Azeem stars as Major Asad, a former SSG officer who runs a security company with his father, retired General Amjad (played by Sajid Hassan). The company, which began as a private enterprise affording security to highly placed government officials, has morphed into an entity seeking to provide justice for those the law cannot, or will not, assist. Hassan Niazi plays a brutal feudal lord who worms his way into the title of Chief Minister of Sindh, and sinks his fangs into an office that elevates him ever further beyond the reach of justice. Mohammed Ehteshamuddin is Master Mohsin, village schoolmaster and head of a broken family that fell victim to Niazi’s saeen. Into the mix is added an Afghan refugee family; escaping from the imminent dangers posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the parents and their two young daughters settle into a struggling existence in Karachi.
The film addresses a multitude of issues and ills: Baluch separatism; the lords and victims of the feudal system; corruption; victims of a failed justice system; vigilante justice; urban crime and lawlessness; Afghan refugees and the mujahideen. Combined into one whole, it creates the feeling that the film has trouble finding focus. Running a little long at 2.5 hours, it meanders in places and the editing could have been much improved.
However, Azeem’s direction holds you in your seat, as does the superb acting by the major characters. Major Asad is the consummate professional, torn between duty and addressing the evil he cannot ignore. Ehteshamuddin’s ‘Master’ is the downtrodden little guy, harming no one but having lost everything in the process; the actor skillfully steers clear of a clichéd portrayal and maintains a stoic but strong presence. Niazi, and his man Friday played by Adnan Shah Tipu, are brilliantly villainous. Voracious for power, trodding roughshod over prey that falls to their vicious instincts, both actors deliver a performance that chills you; not for a second do they fall out of character, convincing you beyond doubt that they are in fact the men they are portraying on screen. While the male roles predominate, the female leads also deliver strongly, especially Pakiza Khan and Bushra Ashir.
The concept behind Maalik is to caution against apathy towards a corrupt and crumbling system and society, by taking ownership of your country and executing your responsibility as a citizen. It is a call to awareness, to duty, and a red flag against being carried away by the flow of indifference.
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