With high expectations in mind I walked into the theater to watch the internationally recognized Pakistani boxer Syed Hussain Shah’s biopic – and there wasn’t a single moment when the film let me down.
Sans any glamour and melodrama, it beautifully narrates the tale of a legendary sportsman who rises from slums of Lyari to be the Olympic champion.
Shah really is indeed the precious gift from novice actor/director Adnan Sarwar for Pakistani audience on this Independence Day which will set the standard for others to follow.
When I first heard about this film I couldn’t stop comparing it with Priyanka Chopra starrer Bollywood flick ‘Mary Kom’(Indian biopic of female boxer), but after watching ‘Shah’ I stand corrected as it is impossible to draw comparisons between the two.
While the Bollywood flick primarily relied on commercial elements, the strength of ‘Shah’ is in its story. The film packs a real punch with its well written script and mind blowing performances.
The film opens with a young journalist unearthing the story behind the unsung boxer hero Syed Hussain Shah. Her search introduces us to a lone rag picker whose lives on the footpath of Karachi’s overly neglected region Lyari.
Shah meets his mentor, the kind hearted Karim baba, on the streets of Lyari and he helps him to find his passion for boxing. The poor kid grows up as a daring fighter who makes the nation proud by winning several prestigious championship titles.
Unfortunately, the nation doesn’t treat him well and he is left alone to face the hardship of real life. At one point, he decides to sell his gold medals to buy medicines for Karim baba, but find it is of no use as the medals turned out to be fake. The corrupt government officer not only devoids Shah of his rights, he also got hold of the land that was awarded to Shah, forcing him to go back to his poverty-stricken life.
Being the fighter that he is, Shah faced all hardships with courage and when given the chance, he again proves what he is made of. He goes to London to fight not only to win money, but to prove to the world that talent never dies.
What I loved about the movie:
High on patriotism, the film has several moments where the love of the legendary sportsman for his country brings tears to everyone's eyes. When Shah won a championship title against India in Calcutta, people in the theatre took it as their own success and stood up in the honor of the national anthem being played in the background. Again when Shah won the Olympics title, the audience in cinema celebrated his success with claps and whistles.
As far as performances are concerned, everyone did complete justice to their roles, whether it junior Shah, or Ghulab Chandio as Karim baba. For me however, the star of the night was Adnan Sarwar who stole the plaudits with his superb acting. The guy had undergone strenuous training for months before essaying the role of a boxer in the film. Seeing him fighting like a professional in rings further confirms that hard work always pays off.
My heart ached seeing Sarwar teary-eyed while giving interview after a successful tour in Seoul. He couldn’t control his emotions and pleaded with the authorities to give Lyariities their due rights.
As a director the young man has worked on the minutest details related to the movie, which further adds value to the script. The news bulletin reminds me of PTV’s khabarnamas which used to air at 9:00pm every day. Even the anchor had striking similarities with yesteryear's famous newscaster, Saba Faisal.
The movie transported the audience to old times with Shah’s friends trying to fix the antenna to watch his match on TV and poor Karim baba sitting in front of the radio to stay updated with the latest developments of the match. Newspaper clippings and video records were used to give a realistic touch to everything.
Rightly pointed towards the corrupt government setup that prevails in Pakistan, the films shows the harsh realities of our society. The corrupt government official makes an illiterate sportsman a fool with his shrewd tactics. When the poor guy asked for his rights he was thrown out of the office. The film shows the miseries of the overly neglected region of Karachi, Lyari, and the circumstance which forces youngsters to fall into clutches of criminal gangs and activities.
Syed Hussain Shah’s life is a living testament to the popular phrase, 'try, try till you succeed.' The guy doesn’t lose hope and keeps on trying till he achieves what he wants from life.
Shah is a must watch and will make you fall in love with Pakistan once again with its flawlessly executed script, the many patriotic moments, and fabulous performances by the entire cast.