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.
- Directed by Abhishek Sharma
- Written by Abhishek Sharma
- Cinematography by Santosh Thundiyil
- Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
- Produced Pooja Shetty Deora and Aarti Shetty
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
- Ali Zafar as Ali Hassan
- Pradhuman Singh Mall as Noora / Osama Bin Laden
- Sugandha Garg as Zoya Khan
- Nikhil Ratnaparkhi as Gul
- Piyush Mishra as Majeed Khan
- Rahul Singh as Qureishi
- Seema Bhargav as Shabbo
+ Supporting Cast
- Barry John as Ted Wood (Ted-ji)
- Chirag Vohra as Lateef
- Chinmay Mandlekar as Usmaan
- Rajendra Sethi as Jamal Bhai (Travel agent)
- Harry Josh as Security guard
- Masood Akhtar as Goga from Rahim Yar Khan
- Sudipto Balav as an ISI agent
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.
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