Pakistan goes to ‘Waar’

Lollywood’s most expensive and slick film is all set to release on Valentine’s Day, and it’s not about love

That the Pakistani film industry is in seemingly irreversible decline is a well-known fact by now, dominated as it is by our Bollywood offerings. However, every once in a while, our neighbours pull off a stunning cinematic coup. For example, Shoaib Mansoor’s sensitive take on Islam in the modern age, Khuda Kay Liye, was a massive success on both sides of the border. And now, come Valentine’s Day, Warner Bros will release Bilal Lashari’s film on counter-terrorism, Waar. Alas, only in Pakistan for now with maybe a few other international playdates. At $8 million (that’s Rs 42 crore to you and me), the film is easily Pakistan’s biggest film of all time. And it stars Shaan, who Indian audiences will remember from Khuda Kay Liye and is Pakistan’s Shahrukh, Salman and Aamir all rolled into one. The film also stars Shamoon Abbasi, who is a popular television actor.

Watch trailer below:

What’s notable about Waar on viewing the trailer is how slickly the film is made. It’s on par with any terrorism action drama Hollywood can churn out, superior to the average Bollywood film, technically speaking, and several notches above the farrago that is Lollywood. The gritty tone is set when Shaan intones in the opening voiceover: “Who is a Pakistani? He whose death nobody mourns, and now, not even themselves.” The film’s writer and producer Hassan Waqas Rana penned these brutally honest lines. Apart from the slick cinematography and the restrained acting, the reason Waar looks so good is that it is shot at rarely seen locations in Islamabad, Lahore and the rugged terrain of the Northern Areas besides Turkey.

Since Abbasi must have his say, here you are: “I wouldn’t say that the film is Lollywood-ish, since it has nothing to do with Lollywood. It is totally international cinema, and the stunts and the dialogue delivery is more akin to Hollywood.” Abbasi who plays the main villain is also full of praise for his director saying that Lashari shot carefully and at an unhurried pace. He was also open to suggestions from his actors.

Before we get carried away in Waar love, let us also consider an unfortunate aspect. Shaan, for all his acting talent, delivers most of his lines in English. We know from Bollywood experience that most South Asian actors, though they speak English off screen fumble when speaking in English in front of the camera. Aamir Khan in Dhobi Ghat is a case in point. And lest anybody point out Amitabh Bachchan’s English-language turn in The Last Lear, let’s not forget that his character in the film was that of a bombastic Shakespearean actor, so he was necessarily theatrical. Let’s see how his cameo in The Great Gatsby shapes up. And the less said about Anil Kapoor’s extra’s role in MI4 the better. Salman Khan, of course, puts on a weird English accent that sounds like Italo-American-Bandra illiterate. Only Irrfan Khan manages within his limitations. And just so that Rahul Bose gets to see his name in print once a decade – he doesn’t count since he is a complete non-entity.