Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Tere Bin Laden (2010)

A review on Indian satirical comedy film, Tere Bin Laden (2010) starring famous Pakistani Singer Ali Zafar in his debut acting role. The film is written/ directed by Abhishek Sharma and is distributed by UTV Motion Pictures.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Abhishek Sharma
  • Written by Abhishek Sharma
  • Cinematography by Santosh Thundiyil
  • Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
  • Produced Pooja Shetty Deora and Aarti Shetty

+ Note

Tere Bin Laden is essentially a satirical comedy on the mass paranoia that erupted after the 9/ 11 bombings. According to the legend, the concept of the film was conceived when, due to a severe headache, Abhishek Sharma wrapped a cloth around his forehead to ease the pain which led to someone commenting that he resembled ‘Osama Bin Laden’. This got Sharam to write the first initial draft of the film. 

For this screwball comedy, Ali Zafar was apparently the first actor to be cast for the lead role since Abhishek Sharma thought that his “quirkiness and wit” from his music videos would suit perfectly for the film. The most difficult role to cast was indeed the role of fake Osama Bin Laden. After a long tedious process of casting, Sharma finally decided upon Pradhuman Singh who later studied tapes of Osama and learnt Arabic within 8 months of preparations. In order to depict Karachi in the film, the production was held in Mumbai and Hyderabad to resemble the setting as much as possible. 

Understandable, the film was proven to be controversial in some nations and many middle eastern countries outright banned the film from being released there. The critical and commercial response was mixed but the film was a decent box office success which promoted a sequel Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive in 2016.

 + Main Cast

  1. Ali Zafar as Ali Hassan
  2. Pradhuman Singh Mall as Noora / Osama Bin Laden
  3. Sugandha Garg as Zoya Khan
  4. Nikhil Ratnaparkhi as Gul
  5. Piyush Mishra as Majeed Khan
  6. Rahul Singh as Qureishi
  7. Seema Bhargav as Shabbo

 + Supporting Cast

  1. Barry John as Ted Wood (Ted-ji)
  2. Chirag Vohra as Lateef
  3. Chinmay Mandlekar as Usmaan
  4. Rajendra Sethi as Jamal Bhai (Travel agent)
  5. Harry Josh as Security guard
  6. Masood Akhtar as Goga from Rahim Yar Khan
  7. Sudipto Balav as an ISI agent

+ Plot

Ali Zafar plays the role of an ambitious reporter who badly wants to migrate to the US but does not possess the finances to do so. After shooting a report on a local Chicken show, Ali meets Noora who is the exact doppelganger of the most wanted man in the world, Osama bin Laden. This gives Ali an idea to disguise Noora as the infamous personality and sell the threatening videos to local news channels for profit.

+ High Points

i – Tere Bin Laden has a great premise for a screwball, satirical comedy. The idea works on so many levels and just the concept alone was enough for the audience who bought the ticket in the cinema. So major props for Abhishek Sharma for creating the perfect “hook” for the cinemagoers.  

ii – I think the biggest question going into this film on everyone’s minds was “Can Ali Zafar act?”. And the answer is; yes, yes he can. At least he did exactly what the script required of him. Could any other more seasoned actor have done a better job? Probably but after watching the film till the end, Ali Zafar did not feel out of place so some praise should go to his performance in the film.

iii – Talk about perfect casting; Pradhuman Singh as “Osama” was picture perfect. This film would have never worked if “Osama” was not visually convincing enough to fool the characters in the film but with good casting of fake Osama, Tere Bin Laden pulled the stunt successfully in the end. 

iv – From beginning to end, the story flows smooth and doesn’t feel stagnated at all. Around the 90 minute mark, Tere Bin Laden has the perfect length which neither feels too long or too short. 

v– To the film’s credit, the greed and hunger for success and capital is evenly depicted between all facets of this “War on Terror”. Al Qaeda is out there killing innocent bystanders in their Holy War while the U.S authorities are there to deceive the world as saviours but instead are making profit off human lives. There’s a good line of dialogue from the FBI agent Ted Wood after being asked why he ordered to bomb Afghanistan if Osama is hiding within Pakistan:

“We have a 100 Billion Dollar budget for hunting down Osama, I can’t spend all of that on sipping coffee!”

 + Low Points

i – Tere Bin Laden commits the most cardinal sin imaginable for any comedy film; too many bad jokes. The film can easily be described as the feature length version of ‘Kapil Sharma show’. With obnoxious “funny” sound effects and over the top acting, the film just utterly fails to live up to its interesting premise. Abhishek Sharma is unfortunately not talented enough to create a good satire out of this premise. He just ends up doing what he can do, creating an unfunny, unintelligible “comedy”.

ii – For a story satirising such serious, real life events, the film also needed to be convincing when it comes to creating the atmosphere. But unfortunately, Tere Bin Laden also utterly fails in that department. The film is supposed to be taking place in Karachi but being a fellow Karachitie, it felt nothing like the city that I’ve grown up in! The city itself is obviously Mumbai, no real effort was made to disguise it as the city of Lights (also, slapping a mere PIA logo on a shop in the background does not automatically make it Karachi!). And since the majority of the actors are Indian, they can only deliver their dialogues in Hindi/ Mumbai slang and nothing even comes close to it even remotely sounding like a Karachite! It was utterly embarrassing how badly the film fails in this aspect. And there is no one to blame for this other than the director Abhishek Sharma for this.

iii – The film is just utterly ridiculous. And I don’t mean it in a good way. The comedy, dialogue, performances, production/ set design, everything feels so cheap and disposable. Abhishek Sharma was sitting on a gold mine with such a unique premise but due to lack of actual writer/ directorial skills, Tere Bin Laden fails to become even remotely what the potential was behind such a premise.

iv – The characterization of each individual felt like they just walked off the variety hour TV set. Why does the TV news CEO wear a wig? Why is a communist a being a part of this scheme? Why did Osama’s look alike needed to be obsessed with chickens? None of this makes any sense and was only there for the sole purpose of a second long gag which they can stretch for 90 minutes. When it comes to comedy, Tere Bin Laden lacks real effort. The script needed a lot of work before it would’ve been remotely ready for production.

v – Although the jingle is memorable, the songs themselves are nothing praiseworthy. They are cheap renditions of thousand other Bollywood film songs.

vi – “White people are always idiots!”. Or at least that’s what every Bollywood film wants you to believe. And this film is no different. It’s obvious that Tere Bin Laden needs a bit of “suspension of disbelief” but there is also a limit to how far the viewer can go with this. The American authority figures are depicted as complete buffoons who can’t differentiate what is real and what is fake.

vii – So the main protagonist Ali Hassan creates a fake Osama Bin Laden video, threatening a Holy War against the US army which leads to them bombing Afghanistan in return, killing hundreds of innocent civilians. Are we supposed to root for our protagonist? Was he unaware this would eventually happen? I’m completely baffled what the intention of the director was with this film. Although later in the film, Ali Hassan tries to make things right, it’s too late for that. The civilians are already dead. As a viewer, why should I now even care if Ali Hassan would get to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming big in the US? It’s very insensitive to the people who have actually become victims in this War on Terror. 

viii – The conclusion of the film also made absolutely no sense. It’s obvious that the writer was stumped on how to conclude the story so he just decided to ignore logic altogether.

+ Overall

With such an interesting premise, Tere Bin Laden fails due to lack of effort in every department. From script to production to performances, the film could’ve been a sharp, satirical look on post 9/11 paranoia but instead, ends up being just another run of the mill Bollywood “comedy”. Talk about wasted potential.

