Skip to main content

OP-ED: What’s In A Name(sake)?


First Published in Daily Times / 2 Sep 2013

A beloved cricketer’s name adorns the billboards but this is not a biopic. The cricketing world it allegedly represents provides a compelling front but it will not be a return to his old stomping grounds. Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (MHSA) draws upon a living legend’s legacy to leverage the passion and throws in a cameo or two, but that is the extent of Afridi’s involvement. Meanwhile, somewhere in a small little village, a disgraced cricketer turned coach who trains a rag tag team will be moved centre-field. And the one thing that binds the nation together and provides the soulful soundtrack will become the anchor.

The newly minted flight is bound for cricket-ville and in some parts of the world that is reason enough to join in the festivities. Humayun Saeed, seen at the helm wearing a number of hats as the producer/actor enlists the classic underdog formula to launch his ambitious vision. The village club is in danger of being shut down, and must pin its hopes on a motley crew of dreamers, drifters and down on their luck celebrity cricketers including Afridi’s namesake, played by Noman Habib.

The filmmakers who work in contrasting colours of Pakistani society ensure that viewers stay invested in the journey by harnessing that energy native to the region. At times they can go a little overboard and scenes, however brief, designed for global consumption will leave many bewildered. They can be forgiven for summoning elements of escapist fantasy but not for setting the oldies in frat party mode, which will the rest cold.

Nevertheless, there are several reasons to root for this maiden venture. The way it tries to bring inter-faith harmony into the fold using the rivalry between a lovable Pathan fast bowler (Hamza Abbasi) and Michael Magnet (Ainan Arif), the brave Christian wicket keeper, for instance. The way it enlists a simple premise to explore the uneven terrain or make an ordinary carnival dazzle. And, the way it calls upon the land of sporting goods to hone in on the echoes of greatness in the mean streets of Sialkot.

The outlines, while not exactly cerebral, are striking and cultural markers have been liberally used to stock the stage with colourful banners and uplifting messages. Veterans like Javed Sheikh, Nadeem, Seemi Raheel and Shafqat Cheema occasionally loom in view and Summer Nicks — writer/producer of Seedlings, an award winning film — makes an appearance as the Islamabad coach. Ismail Tara outshines most as the club owner because there is no distracting camera work or ghostly chants of “Seeth Sahib Seeth Sahib” to mar his performance.

Sentimentality powers the core and sporting movie tropes merrily line its shores. With its engaging storyline (credit: Vasay Chaudhry) and careful casting, MHSA does its best to honour the game, and bar a few melodramatic missteps, stays on track. Its true appeal lies not within the gleaming citadels that lie beyond the reach of many but in the beautiful alliances forged on the field of dreams. The stereotypes are inescapable but have been gracefully handled for the most part.

That said, a black and white palette has been dusted off painting villains blacker than night and heroes with a touch of ‘man of steel’, invoking that suspension of disbelief. Also, wrapping our man Magnet in rosaries or surrounding him with crosses when his religion has already been established is uncalled for. As are the breaks in momentum with those flash sideways to the sick mother, disapproving father, or delirious sister. Granted these back-stories are needed to establish the stakes along with the challenges faced by these heroic youngsters but these side trips in the midst of a nail-biting clash of the desi Titans adversely affects the pacing. Fortunately for them, the gaming bits make up for these missed cues.

MHSA has been filmed on location and offers some breathtaking scenery. None-too-subtle messages of unity, faith, discipline beckon from every corner but a land darkened by conflict could always do with a reminder. Then there are song and dance sequences considered a staple for Pakistani film industry that have been used sparingly. With such a powerful core, the movie does not need to conjure the usual line up of suspects to keep interest from flagging. Nor should it be compelled to test the perimeters of good taste merely to generate publicity for that matter.

That a few characters get short changed is inevitable given the narrow scope. Neither the sister nor the wife is allowed to emerge from the shadows. One patiently waits to be rescued from her circumstances and lets her disability define her, not exactly a role model. Viewers can imagine the purgatory coach Akbar lived in for 15 years after losing his wife and child to the scandal that ended his career but how his estranged wife spent that time and if she made something of her life — join the family business perhaps — is not clear. All this could have been covered in one revelatory flashback instead of a revealing vignette.

