In Review

Na Maloom Afraad

Published 27 Mar, 2015 01:38pm

Contemporary Pakistani cinema has started depicting the grave issues that confront our state and society. Most film-makers, however, follow a straightforward (and increasingly monotonous) method to voice concerns over human rights, terrorism, child marriage and other social and cultural issues. But not Nabeel Qureshi. His directorial debut, Na Maloom Afraad, is a cheeky, light-hearted comedy that manages to highlight the violence that plagues Karachi through colloquial humour and a relatively complex plot, giving audiences the laughter they needed this Eid.

Shakeel Bhai (Sheikh) is an honest man with a stutter, who doesn’t make much from his pickles business but has never done anything illegal in his life. One of his tenants, Farhan (Mustafa), is a struggling insurance agent who somehow manages to lose his job. His other tenant, Moon (Haider), intends to go to Dubai to make it big there but can’t get out of the daily grind.

All three of them need money urgently to solve their problems. To do so, they decide to trick the system as they run into Gogi Bhai, brilliantly played by the veteran Salman Shahid. The role, however, is too similar to his character in the recent Bollywood hit Dedh Ishqiya (2014) and, therefore, may not charm the viewers much. The transformation of Shakeel Bhai, Farhan and Moon from three ordinary struggling Karachi-wallahs to na maloom afraad (a vernacular term meaning troublemakers) compels the viewer to reassess how the media represents crime and violence in the city.

Qureshi’s genius lies in his perfect coupling of gunshots, bloodied corpses and roads full of burning vehicles with acerbic wit, subtle innuendos and everyday humour. It is because of its vernacular appeal that Na Maloom Afraad, despite being similar in its overall storyline (and even in some of the details such as the conversations on rooftops and the casting of two youngsters and an elderly man) to Bollywood hits such as C Kkompany and Hera Pheri, does not give off the vibe of yet another replica of a hit Indian movie.

The soundtrack is melodious but the songs are shot in typical Bollywood fashion. The song Darbadar instantly reminds one of Mein Pareshaan from Ishaqzaade and the song Phur Phur of Chappar Phaar Ke from Hera Pheri. Women in the film contribute only insignificantly to the plot and have one-dimensional characters, unlike their male counterparts who carry the weight of the narrative. Yet this does not undermine the strength of Na Maloom Afraad which is a film that has succeeded in setting a precedent for film-makers to follow.