Rate: 1.75 out of 5 stars

TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Raqeeb Se – Episode XII (2021)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Raqeeb Se – Episode 12 (2021). The new TV series is directed by Kashif Nisar and is a production of Momina Duraid Productions. Raqeeb Se is a HUM TV Production.

(Note: If you’ve already read the review of the previous episode, you can skip directly ahead to the High points section).

+ Crew

  • Directed by Kashif Nisar
  • Written by Beegul
  • DOP by Hassam Mairaj
  • Music Composed by Hadiqa Kiani
  • Produced by Momina Duraid Productions

+ Note

Raqeeb Se is the newest HUM TV Production and is once again the collaboration of the award winning Writer/ Director duo of Bee Gul and Kashif Nisar. 

The title of the show is heavily inspired by a poem from the legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz when the young poet fell in love with a girl next door in Sialkot. But alas, as luck would have it, she one day unexpectedly left the city, only to be reunited years later when Faiz was already an established poet in the circles of Urdu literature. This encounter inspired Faiz to write a poem “Raqib Se!”. The backstory of this poem plays a crucial role in the premise of the show.

 + Main Cast

  1. Hadiqa Kiani as Sakina
  2. Noman Ijaz as Maqsood
  3. Sania Saeed as Hajra
  4. Faryal Mehmood as Insha
  5. Iqra Aziz as Ameera
  6. Saqib Sameer as Rafiq

+ Plot

Raqeeb Se is a call of Maqsood’s dark past that could potentially destroy his present life. In order to escape her abusive husband, Sakina, along with her daughter Ameera, flees from her village to find shelter at her former lover’s place, Maqsood. Unfortunately Maqsood, who still holds a grudge against Sakina’s past actions, refuses to aid her in her most dire situation. But his wife, Hajra, seems much more sympathetic to the situation and lets Sakina stay at their home till things are figured out for the future.

But can Sakina be trusted to stay out of Maqsood’s life or will they be tempted to rekindle their lost love and in the process, destroy what Maqsood and his wife Hajra have built together?

+ High Points

i – Episode 12 pertains nothing new when it comes to plot development but was a breeze to watch thanks to interesting banter between the main cast of the show. This time, the episode was rich rather in character development and explored more the motivations and struggles of each individual locked within the world of Maqsood and his past.

ii – “So what do you enjoy in Life, Maqsood sahib?”

The back and forth between Maqsood and Ameera was excellent in this scene. It really showed the contrast of personalities or perhaps… Maqsood outer exterior is one hammer strike away from opening up to reveal his true emotions? Great stuff.

iii – It’s satisfying to watch that in this episode, Abdul finally fulfills a milestone in his own personal achievements and when done right, the scenes between Insha and Abdul can be very charming to watch.

iv – A new character has been introduced into the show and without revealing anything, I think he/ she could prove to be a valuable asset to the show.

v – Because of the emotional struggle that Sakina and Hajira face within themselves, they now (understandably) share an unspoken bond between each other. This is good writing from Beegul and breaks the stereotype that women who love the same man just need to constantly throw venomous insults at one another.

vi – The production value of the episode is once again top notch in quality. As said before, Raqeeb Se is the most unique looking show right now on Pakistani television. It relies on its skills of setting up lighting and contrast with shadows rather than just pulling the saturation high to hide its lack of team’s skills behind the camera.

 + Low Points

i – Raqeeb Se has always been a slow burn of a show. But regular plot progression is absolutely necessary in a weekly televised show if it wants to maintain its audience on a weekly basis. Although Episode 12 was not the worst offender, I really hope the show picks up its pace pretty soon.

ii – There has been too much teasing going on about why Hajira is really grateful to Maqsood and why she decided to marry him even though she knew he could never be hers. The revelation at this point of the show is necessary in order for the audience to feel empathy towards her. Right now, it just feels that show needs to go through this monotonous routine of:

“Maqsood has done so much for me…”

“But what has he really done?”

(Change of subject matter).

iii – Faryal Mehmood’s performance can be very effective in short bursts but in Episode 12, she has a long monologue just unfortunately felt slightly awkward due to her dialogue delivery. But with the right direction from Kashif Nisar, I’m certain she can improve upon this hurdle in her performance.  

+ Overall

Episode 12 is a definite improvement from the last few weeks and if the lack of regular plot progression is resolved within the coming weeks, Raqeeb Se has the potential to become must see TV.

 Rate: 3.25 out of 5 stars

Tele-Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Behadd (2013)

A review on Pakistani telefilm Drama, Behadd (2013). The TV film is a directorial debut by Asim Raza and is written by the Urdu novelist Umera Ahmad. The film stars Nadia Jamil, Fawad Khan and the young Sajjal Ali. This telefilm is produced by Momina Duraid and is a HUM TV production.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Asim Raza
  • Written by Umera Ahmad
  • Edited by Kashif Ahmad and Wasim
  • DOP by Suleman Razzaq
  • Theme music by Fawad Khan
  • Music Composed by Hasil Qureshi
  • Produced by Momina Duraid

+ Note

The famous commercial TV director/ producer Asim Raza announced to the press beforehand that Behadd is going to be his directorial debut in the world of telefilms. As many of Umera Ahmad’s screenplays, Behadd serves also as a ‘slice of life’ tale and explores the relationship between a widowed mother and her young teenage daughter. The telefilm indulges in themes such as single parenthood and ‘selflessness’ verses ‘selfishness’. How important is one’s own happiness as compared to your child’s. 

The film was primarily shot in Karachi, Sindh and used real locations and settings of the city. After its release, Behadd received praise from critics and viewers alike and was the recipient of Hum Awards for Best Producer in 2014.

 + Main Cast

  1. Fawad Khan as Jamal “Jo” Ahmed
  2. Nadia Jamil as Masooma “Mo” Jamal
  3. Sajal Ali as Maha
  4. Nadia Afgan as Shafaq
  5. Nasheen Masud as Popi “Po” Masood
  6. Rahma Saleem as Fareena

 + Supporting Cast

  1. Adnan Siddiqui as Hassan (Masooma’s husband)
  2. Adnan Jaffar as Shafaq’s husband
  3. Shamoon Abbasi as Masooma’s boss
  4. Hira Tareen as Shaista (Jo’s proposal)

+ Plot

After the unfortunate death of her husband, Masooma (Nadia Jamil) is left to take care of their daughter Maha (Sajal Ali) all on her own. Along her journey to single parenthood, Masooma ends up meeting her old friend’s brother Jamal (Fawad Khan) and they both quickly realize that they have much more in common than they could ever hope for. 

+ High Points

i – Behadd’s ‘slice of Life’ plot is what makes most Pakistani Television so appealing to watch. With Umera Ahmad’s impeccable writing and Asim Raza’s meticulous direction, the telefilm works pretty much on every facet of successful storytelling. Even if you have never had a child or been a single parent, Behadd just feels so magnificently real and relatable. 

“If you indeed have to be selfless, how far can you take it?”

“What if your selflessness and wellbeing is being detrimental to those around? Should you then focus on your own happiness?” 