A few technical glitches aside, a series of well crafted shots manage to send a jolt of life through a parched landscape and encourage misty eyed viewers to cheer on the Sialkot Shaheens anytime they stumble into the frame. Which they do often since Cricket season hits theatres from August 2013 onwards.

This is an ARY Films and Mandviwalla Entertainment presentation, directed by S Ali Raza Usama.

Image 1 Link:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: How It Happened

Published in Daily Times / Sat 9 Feb 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Author: Shazaf Fatima Haider

Thanks to Liberty Books for the (temp) review copy

Gwendolen: I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . .”
-
The Importance of being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)


Characters chasing ‘happily ever after’s’ are often pulled aside by enterprising elders who try to flag all but the most traditional road to the altar. A fiendishly funny narrative pounces on the retreating figure of Cupid and explores his cultural relevance in the sport they call match-making.

The saga of the Bandian clan comes with a perpetually scandalized, formidable old lady fiercely protective…

Analysis: Survival in the Age of Information Warfare

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistani troops recently rescued a US - Canadian family that had been captured in Afghanistan in 2012 and held hostage for 5 years. International media headlines however were not all laudatory; they editorialized, and dabbled in innuendos undermining a successful mission and the men who risked their lives to bring the captives home. This is not the first time the West glossed over an ally’s achievements. And it will not be the last, since negative spin is invaluable for propping up pre-prepared narratives, advancing agendas; shaping perceptions, reinforcing stereotypes, driving ratings and controlling the message.

Because dictatorships do not have monopoly over information warfare – everyone has a dog in the race and the fake news juggernaut appears unstoppable in the age of social media and instant messaging. And while traditional methods remain relevant in the game of deception, the advent of social media has only expanded their reac…

Analysis: Pakistan’s Contributions for the Uplift of Afghan People

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistan and Afghanistan have history. And it is not all good. They have a shared border – though its legality has been contested. They also managed to forge a united front against the Soviets and achieved the impossible. It is a rare moment of solidarity and teamwork.

The final round of the Cold War fought in the badlands of Afghanistan altered the timeline since then and as the Afghan state veered off course – the impact was felt on neighboring nations. It led to an influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the emergence of Taliban, the fracturing of the Afghan socio-political structure and opened a breach in the global security.

All this is in the past.

Pakistan and Afghanistan may have been brothers in arms with shared borders and traditions and historical ties, but despite their time spent in the trenches, Pakistan’s economic value as a trade portal for a landlocked region or its place as host to millions of refugees and the biggest s…

BOOK REVIEW: DIARIES OF FIELD MARSHAL MOHAMMAD AYUB KHAN 1966-1972

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
PUBLISHED IN THE POST AUG 29, 2007

Books allow people to have their say. Diaries express what they actually meant. Therefore, every prominent personality must stray from the path of political correctness and leave behind a diary. One way to regain an insight into the defining moments of our history post ‘65 War would be through the diaries of Pakistan’s first military ruler and first C-in-C, Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan, who also authored the book, ‘Friends. Not Masters’. The personal lives of public figures are always intriguing; while their contemporaries indict/acquit them on consequences of their actions, diaries give individuals a rare shot at swaying the upcoming generation of juries. Recorded during the uneasy calm before an inevitable storm brewing on the Eastern horizon and Indian front, the entries, spanning 7 years from September 1966 - October 1972, are replete with shrewdness and candor of a narrator who observed the events initially as a key player…

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

Analysis: Afghanistan – An Actual Safe Haven – Part I

Published Global Affairs / Dec 2017?

The longest war is going according to plan; but whose plan exactly?
Not Washington - bogged down in a never-ending nightmare. Or Kabul - besieged and battered, barely holding its head above water. Not Pakistan, a frontline state suffering blowback and living under the weight of America’s expectations - and uncalled for accusations. The dramatic shifts in the geostrategic dynamics are not reflected in Washington’s stance towards Islamabad nor are they inclined towards the multiplayer great game unfolding in the backdrop with Russians, Iranians, Taliban, Indians, Chinese, ISIS and its Coalition forces.

Mission Rebuild Afghanistan

In the backdrop are nations used as pawns to keep Cold War allies or emergent threats in check. On the side are non-state actors wielded as weapons to thwart ambitions and counter bigger threats like ISIS. And at the centre is a strategy that offers a patchwork quilt of something old, something new, something borrowed to s…

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…