No ad filmmaker in Pakistan is as filmi as Saqib Malik because unlike the rest, he drinks, thinks and eats films especially those from yesteryears. So when he did get a chance to direct his first feature film, no eyebrows were raised when he chose to expose the film industry through his films. Yes, it was an attempt to show to the world that Pakistan had an excellent cinema and is moving towards reclaiming its lost position, but the way Saqib Malik executed it was mind blowing. He carved a story around veteran actress Meera, took elements from Hollywood, used the very actors who should be working in Pakistani films and created a classic that will be held high until someone makes a better flick.
The Meera Is Shameera, for obvious reasons!
Don’t worry if you find the things happening on the screen closer to reality; Saqib Malik uses Meera’s life as a topic of his film. You can’t get any more filmi than that because Meera has been everywhere, done everything possible an actress can do in Pakistan. From working alongside the best actors of her generation, taking direction from the best directors and delivering hits, Meera has been an inspiration for many. However, due to the resurgence of Social Media, younger stars and change in audience’s preference, she has lost her touch and is nowhere to be seen. And that’s exactly what Shameera is onscreen, a self-centered has been who banishes her sincere secretary for jealousy, and is on the verge of losing it when she calls her back. That’s Meera and Shameera both, of course!
Amna Ilyas steals the show as the Protagonist
If Meera is the film’s subject, Amna Ilyas’s Neha is its protagonist since the story revolves around her from the first frame till the last. For someone who is still just three films old, Baaji is the perfect way to showcase your talent. She starts as a lower-middle-class girl who works at a salon for a living, becomes Shameera’s secretary and finds herself in trouble when things go out of hand. Not once did she break away from her character and keeps the audience engrossed in the film, even if it meant taking the blame for everything. When she cried the audience sympathized with her, when she danced, they felt they were in the air and when she tried to stand out, all she had to do was raise the hotness level in the room by being herself. Her chemistry with Meera was perfect, and she complimented the elder actress both on and off the screen by being herself off it, and by being the younger version on it.
And the Boys did a wonderful job
Usually films in Pakistan are male-centric and action thrillers however Baaji breaks the trend. Not only does it have actresses in the lead, but they also get substantial support from popular actors who should be in films. There is Ali Kazmi’s Rammy who is portrayed as an angry young man who has even given his house to Shameera; there is Mohsin Abbas Haider’s Ajji who loves Neha more than his own body and trust me, he loves his body a lot. Nayyar Ejaz as Chand Kamaal, the scheming journalist is too good to be true and his understanding with Meera’s Api (played by yesteryear actress Nisho Begum) is not to be missed. Aamir Qureshi makes his presence felt as a police officer who likes to protect and serve, but according to his mood. The most important actor in the film is Osman Khalid Butt who acts from his entire body; the looks his character Rohail exchanges when Neha and Shameera are fighting, his eagerness to do the right thing, his decision to return to Pakistan and his closeness to both the ladies is very important to the story. And since he can dance, there is nothing to stop him from going up, up and away!
Saqib Malik’s film couldn’t have had anything but outstanding music
For over 25 years, Saqib Malik’s name has been a gold standard when it comes to music videos, along with some of his colleagues. That’s why when he decided to make a film, people were expecting it to be a musical flick because of his association with music. With Taha Malik and others as composers, Saqib has delivered a hit soundtrack that features as many as two remixes (Khilti Kali, Yeh Aaj Mujhko Kia Hua) and four original numbers (Badlaan, Gangster Guriya, Shaam Nasheeli, Ik Tu) that have been appropriately placed in the film. Zeb Bangash has done the bulk of the singing and impresses as always; Wahab Shah, Osman Khalid Butt, and Nigah Hussain choreographed the songs and it seems as if done by people from across the border.
Baaji The Film is best served when hot!
Like most Pakistani films, Baaji isn’t perfect; it has its share of flaws like any other film. The second half needed a little ‘something’ from the director who seemed to be more interested in completing the film than making the climax huge. But that doesn’t mean that it was worse than other films released in Pakistan. The Hollywood-style climax was one of the highlights of the film as it hits you when you are about to leave the cinema. It clears the whole situation in a second and could only have been executed perfectly by someone who lives on twists. Too many cameos are never good for a film and Baaji suffers from the same syndrome. Nevertheless, it is good for a one-time watch because it creates magic ‘when served hot’, like Amna Ilyas hot. Meera looks gorgeous in most of her scenes and fits the part of the aging actress perfectly. There is a scene where Meera sees Amna’s reflection in the mirror and compares their faces; her expression tells you the whole story because she felt bad and that’s the biggest compliment for an actor, to express without saying anything. My expressions suggest you go and watch Baaji, it will be worth your while.