These are incredibly valid questions that we, in our line of duty of being a parent, tend to forget. 

ii – Brilliant performances all around but what stands tall above the rest is Nadia Jamil’s depiction as an overzealous single parent. Her reading of dialogue and body language conveys greatly her anguish and suffering behind the facade of being strong for her daughter.

iii – Some of the best scenes came not only from the climactic scenes of the telefilm but also the much quieter moments when Masooma is just casually interacting with her friends and colleagues in the office. The nonchalant manner of speech and dialogue is so crucial in inviting the audience to become part of the scene itself and Behadd’s writing and supporting cast exactly does that.

iv – And of course, the breakout performance by Sajal Ali as Maha was also a valiant effort in making this telefilm a success. Her performance was essential in order to captivate the audience into buying into this tale of mother/ daughter relationship. 

v– Behadd is a perfect example of why a show/ telefilm doesn’t need overbearing music and editing to force the audience into feeling sympathy with the characters. The writing and performances have to be good enough to invite their audience into that. Never did my attention falter or felt manipulated in any way. And that’s a sign of pure class from the creative team behind this telefilm.

vi– The song “Nindiya Re” by Kaavish is how seemlessly music and visuals can create the perfect rhythm. Perfect selection for Behadd’s OST.

vii– The conclusion of the story was also brilliantly handled and executed. Considering the circumstances of the storyline, this was probably the most logical conclusion that could have occured. Kudos to the entire team behind this telefilm!

 + Low Points

i – Honestly, whatever low points I have are mostly nitpicks but are still issues with the telefilm’s onset production. Namely, the overuse of Close Ups. Now close ups can be very impactful in visual language but only if they are used sparingly. Behadd unfortunately indulges in it a tad bit too much and it does lose its impact after a while. 

ii – And speaking of close ups, the cinematography is also nothing to admire at. Although it’s fairly competent by Suleman Razzaq, he did not use the visual language to its full potential and now just comes off sub par in contrast to the brilliant writing and performances of the telefilm.

iii – As much as I adore Behadd, it also suffers from the “rich people with rich people problems” syndrome. Now being wealthy does not equate to happiness, that’s fairly obvious but almost all Pakistani dramas/ telefilms shoot in lavious, massive houses so that they visually look pleasing to the eye and almost never a decision made based on the script. But have to give credit to Behadd as they did explain that they are living in the house as tenants. 

+ Overall

A well written script, brilliant performances, no overbearing use of music/ dramatic effects, Behadd is what every Pakistani telefilm should strive to be.  

Rate: 4.25 out of 5 stars

TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Raqeeb Se – Episode XI (2021)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Raqeeb Se – Episode 11 (2021). The new TV series is directed by Kashif Nisar and is a production of Momina Duraid Productions. Raqeeb Se is a HUM TV Production.

(Note: If you’ve already read the review of the previous episode, you can skip directly ahead to the High points section).

+ Crew

  • Directed by Kashif Nisar
  • Written by Beegul
  • DOP by Hassam Mairaj
  • Music Composed by Hadiqa Kiani
  • Produced by Momina Duraid Productions

+ Note

Raqeeb Se is the newest HUM TV Production and is once again the collaboration of the award winning Writer/ Director duo of Bee Gul and Kashif Nisar. 

The title of the show is heavily inspired by a poem from the legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz when the young poet fell in love with a girl next door in Sialkot. But alas, as luck would have it, she one day unexpectedly left the city, only to be reunited years later when Faiz was already an established poet in the circles of Urdu literature. This encounter inspired Faiz to write a poem “Raqib Se!”. The backstory of this poem plays a crucial role in the premise of the show.

 + Main Cast

  1. Hadiqa Kiani as Sakina
  2. Noman Ijaz as Maqsood
  3. Sania Saeed as Hajra
  4. Faryal Mehmood as Insha
  5. Iqra Aziz as Ameera
  6. Saqib Sameer as Rafiq

+ Plot

Raqeeb Se is a call of Maqsood’s dark past that could potentially destroy his present life. In order to escape her abusive husband, Sakina, along with her daughter Ameera, flees from her village to find shelter at her former lover’s place, Maqsood. Unfortunately Maqsood, who still holds a grudge against Sakina’s past actions, refuses to aid her in her most dire situation. But his wife, Hajra, seems much more sympathetic to the situation and lets Sakina stay at their home till things are figured out for the future.

But can Sakina be trusted to stay out of Maqsood’s life or will they be tempted to rekindle their lost love and in the process, destroy what Maqsood and his wife Hajra have built together?

+ High Points

i – Episode 11 brings slight closure between Sakina and Hajira. They have a brief interaction about Life choices and how they were at times forced to continue those choices against their will. Although brief, this was a good scene for the audience to sympathise with the two characters who have had (unfortunately) the least amount of development throughout the show up till now.

ii – I have to admit, it is kinda fun to see Ameera try her hardest to please Maqsood sahib. She sometimes moves away from her personality just to be a bit more like her mother Sakina because it is her that Maqsood sahib fell in love with in the first place. 

iii – The confrontation between Maqsood and Sakina was the highlight of the show. His frustrations towards Sakina’s lack of self respect indulges him to face his past and make Sakina realize that she needs to grow as a person in order to have a better future. I can’t help but wonder that (like the audience) even Maqsood got sick of Sakina just moping and cursing her own fate.

iv – The show has always had great production value and this episode was no exception. Camera work, lighting and set design were all once again top notch!

 + Low Points

i – It is extremely odd that even with a few confrontational scenes between the main cast in this episode, nothing ever really happens in this show. As a viewer, you don’t feel as if the story has progressed, or the satisfaction of investing your time watching this show. Perhaps the reason is that the status quo of the show never ever changes; Maqsood sahib is always grumpy, Sakina is always whining about her fate, Hajira always acts like a doormat, Ameera acts erratic and Insha goes to her boyfriend to complain about her family. And it’s unfortunately getting real old now.

ii – In Episode 11, the scene between Insha and Abdul once again turned into unnecessary expository dialogue. Yes, Insha’s family is dysfunctional, we as an audience just saw that. Why repeat that same information? It’s just a waste of a scene which the writer could easily use to further develop the storyline. 

iii – Awkward greenscreen during car driving scenes of the show. Doesn’t look good to a show which otherwise, has good production value.

iv – Maqsood sahib’s anger outbursts in each single episode is becoming tiresome real fast. It’s obvious that he is frustrated with the current state of affairs but anger outbursts are only impactful if done seldom. 

+ Overall

Episode 11 is yet another tale in the life of Maqsood sahib and the women around him. Even though there are a few good scenes, the storyline still remains unmoved.

 Rate: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

A review on Hollywood feature length film, Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021). The film is distributed by HBO Max streaming service and is part of the continuing DC Extended Universe.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Zack Snyder
  • Cinematography by Fabian Wagner
  • Edited by David Brenner
  • Written by Chris Terrio
  • Music by Tom Holkenborg
  • Produced by Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder

+ Crew II (Production Houses)

  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • DC Films
  • Atlas Entertainment
  • The Stone Quarry

+ Note

During the Production of Justice League (2017), a terrible family tragedy occurred and the director Zack Snyder had to leave the project. Whilst adding the finishing touches to the film, the executives at Warner Bros. decided to hire Joss Whedon (who had prior experience on directing the massive Marvel success The Avengers (2012)) as the replacement for Snyder. But during Post Production, the WB executives became skeptical as to how they would compete and market Synder’s dark vision of Superheroes against a massive conglomerate like Marvel Studios. This led the company to add numerous reshoots, cut down the runtime from 4 hours to 2, rewrite certain scenes, shoot completely new footage and of course, the infamous ‘Moustache-gate’. The film was finally released in 2017, to a critical and commercial disappointment. The film was not the Snyder vision that DCEU fans were accustomed to neither was it the fun, light hearted ‘marvelesque’ superhero film that the WB execs were going for. It was obvious at that point that the DC cinematic Universe was in trouble.

