Na Maloom Afraad is the latest addition to the long list of Pakistani films that are a success at the box office. It has all the ingredients for it: a thriller plus comedy, with good acting and music score, and spiced with a provocative Bollywood style dance sequence by Mehwish Hyat. Not surprisingly, three weeks after the film’s release, even on a weekday, the afternoon show was sold out.
Like Zinda Bhaag, it’s about the frustrations of lower middle class Pakistanis struggling to find jobs and eke out an honest living. Set in the combustible city of Karachi with a population of eighteen million, it gives an insight as to why mob violence and strikes have become a way of life there.
Salman Shahid Urwa Hocain
Caught in the vortex of financial hardship and lack of opportunities, three men team up to beat the system through an insurance fraud, but they have been forced into this situation by the stranglehold of the local underworld Don, played by Salman Shahid with exaggerated relish. The veteran actor Javed Sheikh brilliantly plays the sympathetic character of Shakeel. He typifies the middle class guy next door, whose honesty hasn’t gotten him far as he struggles to find money for a good rishta (match) for his lovely sister Naina, played by Urwa Hocain. The match falls through as he cannot meet the financial demands of the suitor’s family, and the last straw is when his house is going to be demolished because of a bridge that is going to be built in that location; a commentary on the vulnerability of communities, unable to influence decisions made by indifferent distant masters that would destroy the fabric of their lives.
There is also a satirical dig at the electronic media and its hunger for crude sensationalism. The title of the film is picked from the expression repeatedly used by the electronic media when describing crimes committed by unknown persons as “na maloom afraad”; a description of the faceless and nameless perpetrators of violence and crime, seldom caught.
The two young tenants of Shakeel bhai, Fahad Mustafa as Farhan, and Mohsin Abbas Haider as Moon, give good performances. Naina’s love interest for the penniless but hunky Farhan, provides the romantic backdrop for the movie. The talented Mohsin Abbas Haider has also written and sung one of the tracks, the melancholy Sapno ki Mala. While Farhan is a failed insurance salesman, Moon has been trying to escape to the promised land of Dubai. The story is not complete without some mention of the drug scene, as Moon accidentally discovers that the Don is using him as a courier for heroin smuggling, and is forced to abort his plans for Dubai. Kubra Khan has a small role as a do gooder banker from a privileged background, sympathetic to the plight of the underprivileged.
With this debut, Nabeel Qureshi has a promising future ahead of him, since he has both written and directed this film. The weakness of the film lies in its editing; it is unnecessarily long, and could easily be shortened by at least twenty minutes. What gives this film an edge is that although entertaining, it is a subliminal critique of the social malaise in our cities.
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