no one can deny is that Chor Machaye Shor set the tone for contemporary local comedies, and the movie features many scenes, characters and moments which may remind you of Jawani Phir Nahi Ani. Ali Ejaz’s act as the modern father who still cannot let go of the chaudhry ingrained in his DNA is sure to leave you in splits. The rest of the film will not disappoint, either.
Among other stars in the film are Resham, Reema Khan, Babar Ali, and Saud. You can watch it here.