In the coming years, fans started speculating that in the vaults of Warner Bros., lies an uncut Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League. Pretty soon, hashtags like #ReleaseTheSnyderCut were trending on social media and a massive cult following began for the unreleased version. Due to its strong popularity and demand, Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. reached an agreement with the streaming platform HBO Max to exclusively release the Zack Snyder’s version Justice League, as it was originally intended. The project began taking shape in early 2020. The film was then reassembled from ground up, excluding all reshot scenes and dialogue, instead opting for what Snyder had intended the film to be. There were a couple of scenes reshot exclusively for the Snyder Cut but most importantly, Zack Snyder got to revisit and fulfill his vision of Justice League. The film was finally finished and released on March 18 2021, garnering praise from critics and fans alike.

+ Main Cast

  1. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman
  2. Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman
  3. Amy Adams as Lois Lane
  4. Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
  5. Ray Fisher as Victor Stone / Cyborg
  6. Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman
  7. Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash
  8. Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko
  9. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
  10. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
  11.  J. K. Simmons as James Gordon
  12. Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf

+ Plot

Superman is dead. And a new world threatening event is on the horizon. Wonder Woman and Batman need to assemble a team of superheroes (calling themselves ‘Justice League’) in order to fight for the very existence of the human race. Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, all ultimately join in to fight against Steppenwolf, the destroyer of civilizations across the universe. Will the Justice League be able to defend the planet or would they need the help of the Man of Steel in order to fight this new wrath of Evil?

+ High Points

i – Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an improvement over the original theatrical cut in every possible way. The narrative flows a lot smoother, each character’s motivations are much better explained and get to bask in their own spotlight. It is truly baffling to me why Warner Bros. decided to chop the film and reshoot scenes which were perfectly good/ serviceable to begin with! And in most cases, better! The Snyder cut is yet another example why Studio execs should only focus on marketing the film rather than making creative choices. After the less than expected Box Office returns for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Warner Bros. execs panicked and tried their best to emulate the “Marvel Formula”. From badly written quips to light hearted banter, the film ended up resonating with neither the Marvel fans nor the Snyder fans. Thanks to active petition from the fans, we get to see the “behind the scenes” drama of how a creative force gets destroyed in order to have a safe financial return. Now, even Zack Snyder’s Justice League has its own set of flaws (which I will get to later on in the review) but it is safe to assume that the film exceeded my expectations (considering what a mess his last two DCEU films were).

ii – Unlike Whedon’s Justice League, Snyder’s film has a much better explanation of the plot; the three mother boxes, how they got awakened and what consequences it would have once they are all synchronised together. This way, the story has much more stakes going in and keeps the viewer invested throughout the film.

iii – There are two characters that clearly benefited from this recut of Justice League and one of them is Cyborg. His complete backstory was cut out from the original film, left him utterly unrelatable and useless throughout the film. Here, his character (before his transformation) had a lot going for him, gives enough time for the viewer to sympathise with his unfortunate situation and probably, the most emotional backstory of all of the Justice League characters.

iv – The second has to be Barry Allen/ the Flash. In Whedon’s version, Flash was the supposite “comic relief” of the film. But in reality, he was an annoying, bad quip machine that quickly became the least likable character of the Justice League. In Snyder’s version, he is still a comic relief of the film but his personality traits fit much better this time around. Barry Allen’s introduction scene of the film has to be the best, most poetic moment throughout the film. It was simply delightful to watch and was just shaking my head throughout the scene wondering “Why was this scene ever cut from the theatrical release!?”. Not only that, Flash also ends up being pretty integral to the final climactic battle at the end.

v – Less bad jokes. No obnoxious rant on “What is Brunch!?” or awkward Batman dialogue “Guess we’re not getting the Band back together!” or “Do you talk to fish?” or Superman responding to being resurrected from the dead as “Itchy!”. Ugh.

vi – No CGI removal of Superman’s mustache. Funny how a film significantly improves with its exclusion, huh?

vii – One of the most significant improvements that the Snyder cut has is that Justice League really works as a team. They are not overly dependent just on Superman to do the job for them. Each member has their own task to fulfil and in the process, gets to resonate with the audience.

viii – Unlike Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Justice League is much better paced, the dialogues are much better written and each character has their own story arcs. I am by no means a Zack Snyder advocate, I am still not a fan of his portrayal of Superman and his “dark” cinematic universe but I do have sympathy for him with this film. Invertedly, the studio execs took advantage of Snyder’s personal tragedy, butchered his work without his consent and what is even worse, they spent millions of dollars on something which was actually good to begin with! Sheer, utter madness!

+ Low Points

i – For all that’s good with Synder’s original vision, it is at times very self-indulgent and bloated with numerous unnecessary scenes and dialogue. There is a 5 minute scene where Lois Lane hands Clark a shirt. Why do we need to see that? The film is at 4 hour runtime and even though Snyder fans will enjoy every minute of it, it feels completely tacked on and unnecessary to the overall experience. On one hand, I can understand why the Studio execs panicked when they saw a 4 hour nightmare. Three hours or so would have benefited the film perfectly. 

ii – Unlike Thanos from the Marvel films, Steppenwolf is an utterly dull and tiresome villain of the week. True, his motivations have been a bit more explored compared to the original film but sadly, not enough. At best, Steppenwolf is just a plot device for the Justice League to band together to fight the big baddy at the end.

iii – Midway through the film, a certain character makes a very brief cameo appearance and there was no reason for this to happen other than fan service. It will probably leave most audience members completely baffled by it and I don’t blame them.

iv – The last climactic battle is still a dark, muddy CGI mess. The strength of the film lies in its First to Second Act but ultimately suffers from the same Third Act issues as its theatrical counterpart.

v – Speaking of Bad CGI, this whole film is riddled with it. The CGI characters have no weight to them, the movement/ details are jerky and unresponsive at times, it’s amazing that with all that budget, Warner Bros. still can’t accompany their summer blockbusters with decent special effects.

vi – For lack of a better phrase, the film just looks ugly. Yes, the original had color saturation up to 11 but at least you could actually understand what was happening on screen. Snyder always opts for dark, flat colors which are in complete odds with what the Justice League should represent. 

vii – I wish I did not have to say this but… Lois Lane in Snyder films just plain sucks. She is treated by the plot as someone extremely important but her demeanor says otherwise. I cannot (for the life of me) care why she is focused so much during the film when all she has done up till now is mop and being rescued by Superman. 

viii – The 4:3 aspect ratio was supposedly Snyder’s original vision of the film (to fit the large IMAX screens). There is no obvious benefit that Justice League has from this format and it also doesn’t make any sense to release it in IMAX format only to end up being viewed by everyone on their 16:9 Television screens on HBO Max. 

ix – SPOILER ALERT!!! (if you would like to avoid it, please skip directly to the Overall Section):

Snyder’s Justice League has the “LOTR: The Return of the King” effect. Too many ridiculous endings that serve no purpose to the film. Did we really needed to see Martian Manhunter approach Bruce and painstakingly explain to him what will happen in the next coming sequels (which are apparently abandoned by WB/Snyder as of now), how “Lois is the key to all this” nonsense, a badly written dystopian future with hilarious R Rated dialogue between the Batman and Jared Leto’s Joker. Please, I really do not want to hear Joker make a “reach around” joke with Batman. That really is Zack Snyder at his worst. Being pointlessly “dark and edgy”. The film should’ve ended when Darkseid’s threat was averted.  

+ Overall

While the film suffers at times with its incredibly long runtime and overindulgence, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is still a massive improvement over the original. It is a picture perfect example of how a film studio destroys a vision that filmmaker has and why creativity should be left best to the creators. 

Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0 stars (Theatrical release)

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.0 stars (Zack Snyder’s)

TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Raqeeb Se – Episode X (2021)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Raqeeb Se – Episode 10 (2021). The new TV series is directed by Kashif Nisar and is a production of Momina Duraid Productions. Raqeeb Se is a HUM TV Production.

(Note: If you’ve already read the review of the previous episode, you can skip directly ahead to the High points section).

