KARACHI: The year is coming to an end. Chilly weather, viral infections, medicines and warm blankets make up the final act before the credits roll on the big screen. The 365-day ride involved many exciting happenings in the Pakistani entertainment industry; controversies, weddings, films… more controversies and more films.
2018 definitely proved to be an important year for local cinema. While the box office numbers for some films surprised, others disappointed, and a few grew bigger and bigger. But this list isn’t about how each film fared on the oh-so-feared box office but those which truly told an exciting story and delivered a memorable experience. Hence, The Express Tribune brings you the top five films that graced our silver screens this year and how they changed the course of Pakistani cinema forever.
5. ‘Teefa in Trouble’
Ali Zafar’s much-awaited film debut was nothing less than a banger. Sure, it was doused in controversy because of sexual harassment allegations placed on the superstar but judging the film on its own merit, it was one of the better offerings we got this year.
With excellent visuals, exotic locations and a new power couple in the form of Maya Ali and Zafar, director Ahsan Rahim delivered a near-perfect entertainment package for the masses. Another one of the film’s greatest achievement is the fact that it wasn’t released on some festive occasion or holiday, and even with all the around the Zafar-Meesha Shafi debacle surrounding it, it managed to be a success.
Teefa in Trouble, besides being one of our better visualised and executed films, was important because it pushed the envelope of what comedy films could be in Pakistan. Its action sequences set a new benchmark for the local industry. The comedy (thanks to Faisal Qureshi and Rahim’s signature element) kept you laughing throughout. Not to mention the film launched Ali in the industry big time.
Besides that, the Dear Zindagi actor proved he can hold his own and carry a film on his shoulders, while he had mostly been used as a supporting character in his Bollywood ventures. A win-win for not only Zafar but also local cinema, Teefa’s troubles truly paid off.
4. ‘Donkey King’
Donkey King makes the list because it was, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the finest animated film to come out of Pakistan. The year may have ended with the third installment of 3 Bahadur, but it was Jan Mangu who took home the V.
Stuffed with political satire, unique characterisation, stunning voiceovers and first-class animation, Donkey King outran Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s 3 Bahadur franchise by miles.
Donkey King’s addition to this list doesn’t come off at the necessity of merely adding an animated film but because it truly furthered the evolution of animation in Pakistan. Director Aziz Jindani’s vision not only delivered a thoroughly entertaining film that may have hit a bit too close to reality, but it also showed gave local animators a new standard to aspire to.
3. ‘Motorcycle Girl’
Adnan Sarwar’s Motorcycle Girl proved to be a valuable addition to Pakistani cinema in 2018. Telling the real-life story of Pakistan’s first female motorcyclist Zenith Irfan, who took on the road to fulfill her father’s dream of travelling Pakistan on a bike, the film was a reminder of the power of indie film-making.
Not only that, it was also a declaration of the arrival of Sohai Ali Abro as the Pakistani cinema’s new leading lady, unafraid to take on brave roles. Sarwar gave an opportunity to Abro with this character and she grabbed it and ran circles with it.
In an age where you have to look glamorous to be qualified to appear on the big screen, Abro’s raw appearance in the drama oozed authenticity. The director’s trust in her was justifiable as the starlet ended up becoming the main reason Motorcycle Girl did so well.
With this, Sarwar emphatically told everyone that big budgets don’t always result in quality films. And that’s a lesson our film-makers need to learn.
2. ‘Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2’
Where Pakistani cinema has been crowded with comedies that shouldn’t even be considered comedies, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 outdid every single one of them. In fact, it even outdid its own predecessor, which is a rare feat in a time where sequels, more often than not, suffer in quality.
The film’s bullet train-speed and one-liner-after-one-liner gave you no breathing space and consistently kept you either laughing or anticipating the next twist. Adding to its strengths, the franchise overloaded on star power by bringing in Fahad Mustafa. Sure, it helped sell even more tickets (Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 became the year’s highest grossing film). But it also gave the film an additional power-punch. With a solid star cast, perfect comic timing (well, most of it at least) and the consistency meant the audience as well as the critics enjoyed it a whole lot.
A film fit for Eid festivities, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 delivered big time and justifiably landed on our Top Five list.
Cake tops the list by a big margin. Telling the very human story of a dysfunctional family with a secret past, Asim Abbasi toppled the invisible barriers set for film-makers by producers who call experimenting a sin.
The deep family drama’s importance not only comes from its fascinating story and a supremely talented cast (Aamina Sheikh, Sanam Saeed and Adnan Malik) but the fact that it showed local film-makers that it’s okay to go beyond what’s expected of the in this comedy and rom-com-heavy era Pakistani cinema. Cake proved Pakistani cinema’s identity didn’t need to be built around stale-as-expired-milk premises and cheap gimmicks. It showed that film-makers must take things into their own hands if they want to see change and that the audience appreciates variety instead of the same old stuff.
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