The trendsetting filmmaker, singer, actor, singer, director and producer Yasir Akhtar makes his presence felt on our screens, and he couldn’t have chosen a better time to do that. When production of most Pakistani films has been postponed due to COVID 19, the actor and director comes up with 'Azaad' which debuted on our TV screens last Saturday on Aaj Entertainment, becoming the first major film to be released on the ‘new’ platform.
Not only did it break the jinx of ‘No Film 2020’ but also introduced a new lot of actors who might make a name for themselves in the coming years. Don’t worry if you missed the TV premiere of 'Azaad', this Motion Content Group and Pegasus Productions project is now available on YouTube! Before that, there are a few things you must know that made it watchable. Read on:
Azaad has a patriotic element that is missing on our TV
What made Yasir Akhtar one of the best directors is his ability to work and create productions which are not run of the mill and high in quality and to top it all, he has never joined the rat race. Most of his productions in the past have been ahead of their times. Be it iconic productions like Music Channel Charts, French Toast, or Sard Aag, each one of his projects in the past had uniqueness. In ‘Azaad’ he has infused elements such as tragedy, suspense, thrill, and mystery, keeping the viewers on the edge of their seats throughout the two-hour run. It instills family values in the audience whereas the appropriate background score complements a hint of romance, that easily transports the audience back at a time when there were no Saas-Bahu dramas, and life moved steadily, even in a ‘Whirlpool’. The patriotic element that is missing on our television was very much present in Azaad; this film tells us that it is never late to return to the roots.
The plot was a breath of Fresh Air for TV
When was the last time you saw a film that was shot abroad and revolved around issues of people living in that country, instead of people from Pakistan visiting there and wreaking havoc? Many Pakistanis migrated to England for a better future like the family shown in this film and due to their hard work they became respectable citizens, only for the past to catch them at the wrong time. Azaad is the story of such expatriates who live in the United Kingdom but Pakistan remains in their heart. Parveen Akbar’s Mehru, Yasir Akhtar’s Aazer, Gagan Chopra’s Ayzad, and Momal Sheikh’s Yasmin, they all are shown as people who love both their countries and want to be associated with everything that’s Pakistani. The younger brother does steer away from the path of righteousness but recovers, and that’s what Azaad is all about.
Everyone delivered their best performance to date
Choosing the actors for a film or a TV play is the most difficult of decisions these days, and if the project is being shot abroad, ensuring that the best are cast is near to impossible. Yasir Akhtar must thank his ‘stars’ for he got the best people for the job including the leading lady Momal Sheikh, the eternal mother Parveen Akbar and newcomers Gagan Chopra, Imran Ali Asad and Hira Tahseen. The best part of the film was the power-packed performance of Parveen Akbar who carried herself with dignity, and maintained her control over her household. Be it the scene where she cries while praying or when she meets her husband’s killer - she doesn’t deviate from her character and keeps the audience engrossed. The forever-young Yasir Akhtar plays her elder son who never strays away from his ‘good image’, giving respect to both his mother and neighbor Momal Sheikh.
This film shows that Momal is a powerhouse of talent who should be acting in Pakistani films rather than wasting her talent on TV. She made her film debut with Happy Bhaag Jayegi but that was an Indian flick, she needs to take the giant step and follow her father Jawed Sheikh into the filmdom. Debutant Gagan Chopra got better with time and by the second half, he was impressing all with his powerful acting; the same goes for the main antagonist played by Imran Ali Asad who showed promising performance and might do well if he decides to visit Pakistan. The doe-eyed Hira Tahseen might have been used as eye candy but there was a thought behind her character, and you have to watch the film to get the hint.
It was a step up for Pakistani content
At a time when the world has become a global village, Pakistani films and dramas tend to cater to those families who are more into household dramas that have taken their inspiration from India. Azaad seems to have been inspired by the news that revolves around us in Pakistan. Topics such as money laundering, drugs, kidnapping, murder, and property scams are rarely touched in the fairyland of Pakistani cinema where romance is the epicenter of everything. With breathtaking cinematography by Hayat Khan featuring stunning locations from various parts of Great Britain, Azaad comes out as a step up for Pakistani content.
It ticks all the boxes in an audience’s mind and keeps their interest alive from the word go. The song ‘Saiyaan’ played an integral part in the movie that had a proper background score, something missing in our films. Kudos to Aabid Omer for handing the background music and credits must be given to writer Roommy Zahid for thinking out of the box. Without him, and the support of executive producer Lubna Akhtar, Yasir Akhtar might have produced a run-of-the-mill flick that would have come and gone without making an impression.
It will start a new trend of Films premiering on TV
At a time when COVID 19 has put a stop on TV and Film Production, Yasir Akhtar’s Azaad gave the filmmakers of Pakistan something to think about. By producing a Film in the United Kingdom with mostly Pakistani Cast and Crew, and airing it on one of the local channels, the talented actor, director, and producer have given a direction to the many filmmakers back home. Those who were wondering what to do with their projects that have been hit by the pandemic, well they don’t have to wait for cinemas to re-open anymore. They can make TV their new cinema and who knows, it might become a new thing until COVID-19 subsides.
This is not the first time Yasir Akhtar has set a trend in motion; he was the first person to direct and produce ‘Music Channel Charts’ – the first-ever pop chart show of Pakistan. His other trendsetting project in the past are French Toast, Mera Ghar Aik Whirpool, Jayen Kahan Armaan, Sard Aag, and Laahasil. Yasir Akhtar also launched the careers of many current stars including Fakhr-e-Alam, Shehzad Roy, Fringe Benefits, Zara Sheikh, among others. He was Pakistan’s first producer/director to launch the concept of musical telefilms in which he gave big breaks to Humayun Saeed, Shamoon Abbasi, Javeria Abbasi, and others. In recent years, he has affiliated with artists like Apache Indian, Sahara, Stereo Nation and has been continuously engaged in many productions. Be it starting the tradition of Pakistan Parade in the United Kingdom in 2004 to working with multinational brands like Unilever, Phillips, Mobilink, Tapal Tea, Jazz, and Manchester City Council, Yasir Akhtar has been there, done that. Let’s hope he continues to produce more quality stuff in the future, keeping our TV screens alive and raising the bar with every project.
The film is now available and streaming on YouTube!