+ Crew

  • Directed by Kashif Nisar
  • Written by Beegul
  • DOP by Hassam Mairaj
  • Music Composed by Hadiqa Kiani
  • Produced by Momina Duraid Productions

+ Note

Raqeeb Se is the newest HUM TV Production and is once again the collaboration of the award winning Writer/ Director duo of Bee Gul and Kashif Nisar. 

The title of the show is heavily inspired by a poem from the legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz when the young poet fell in love with a girl next door in Sialkot. But alas, as luck would have it, she one day unexpectedly left the city, only to be reunited years later when Faiz was already an established poet in the circles of Urdu literature. This encounter inspired Faiz to write a poem “Raqib Se!”. The backstory of this poem plays a crucial role in the premise of the show.

 + Main Cast

  1. Hadiqa Kiani as Sakina
  2. Noman Ijaz as Maqsood
  3. Sania Saeed as Hajra
  4. Faryal Mehmood as Insha
  5. Iqra Aziz as Ameera
  6. Saqib Sameer as Rafiq

+ Plot

Raqeeb Se is a call of Maqsood’s dark past that could potentially destroy his present life. In order to escape her abusive husband, Sakina, along with her daughter Ameera, flees from her village to find shelter at her former lover’s place, Maqsood. Unfortunately Maqsood, who still holds a grudge against Sakina’s past actions, refuses to aid her in her most dire situation. But his wife, Hajra, seems much more sympathetic to the situation and lets Sakina stay at their home till things are figured out for the future.

But can Sakina be trusted to stay out of Maqsood’s life or will they be tempted to rekindle their lost love and in the process, destroy what Maqsood and his wife Hajra have built together?

+ High Points

i – Episode 10 was the introduction of Insha’s boyfriend to her family and the whole sequence of events were very well handled throughout the episode. Abdul’s anxiety and nervousness to Maqsood seeing a bit of his younger self in Abdul brings some much needed tension and interest other than the main plot of the show (which is unfortunately slowly deteriorating into obscurity).

ii – It is also worth a mention that the dynamics between Insha and Abdul have also significantly improved since the earlier episodes. The interactions between them seem better written and acted. Also their body language gives off fairly well that they have known each other for years now.

iii – The show’s production is excellent since its premiere and one of the most visually unique shows out there on Pakistani television at the moment. Most Pak TV shows heighten the color saturation just to make it more “eye catching”. Raqeeb Se achieves just that and much more by merely playing with light and shadows. Props should go to the Raqeeb Se’s production design team.

iv – While her performance during the show is slightly over the top, Iqra Aziz is nonetheless always entertaining whenever she is onscreen. And that is a God sent compared to the rest of the lifeless, dull characters of the show.

 + Low Points

i – As a reviewer, it is at times so frustrating to watch this show. Repetition, illogical scenes and dialogues have become so common that it becomes a chore just to sit through the entire episode without feeling exasperated. Half way through the episode, Rafiq Ali is sitting at Maqsood sahib’s Bungalow, having tea with Hajira. How!? Why? How did he get here? Why was he invited in? They know he can be dangerous, could potentially take Sakina back home by force, why take the risk? Would the show care to explain this to the viewers?

ii – In the last five episodes or so, Sakina and Hajira have undoubtedly become mere plot devices to the show rather than having any sort of characterization of their own. Sakina curses her fate while Hajira does everything Maqsood wants and praises him for it. A white sheet of paper has more dimension than these two characters!

iii – The crush that Ameera has on Maqsood sahib is incredibly tacked on and awkward. For now, it serves nothing to the overall plot of the show but perhaps the writer Beegul has something up her sleeve that we as viewers are not aware of. But for now, it does not work.

iv – The background music during the Rafiq Ali/ Hajira scene was extremely odd. I wish I could comment on it more but I have absolutely no idea what kind of feeling they were going for there.

+ Overall

Episode 10 goes back again to status quo. Lethargic plot development, lack of strong character motivations, repetition of scenes/ dialogues. Even though Adbul and Insha’s subplot is well integrated into the story, Raqeeb Se needs to give a clear reason why viewers should stick around till the end.

 Rate: 2.5 out of 5 stars

TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Khaas (2019)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Khaas (2019). The 27 Episode limited TV series is directed by Danish Nawaz and is a Momina Duraid production. Khaas was aired on HUM TV.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Danish Nawaz
  • Written by Sarwat Nazir
  • Edited by Mehmood Ali and Nasir Inayat
  • DOP by Tameen Nizami
  • Music Composed by Sohail Haider
  • Opening Theme song “Woh Jo Tha Bahut Hi Khaas” by Natasha Baig
  • Produced by Momina Duraid

+ Note

Back in 2019, Khaas was a show which strived to be unlike any no other on Pakistani Television. On the surface level, Khaas could be your typical run of the mill drama between In laws and daughter in law but Sarwat Nazir’s writing strives the show to be much more than what it seems to be. Khaas is about an emotional plight of a woman in a male dominated culture. Where certain expectations are required from the woman of the house. The show is primarily a case study of what emotional abuse a woman has to face in order to be loved and respected by the Pakistani society; be that sustaining composure while your Husband makes hurtful jokes about you or extinguishing your goals and ambitions in order to please the traditional “norm” of being a housewife. Although this word is treated as poision by most of the Pakistani community, Khaas is in fact a ‘feminist’ drama in which the target audience is not necessarily women but also the male counterparts of our everyday life.

Khaas was a critical and commercial success throughout the country, garnering praise and applause from audiences who saw themselves in the protagonist Saba. The drama was nominated by Lux Style Awards for Best Writing and Best Original Soundtrack.

 + Main Cast

  1. Sanam Baloch as Saba Faraz
  2. Ali Rehman Khan as Ammar Saud
  3. Haroon Shahid as Fakhir
  4. Behroze Sabzwari as Faraz Ahmed; Saba’s father
  5. Lubna Aslam as Sadaf Faraz; Saba’s mother
  6. Saba Faisal as Kanwal Saud; Ammar’s mother
  7. Mashal Khan as Sonia
  8. Anam Goher as Nida Saud
  9. Sajida Syed as Nusrat

 + Supporting Cast

  1. Natasha Ali as Farah
  2. Amna Malik as Javeria
  3. Shehryar Zaidi as Saud; Ammar’s father
  4. Sonia Nazir as Anam
  5. Areesha Shah as Mehak Faraz
  6. Sanam Baloch as Fakhir’s late mother 
  7. Danish Nawaz as Fakhir’s late father (only seen in flashbacks)
  8. Hira Tareen as Salma

+ Plot

Khaas is a story of an ambitious woman named Saba (played by Sanam Baloch) who strives for her career and other goals in Life. That all unfortunately gets cut short once Ammar (Ali Rehman Khan) proposes to her and her family. Due to unwarranted pressure from her parents and society, Saba accepts the proposal and focuses on her married life instead. Even though Ammar is considered charming and loved by everyone around him, something seems not right about him. Slowly, the façade of Ammar breaks down and Saba gets to see what lies behind the curtain.

