Baaji the film Review
.. A review
If you don’t have the 10x crore budget like Bollywood or dedicated studios and facilities like Hollywood, you have to be clever, very clever, and resourceful to make a movie and that is exactly what Saqib Malik has done. Baaji the film tantalized everyone who watched its trailer with a lot of old school Lollywood melodrama , great music and hints at a thrilling plot , While the actual movie makes good on this initial tease it gives us a whole lot more mixing a lot of old Lollywood rumors and insider stories blended with the new emerging cinema of Pakistan to make a sophisticated cocktail, with a surprising sting in its tail.
Lollywood actress Meera plays a thinly disguised version of herself, a fading star, who loses her last good project to a younger, sexier new actress. Shahmeera is an emotional mess, who loves to fight with her possessive boyfriend Rammy (Ali Kazmi), while her finances are managed by her “Appi” played by veteran actress Nisho. Feeling lonely and depressed Shahmeera finds comfort in a friendship with a young beautician or parlor wali larki called Neha (Amna Ilyas). As their connection grows Neha moves in , organizing Shahmeera’s chaotic world and learning from her ever glamorous “baaji “ about living the high life.
Just as Neha gets used to her new life, American returned director Rohail Khan (Osman Khalid Butt) enters the scene offering a once in a life time chance at a movie that promises to resurrect Shahmeera’s dying career. Then things get complicated :will Shahmeera find a new lease on life , will Rohail make his movie and how Neha and Rammy fit into this puzzle is something Saqib Malik’s fantastic script unravels before us scene by scene
Most Pakistani films have a slightly drama like feel to them and for at least the first ten minutes this holds true for Baaji, but that’s where it ends. Director Saqib Malik simply doesn’t waste one line, let alone a scene in the rest of the movie. Its rare to see such a sharp, intelligent, often witty script, which uses every second to push the story forward. Crisp scenes, masterful editing and a well-structured story keep the characters interesting, leaving zero dead space for side tracks or heavy handed, filler style comedy skits
Meera revels in her role as Shahmeera, playing up her signature style of melodrama to the hilt and camera loves her. She is at once frustrating and fascinating , strangely insecure yet confident enough to live her life on her own terms which don’t include marriage or any of the other markers of good character usually associated with a “heroine”. Shahmeera lives with her boyfriend and has absolutely no interest in being noble or anything else remotely beyond her own personal success. This fierce, female oriented story is a refreshing change from the ditzy bholi larkiya and mazloom aurtein we see on our TV screens.
Amna Ilyas is flawless as Neha, bringing all the optimism and naivete of youth to her character without turning her into some paragon, making her a wonderful foil to Shahmeera’s obsessive narcissism. Neha is one of life’s strugglers, she works hard and takes chances, but as with all risk takers she underestimates her chances of losing. Amna has fantastic screen presence and should be on everyone’s radar as an upcoming star in the emerging world of Pakistani Cinema.
Apart from Neha there are no innocents in this screenplay, the male protagonists in particular provide a lot of the gray shades in the story. Osman Khalid Butt is familiar name for movie goers and once again he brings his A game to the big screen. Sophisticated, handsome and full of boyish enthusiasm for his new film, how could anyone not fall in love with director Rohail Khan? Both women, compete for his attention, never looking beyond his smooth brand of charm. Osman Khalid Butt gives the audience a cleverly layered performance which is the surprising heart of this film’s success. This movie should be a game changer for this young actor, allowing him to portray every shade of his character from light to dark with all the ease of a practiced performer.
There is no shortage of great performances in this movie. Ali Kazmi is fantastic as the intense, obsessive boyfriend, and Mohsin Abbas Haider is very effective as wannabe hero and street-smart Romeo. Rounding out an effective star cast is veteran actor Nayyar Ejaz, who is a comedy gold mine; his character floats through this film on bubble of inuendo and clever comedy that knits the story into a well-made plot. If you need only one reason to watch this movie let it be Nayyar Ejaz’s unforgettable take on Ranbir Kapoor’s towel dance from the Bollywood movie Sawariya.
This is a no holds barred, authentic view of the movie industry . Full credit to Saqib Malik and his team for not whitewashing any character to make them more empathetic. The distinction between a stage dancer who is basically performing for leering audiences and a film actress is finely made. There is no pretense at making Shahmeera into some kind of majboor victim, who “fell” into acting to endear her to the audience. She is proud of her work and fame is like a drug for her. The casting couch is also more than hinted at and this time the focus is on male actors rather than females. Even more fascinating is the usual aurat , aurat ki dushman hai or female rivalry trope our dramas love is happily discarded in this film . The closing credits showing Shahmeera beckoning Neha towards a new life of fame and fortune are actually quite poignant and once again defy the normal happily ever after we expect.
While this is a full paisa Vasool film, it does miss the odd opportunity and fall short in a few scenes. Rohail Khan’s introduction to Shahmeera on Begum Nazish Tv show was a little clumsy but the biggest missed opportunity was the waste of a great actress like Sania Saeed. Sania Saeed’s character and the resolution she presented definitely deserved more screen time. There was also a sacrifice made in production quality to keep the budget in control. While controlling costs is always an important consideration , for a visual medium like film, spending money on things like color gradation is extremely important and would have raised this film up to the next level. Apart from those concerns this is highly entertaining film , worth your money and your time , don’t miss it