Imran Malik’s directorial comeback, Azaadi saw the light of the day after over two years in the making this Eid-ul-Fitr, alongside three more local releases; 7 Din Mohabbat In, Wajood and Na Band Na Baraati. Produced under the banners of Pervez Malik and ARY Films, featuring Sonya Hussyn as Zara and Moammar Rana as Azad, the film primarily revolves around the freedom struggle of Kashmir.
Well shot, yet poorly edited…
Cinematographer, Ben Jasper does complete justice in making the actors look great against the backdrop of the scenic valley of Kashmir. Sonya Hussyn looks stunning on-screen and steals everybody’s thunder, much credit goes to how she’s captured and made to look the part. The editor, M. Arif, however, truly disappoints. With great footage at hand, scenes are cut incoherently and the background score doesn’t gel well with some very intense sequences.
All may be overlooked, but not the action sequences. Moammar Rana and his henchmen’s combats are straight out of a ‘90s Bollywood film that you’d avoid at any cost. How Azad manages to escape a bomb blast in 2-seconds (yes, you read that right) and stays suspended in the air while shooting Indian soldiers reminds us of all the reasons Lollywood saw a dreadful decline.
The film pays homage to the Kashmiri struggle…with a Pakistani angle of course
The film, despite the editing flaws, begins on a promising note. The first half is particularly gripping as each of the mujahids reveal what made them join the movement. The cruelty of war shown is a true reflection of reality and themes such as rape and the violent riots in Kashmir are briefly, yet tactfully portrayed.
What the film does, however, get wrong is its unidimensional narrative. The promised referendum hasn’t yet been held in Kashmir and thus, the inhabitants of Indian-occupied Kashmir longing to join Pakistan isn’t really the freedom that they’re actually looking for, as of yet.
As long as the film stuck to the Kashmiri struggle, it made sense. However, as soon as the Kashmiri freedom fighters began swaying the Pakistani flag is when it got problematic. Furthermore, the mention of Kashmir being included in Pakistan doesn’t necessarily make for a nationalist watch either. Local audiences cannot be expected to relate with the patriotism that’s being forced down their throats.
Little attention to detail and acting serve as a bitter cherry on top of the cake
How do you expect to light a fire in the middle of a jungle without getting noticed, while you are already being attacked? What’s with the unpractical wardrobe choices, comprising of the quintessential off-shoulder top and high-heels in a gloomy Kashmiri household? Why play violin in your secret headquarters, while you’re supposed to be doing everything to not draw attention? The loopholes are endless and there’s little to no character development.
What’s most problematic is how child marriage is trivialized, so much so that it becomes a love angle! A religious scholar says Zara’s father made the right decision by getting her married off to a cousin at an age she herself doesn’t quite remember. The sheer glorification and acceptance of this by a seemingly enlightened and emancipated British journalist is appalling.
Acting is a mixed bag of mediocrity and far worse
Nadeem Baig proves why he has ruled the industry for five, long decades now. He’s in good shape and blows life into his character of Baba, a Kashmiri leader selflessly fighting for the freedom of his people. Sonya Hussyn, too, is a beaming light in cinema. She’s already proven her mettle on television and the silver screen loves her, she’s one of the very few actors with a successful transition from the small screen.
Moammar Rana is so bad that it’s funny. His idea of shouting at the top of his lungs and crushing his teeth is perhaps supposed to be a portrayal of patritoism and leadership, but most of his scenes just provide comic relief. What’s also noticeable is that the only performer who has successfully managed to adapt the Kashmiri dialect is debutant Mirha Pasha.
Final Verdict: Azaadi could have been an intriguing watch if it wasn’t driven by propaganda.