Meanwhile Fakhir (Haroon Shahid), a timid, shy artist who falls in love with Saba and steadily, a friendship brews between them, proving that within all that is dark, there is a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

+ High Points

i – Khaas is a textbook example of how it should be done! Engaging storyline, memorable characters, cliffhangers after each episode, never once did my attention span falter while watching the show. The show hit every narrative beat picture perfect and its success and admiration by the fans is the living proof of it. 

ii – A lot of praise and attention should be devoted towards the main cast as each one of them portrayed their characters with absolute perfection. Sana Baloch as the strong yet sympathetic protagonist, Ali Rehman Khan as the narcissistic, petty manchild and Haroon Shahid as the shy, timid artist who sees good in everything. That’s a perfect dynamic of characters one could have for any TV show. And their performances were excellent throughout the series. 

iii – The character arcs of each of the main cast is also incredibly well written and realized onto the small screen. As a viewer, you can empathize with Saba’s journey from a shy, dominated girl to an empowered, striving woman. Experiences made her change, become more stronger in a cut throat environment of male domination. In Pakistan, men usually get away with a whole lot more than a woman can and Khaas highlights that aspect with total honesty and sincerity. And that is one of the main reasons why Khaas was such a mainstream success.

iv – Apart from the main cast, some of the supporting characters also resonate incredibly well, mainly Saba Faisal as Ammar’s mother. Saba is such a versatile actress that she could adapt to any character she would like and this one is no exception. Her perception towards womanhood and blindness towards her son Ammar is a story seen numerous times in our culture. Men mainly get away with such ruthless behaviour because there are certain women who support and tolerate them.

v– The production of the show is also a key aspect of its success. The colors are vibrant, the sets and costumes are adapted well to its narrative. Momina Duraid’s shows are usually top notch in quality and Khaas is no different.

vi– The story progression of the show is meticulously handled and executed. With each episode, you get to learn more about each of our main cast of characters, their motivations and their ambitions in life. Each episode just revealed enough for the audience to eagerly anticipate what would happen next.

vii– The dream sequence scene involving Fakhir’s parents was inventive and brilliantly executed. Especially casting Sanam Baloch as the mother (since Fakhir sees his mother in Saba) and the father played the director of the show Danish Nawaz.

viii– SPOILER ALERT!!! In the next point, I will talk about the controversial ending of the show. You can skip directly to the Low Points if you would like to avoid it:

So the most vital question in each viewer’s mind was how the show will conclude? Would Saba and Fakhir live happily ever after? Would Ammar learn the error of his ways and rekindle his love with Saba? The answer is; perhaps a little bit of it all? A lot of people were disappointed not to see Saba and Fakhir happily living together and granted, his supposed life threatening accident was a forced narrative decision (which I will elaborate more in the Low Points) but to see Saba, even in her most vulnerable position with her new born child, reject Ammar’s proposal for remarriage was the absolute right outcome. Fakhir’s untimely death and Saba’s decision to live her own life the way she wants it is the most logical conclusion to the story. She needed the conflict of decision making when life doesn’t go as planned. 

Saba’s experiences living under Ammar’s thumb and eventually self-emancipating herself from the shackles of society would have been in vain if not for this conclusion. Fakhir taught her to be responsible, to live her own life the way she sees fit. With his passing away, Saba can put all of this to the test. Whether she would ever remarry, could be anyone’s guess but Saba decided to raise her child on her own was the right outcome of the show. And a lot of praise and admiration should go to the writer Sarwat Nazir for making this happen in a mainstream TV show.

 + Low Points

i – While I really applaud the show’s audacity and determination to show such a unique storyline of how women are emotionally abused in Pakistani culture, what Khaas really should’ve done is make the show as close to reality as possible. This was necessary in order for the audience to relate to the protagonist beyond the world of TV dramas. Unfortunately, this is what the show failed to accomplish. The script is merely written for the sole purpose of melodrama entertainment. And sadly, that is what Khaas ends up being. A TV show. There are too many unrealistic scenarios, coincidences (in convenience to the plot), characters act completely dumb in order for the misunderstandings to happen, too many times where two characters gossip about someone and that “someone” is eavesdropping at that exact moment. Yes, it is possible to brush all of this off and say “It is just a TV show!”. Well, that is why one cannot take the story of Khaas seriously. It’s only true within the confines of your TV screen.

ii – Speaking of dumb characters, Behroze Sabzwari as Saba’s dad should really be awarded the “Worst Father of the Year” award. Judging how the character was written, even the slightest words of encouragement from anyone in the show would persuade him to jump off a cliff. Unless of course, you are his daughter. Then he will not believe a single word you could say. Saba’s father was incredibly dumb and gullible whenever the script wanted him to be. He was written with absolutely zero intelligence, arriving at the most awkward of moments and did not possess the intelligence to even put 2 and 2 together. Sabzwari ‘s character is by far one of the worst written characters I have come across and is the embodiment of what a bad writing looks like.

iii – There are way too many flashbacks in the show. There are several flashbacks of scenes and dialogues that happened just a few minutes ago! Does the show think we have a memory of a goldfish? It’s a bad move from the creative team’s part to treat its audience like they are not intelligent enough to follow a single episode without a reminder every five minutes of each character’s motivations. 

iv – Whenever a dramatic moment occurs, this show just abuses it with a barrage of slow motions, melodramatic cheesy music and anything they could get their hands on. The first episode especially was the worst offender in all this. In visual art, subtlety is always the best option and Mehreen Jabbar’s TV dramas have proven that.

v –  That “twisted ankle and rubbing ointment on it” scene. Just a perfect example of forced romantic moments between the two protagonists. Ugh.

vi – SPOILER ALERT!!! In the next point, I will talk about the controversial ending of the show. You can skip directly to Overall section if you would like to avoid it:

Even though I praised the ending of the show above, the demise of Fakhir’s character was incredibly lazy writing. In every good script, there needs to be a set up and a pay off. Granted, Fakhir had this one nightmare and kept reminding Saba to be brave if she ends up alone but that is not enough to earn that pay off. A terminal illness of Fakhir could’ve been hinted at right at the beginning of the show and then his passing away in the final episode would’ve made a lot more sense. In short, the script wanted to kill off Fakhir so Saba could have her moment of realization that she could live and be happy on her own. It feels very unearned and possibly divides the audience on this decision.

+ Overall

Khaas has a very unique story to tell. It is bold and pulls no punches when it comes to exposing the hypocrisy against women in Pakistani culture. Unfortunately it also gets muddled up with too many TV drama cliches and mediocre writing. But at the end of the day, it is the cast of the show that makes Khaas special. True, the show could’ve accomplished a lot more than it ended up with but for what the show is, Khaas is definitely worth your time.

 Rate: 3.25 out of 5 stars

TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Raqeeb Se – Episode IX (2021)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Raqeeb Se – Episode 9 (2021). The new TV series is directed by Kashif Nisar and is a production of Momina Duraid Productions. Raqeeb Se is a HUM TV Production.

(Note: If you’ve already read the review of the previous episode, you can skip directly ahead to the High points section).

+ Crew

  • Directed by Kashif Nisar
  • Written by Beegul
  • DOP by Hassam Mairaj
  • Music Composed by Hadiqa Kiani
  • Produced by Momina Duraid Productions

+ Note

Raqeeb Se is the newest HUM TV Production and is once again the collaboration of the award winning Writer/ Director duo of Bee Gul and Kashif Nisar. 

The title of the show is heavily inspired by a poem from the legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz when the young poet fell in love with a girl next door in Sialkot. But alas, as luck would have it, she one day unexpectedly left the city, only to be reunited years later when Faiz was already an established poet in the circles of Urdu literature. This encounter inspired Faiz to write a poem “Raqib Se!”. The backstory of this poem plays a crucial role in the premise of the show.

 + Main Cast

  1. Hadiqa Kiani as Sakina
  2. Noman Ijaz as Maqsood
  3. Sania Saeed as Hajra
  4. Faryal Mehmood as Insha
  5. Iqra Aziz as Ameera
  6. Saqib Sameer as Rafiq

+ Plot

Raqeeb Se is a call of Maqsood’s dark past that could potentially destroy his present life. In order to escape her abusive husband, Sakina, along with her daughter Ameera, flees from her village to find shelter at her former lover’s place, Maqsood. Unfortunately Maqsood, who still holds a grudge against Sakina’s past actions, refuses to aid her in her most dire situation. But his wife, Hajra, seems much more sympathetic to the situation and lets Sakina stay at their home till things are figured out for the future.

