The man behind the camera in the most influential films of the last decade is back, and this time he is in the director’s chair. Yes, we are talking about ace cinematographer Rana Kamran who has debuted as a film director through S Syma’s VIP which was released this Eid ul Azha. It could easily have been a better film had it been without flaws but many things didn’t go in its way including being released with five other Urdu films, and a hero who had no clue what he was supposed to do.
The film is living proof that the cinema audience in Pakistan has evolved in recent years and wouldn’t accept a below-average actor as a leading man, no matter who he might be. Despite having an ensemble cast (except the hero and the heroine), the film couldn’t do well at the box office because the public chose not to part with their money for a film where the main lead was someone who came from nowhere and played the hero for no reason, giving weight to the fact that bad actors can drown a potential hit. This doesn’t mean that it was a bad film, because I enjoyed the movie in bits and pieces, and hope that its failure would help the director come back strongly, with a better cast and understanding of the game.
A loser with no background in anything Haris (Zach) is handpicked as future mayor by the elites of the city to become a pawn in their game, and even though his parents (played by Saife Hasan and Gul e Rana) believe that he would do the right thing, he does everything asked by his corrupt backers. However, when his girlfriend Natasha (Nimra) and his neighbors make him realize his mistake, he decides to rectify his missteps and go after his master Malik Ayaz (Ehteshamuddin) and his henchmen (Saleem Mairaj, and Akhtar Hasnain to name a few) so that he can turn all his countrymen into VIPs.
At times it helps when you go to watch a film with no expectations because if the film exceeds those expectations, it would be a bonus. The same thing happened to me in VIP where I had my doubts about the lead pair which was new, the director who had co-written the script with Saqib Zafar who was also the co-director of the film. However, the first surprise I got was in the form of Nimra, the film’s leading lady who outshone all the female characters in the movie with her impressive acting and the way she carried herself.
I was expecting an actress who would lack emotions, wouldn’t click with the lead actor, and even look like a misfit for the character but she proved me wrong in every way and I am sort of glad that she did. She was the saving grace of the film especially in songs and comic sequences, and her interactions with her own parents (Hina Rizvi, Akbar Islam) added to her girl-next-door charm.
The next surprise was Ehteshamuddin who did a brilliant job as Malik Ayaz, the tycoon who made people dance on his tunes. I am one of the fortunate ones who had seen Ehteshamuddin act in comedy plays on stage but to bring all that to films and then excel is something only he could have done.
Veteran actor Saleem Mairaj was excellent in his character as well as the lawyer who does Malik Sahab’s dirty work and watching him wear so many different kinds of suits on screen was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He usually plays a man with fewer wardrobe or a villain in films and here he broke that tradition. If Akhtar Hasnain gave you Sanjay Dutt vibes, then don’t be surprised because that’s exactly what he did. He was excellent in some scenes, especially the one where he assumes that he has the power to resurrect dead people.
One must also mention Irfan Motiwala here who was amazing in his role as a sidekick, although his character could have been explored more. With fresh foot-tapping dance numbers and impressive editing, lighting, and cameo appearances from Hani Taha, Zhalay Sarhadi, and Shaheen Khan, even the misses in the script seemed tolerable. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that this was Shani Arshad’s best soundtrack because it stays with the listeners once they exit the theatre.
The man who came up with the story or rather the amalgamation of Shah Rukh Khan’s Main Hoon Na, Chris Rock’s Head of State, and Anil Kapoor’s Nayak, plays the hero and that’s the one thing that takes the movie down, singlehandedly. The Zack chap reminds me of the time when influential people in the government would appear in TV dramas just because PTV folks couldn’t say no to them. However, that time has passed away and now if you can’t act, you shouldn’t act and that’s something Zach should realize.
It was his mere presence that made me appreciate the heroine Nimra and sidekick Irfan Motiwala more because all the attention was on them in the scenes when Zach was around. Had someone told him that the Govinda era is long gone and the ticket prices have gone up, he might have had second thoughts about playing the main lead but it seems no one told him. Add to that the bathroom jokes, the extended-for-no-reason school setting, and the length of the film and it all combines to tank a film that could have been a contender.
The Verdict - 3/5
Everything in the movie except the one flaw (the major one!) was spot on and it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that Rana Kamran would prove to be a good director in the future. However, he needs to realize the mistakes he made in VIP (just like the central character) and hope not to repeat them in the future.
By not straying away from the successful Nabeel Qureshi – Fizza Ali Meerza format, he did the right thing and if he keeps on working on his skills, the day when his Eid ul Azha release would become successful will not be far away. After all, he is no Na Maloom Afraad when it comes to films and was part of the very movie that brought back the viewers to the cinema.
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