But can Sakina be trusted to stay out of Maqsood’s life or will they be tempted to rekindle their lost love and in the process, destroy what Maqsood and his wife Hajra have built together?

+ High Points

i – These past few episodes has really fleshed out the love story of Abdul/ Insha and is finally now being integrated into the overall narrative of the show. Also the development of both characters has significantly been improved upon and is slowly becoming the highlight of each episode.

ii – In Episode 9, the dramatic tension within Maqsood sahib’s compound was very well written and brought some life into the ongoing tense moments of the show (which for the past few episodes have been frankly dull and repetitive).

iii – Noman Ijaz as Maqsood finally gets to emote and show his full potential in this episode. Maqsood eventually breaks his stoic mannerisms and lets his true emotions be put on display for the audience to witness. Noman Ijaz seems very comfortable playing the main protagonist who has an obvious chip on his shoulder.

iv – With tense, visual atmosphere and soft lighting, Raqeeb Se might be one of the best looking TV dramas out there at the moment. Even if the narrative falters at times, the visuals are always pleasant to marvel at.

v – Compared to other episodes, Episode 9 had good pacing/ plot progression and was a slight improvement from the rest of the show. The scenes were well set up, the actors got to display their acting chops; from here on-out, this is how the show should move forward!

 + Low Points

i – Hadiqa Kiani as Sakina has really become a drag to watch. Her one note line delivery and lack of any character development has really hurt her performance in the show. She has never had anything interesting to say, her regret of “setting foot into Maqsood sahib’s house” is over and done with by now. The show really needs to give her something more interesting to do than just mop and whine about her fate. 

ii – As far as one note characters, Hajira’s motivations have also not developed since the first episode. She is by far the least interesting character of the main cast. She has nothing to do throughout the show other than to remind the audience how grateful she is to Maqsood sahib and lacks any motivations of her own. The manner in which Hajira is written makes her a mere “plot device” to the overall narrative rather than having a character of her own.

iii – Although the cliffhanger of the show was an interesting one, let us also not forget that Hajira is not onboard with any of Maqsood’s decisions. Are we supposed to sympathize with how noble Maqsood is in vowing to take care of Sakina? If his own wife is not completely in agreement with this “new arrangement” then it is not a noble but selfish act from Maqsood’s part. If the show wants us to sympathize with Maqsood’s selflessness without his wife’s consent then that is an abhorrent decision from the creative team of Raqeeb Se. Whether the show runners will work on this upcoming angle remains to be seen…

+ Overall

Episode 9 brings back some of the tension and drama from the first few episodes. It’s a much needed character dynamic that the show was lacking in the previous few weeks. With a stellar cast like this, Raqeeb Se most certainly has the potential to become a must see television show.

 Rate: 3.0 out of 5 stars

Animated Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Tom & Jerry (2021)

A review on Hollywood live action animated film, Tom & Jerry (2021). The film is based on the popular MGM studios cartoon characters ‘Tom & Jerry’, created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The live action animated film is directed by Tim Story and stars Chloë Grace Moretz in the lead role. The film is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and is released on HBO Max streaming service.

+ Crew I

  • Directed by Tim Story
  • Cinematography by Alan Stewart
  • Screenplay by Kevin Costello
  • Edited by Peter S. Elliot
  • Music by Christopher Lennertz
  • Produced by Chris DeFaria

+ Crew II (Production Houses)

  • Warner Animation Group
  • The Story Company
  • Turner Entertainment Co.

+ Note

Tom & Jerry are an extremely popular cartoon duo where the premise most likely revolves around the cat (Tom) chasing the mouse (Jerry) with lots of slapstick comedy in between. The characters were first conceived and presented as an MGM animated short “Puss gets the Boot” in 1940. Since then, they rapidly became pop cultural icons and are beloved by children and adults alike. In 1993, the cat and mouse duo made their silver screen debut with their feature length animated film Tom & Jerry: The Movie. The film was an unfortunate financial and critical failure, earning only $57.2 million at the box office from their $79 million budget. 

A live action version of Tom & Jerry was announced back in 2009 and the film was supposed to incorporate animated Tom & Jerry cells within a live action setting of New York City. The film was shot around 2019 and was released in February 2021 on HBO Max streaming service.

+ Main Cast

  1. Chloë Grace Moretz as Kayla 
  2. Michael Peña as Terence
  3. Colin Jost as Ben
  4. Rob Delaney as Mr Dubros
  5. Ken Jeong as Chef Jackie

+ Plot

Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) lands a job in a fancy Hotel in the Big Apple and is made in charge of leading a massive Indian wedding of a celebrity couple. But there seems to be a problem; a mouse problem by the name of Jerry. In order for the wedding plans to go smooth, Kayla hires a cat by the name of Tom in order to take care of the ‘mouse in the house’ situation. Will Kayla be able to lead the wedding and in the process, bring peace and friendship between the two arch rivals Tom and Jerry?

+ High Points

i – If you grew up watching Tom & Jerry and have diligently watched most of their animated shorts, you will find a lot of things to appreciate about it. The film at times pays homage to classic Tom & Jerry moments, makes cameo appearances from the Bulldog Spike, the alleyway cats like Butch, Sound Effects directly taken from the classic shorts, such instances clearly show that the creative team loves and respects the source material.

ii – The animation cells of Tom & Jerry and their animated anitics are brilliantly realised. Although the animation is a 2D/3D hybrid, it still gives the feeling that you are watching the animated shorts from the 40s but with live action footage within it.

iii – Unlike the animated film from 1993, Tom & Jerry do not talk. And thank God for that! The classic Tom & Jerry was all visual gags and slapstick comedy and that’s all it needs to be. 

iv – In this universe, all the animals solely exist as animated characters. That I feel, is a great way to explain how Tom and Jerry are among live action characters without going too much into needless exposition. Good on the movie for that.

+ Low Points

i – With Tom & Jerry, there has always been the vital question; how do you convert 5 min short animation skits into a feature length film? The first film tried and failed, would this live action film fare any better? The answer is an unfortunate No. In feature length narrative, Tom & Jerry does not work. They always end up becoming mere side characters in their own feature length film and the audience has to patiently wait for the uninteresting live action actors to pass by before we momentarily get back to the Cat and Mouse duo. If there is a way to make a successful Tom and Jerry feature length story I am not sure but for now, Tom & Jerry fails yet again to make a successful transition onto the silver screen.

ii – Speaking of boring live action characters, none of the non-animated characters make any lasting impression in the film. The dialogue delivery from every actor makes one feel that they are just part of this film to collect their pay check and move on with their careers. The minimal character arc that Kayla has seems incredibly forced and unearned by the end. Honestly, there is probably more depth to Tom & Jerry’s character than there is to the whole live action cast of the film.

iii – The catalyst to the premise makes no sense. For some odd reason, Tom is a musical street performer, pretending to be blind (..why?) so he can earn cash but then Jerry seizes that crowd to earn his own cash by dancing to Tom’s tune and in the process, garnering sympathy towards him. Um…what? How does anything have to do with the hotel later on? It is needlessly complicated. Why not just make the premise of Tom being the Hotel cat, who has Jerry as his new adversary? It’s simple and to the point. The charm of Tom & Jerry has always been in its simplistic premise.

iv – Although the animation itself looks good, it has not been integrated well into the live action footage. The actors have no clue where to look, or how to hold an animated animal in their arms which makes the production look cheap and unconvincing. There is a lack of details on animated characters whenever they are walking from light to shadow, they seem a bit ‘floaty’ at times whenever they are standing on a solid surface. The best example of integrating animation with live action is Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) a film which is more than 30 years old! 

v – The premise of the film itself is uninteresting. Who cares about the hotel and how many great fancy rooms it has? Why should the audience care about this celebrity Indian wedding if the characters themselves are more 2 dimensional than their animated co-stars? The whole “ beloved animated characters in live action New York City” plot is old and tired and Tom & Jerry feels like a movie 12 years too late.

vi – The rap music, pop cultural references, Tom doing the floss dance (seriously, stop that please); it all makes the film so desperate for kids to like this film. Sure, it might be entertaining for children up till the age of 6 but I can’t imagine anyone enjoying this film beyond that age group.

vii – Too many unfunny scenes. One too many poop/ fart jokes. Because the film is desperate to make you laugh and fits nowhere into Tom & Jerry’s sense of humor from the cartoons.

viii – A cartoon which is famous for its inventive ways to present the same old premise of Cat and Mouse is now a tired old film, trying to rip off from the success of other lackluster kids films like The Smurfs. As a fan of Tom & Jerry, it makes me sad and depressed to even watch this film for the review.

+ Overall

Tom & Jerry (2021) is nothing more than a lifeless cash grab. It’s yet another lackluster take on the beloved duo who have made generations of kids and adults laugh. Please do not pay to watch this film. Watch it only when it’s free on cable and you would like something in the background to keep the kids occupied. Or better yet, someone will be kind enough to compile all the animated Tom & Jerry sequences from the film on Youtube. Watch that instead.

Rate: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Tele-Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Rozi (1990)

A review on Pakistani telefilm, Rozi (1990). The telefilm is directed by Sahira Kazmi and stars the legendary Moin Akhtar in one of his most iconic roles of his career. Rozi is an Urdu adaptation of Dustin Hoffman’s classic Tootsie (1982). Rozi is a ‘Tele Theater’ Production. 

+ Crew

  • Directed by Sahira Kazmi
  • Written by Imran Saleem
  • DOP by Aem Nawaz, Jameel Akhtar and Arif Saheel
  • Make up by Shamina Kaisar
  • Editing by Ahfaq Ahmed

+ Note

Before we proceed any further, let us first discuss the Elephant in the room. Rozi is now cited as an “Urdu adaptation” of the Hollywood classic Tootsie (1982) starring Dustin Hoffman. But it has been clearly not credited anywhere in the End credits of the telefilm and I severely doubt if the producers took the permission from Columbia Pictures to adapt Tootsie into a Pakistani telefilm. As a reviewer and fan of the original film, it makes it harder for me to judge Rozi based on its own writing merit since every scene and dialogue has been directly lifted from the Hollywood classic. But for the sake of the review, I will judge the telefilm on its own achievements here on out and analyse what the Pakistani creative team managed to accomplish on its own. 

Apart from the controversy, Rozi was clearly a role tailor made for the talents that Moin Akhtar possessed and unsurprisingly, Rozi elevated Akhtar to stardom and proved to be one of his personal favorite roles of his career.

 + Main Cast

  1. Moin Akhtar as Haroon/Rozi
  2. Fazela Qazi as Nazia
  3. Akbar Subhani as Rashid
  4. Fariha Altaf as Sahana

+ Plot

Haroon (Moin Akhtar) is a down on his luck actor who is sick and tired of the Pakistani TV industry and its lack of originality. Therefore, Haroon disguises himself as a woman Rozi in order to land a role in a major TV soap opera. Along the way, Haroon falls in love with Nazia (Fazela Qazi) and realizes what difficulties a woman has to face in the world of Television.

+ High Points

i – As far as adaptations go, Rozi has very seamlessly been adapted from an American setting into Pakistani culture and Urdu dialogue by Imran Saleem. 

ii – There was arguably no one in Pakistani Industry at the time who could have played the role of Rozi other than the legendary Moin Akhtar. Since the character within the story is a disguise, Moin Akhtar had the monumental task of playing two fictional characters within one narrative; Haroon and Rozi and its safe to say that Akhtar played it off with such flair and tenacity that leaves viewer not only charmed by his performance but are right alongside him throughout the narrative. Rozi might arguably be the pinnacle of Moin Akthar’s career in Television. 

iii – Speaking of role models, Rozi speaks to many female actors how hard it is for them to be recognized for their talent and not brushed aside once they reach a certain age. Although the character of Rozi is fictional, her plight for self-respect and recognition is very much real. And just for that, this telefilm was incredibly groundbreaking in Pakistan for its time.

iv – Rozi is full of excellent performances. And although Moin Akthar undoubtedly takes the center stage, Fariha Altaf as Sahana is clearly the highlight of the film. Her desperation and anger plays hilariously to the comedy of errors that Haroon has concocted in order to salvage his acting career. Whenever these two were on screen together, you know there will be laugh out loud moments.

v – Comedy is all about timing. And Rozi nails it with such impeccable precision that even after 30 years, Imran Saleem’s writing has still lost none of its charm. 

vi – The makeup of Rozi is not the most believable out there but honestly, it never needed to be. The wig, fake eyelashes, lip stick work are sufficient enough to make the viewer buy into the fact that most characters would not be able to recognize Haroon in disguise. And I am completely onboard with some ‘suspension of disbelief’ in order to enjoy the story.

vii – The scenes between Rozi and Nazia’s father are hilarious and they play fantastically off one another.

viii – The ending of Rozi will leave a warm, fuzzy feeling inside you long after you are done watching it. It’s the perfect ending you could have to the story.

 + Low Points

i – Rozi consists of such a talented team of writers, actors, producers which makes it so frustrating to see that they “adapted” every scene, every dialogue from the film Tootsie. With all this effort, why could they have not just taken the premise of Tootsie and wrote original scenes and situational comedy around it? If you have already seen the Hollywood film, It is so utterly frustrating to know what is going to come next. In Urdu, one says:

“Nakal ke liye Akaal ki bhi zaroorat parhti hai!”

(To plagiarize, one still needs the smarts to pull it off!)

But why not just use the “smarts” to write something original instead?   

ii – The telefilm sadly feels incredibly low budget and cheap. The set design looks exceptionally dull and uninspiring. It’s obvious that absolutely no location scouting was done prior to the production of the telefilm. The team just arrived on location and had to shoot X number of scenes for the day. This approach unfortunately does no favours to all the hard work that the actors put into each scene.

iii – Director of Photography is pretty much non-existent. There is absolutely no skill involved. The lack of proper framing a shot, not bothering to set proper light exposure, the camera moves arbitrarily as it please, regardless if the scene requires it or not; the only successful task they managed to accomplish was press the ‘rec’ button on the camera.

iv – The production quality (for lack of a better word) sucks. Visually, the telefilm is hideous (and I’m not talking about the VHS quality of it which is currently uploaded online). I know I should go easy on it since it’s 30 years old but Tele dramas before Rozi have accomplished so much more so there clearly is no excuse for it.

v – The editing is god awful. The telefilm (or tele theater) has two minds whether to edit it like a theater play or a telefilm. And it fails on both aspects. It’s lethargic and sometimes lingers far too long on one shot. Did the editor fall asleep while working mid scene? 

+ Overall

Even after 30 years, Rozi is fondly remembered due to its stellar performances and comedic writing but the lack of proper production makes it at times hard to watch. But just for Moin Akthar’s iconic performance alone, Rozi is worth a go.

 Rate: 3.0 out of 5 stars