There are film makers who believe in realism and those who work to create magic on screen, irrespective of the relatability of what is being portrayed on the screen. Saqib Malik, the director Baaji is certainly would feature in the latter group. Baaji, is an amalgamation of purana Lollywood and naya Lollywood. The story is about stars and those who aspire to be like them. Dreams, heart breaks, jealously, dances/mujras in towels, nighties, saries, and more; Baaji in short has a lot of offer.
But to fully enjoy this extravaganza, you have to entirely succumb and submit to this story. It’s not a world most of us have seen with a galaxy of stars. The film has a dozen special appearance (none just of the sake of it tbh). The mixing of the old and the new, has given way to something unique. Baaji isn’t your pre 2013-era Pakistani film, and it is not fully a 2019 film. This is the flavour it offers, whole heartedly.
Shameera, is an ageing Lollywood star, whose time has gone by. Yet she insists on holding onto her past self. There is constant self-doubt, need for validation but to camouflage it, is an exterior of anger, and fury.
Introduction of Neha (Amna Illyas) breaks that brash outer layer in Shameera, and we see someone who is vulnerable and lost. A worker at a local parlour, Neha has her own battles to fight. A burden of a religious brother who needs money for his rickshaw’s installments, a young sister who has dreams and a worrying mother. Her go to person is Ajji (Mohsin Abbas Haider), a street smart mobile shop owner and her ‘lover’. A fan of Shameera, Neha with certain (convenient) turn of events ends up managing her career and she channelizes all her love, rage and energy in reinstating Shameera position in the industry.
Crucially, she pushes away the vultures, who want Shameera to enter the C-grade stage play scene. The sleazy agent Chand Kamal (Nayyer Ejaz), Nisho begum playing a greedy elder sister/mentor for Shameera and Remy (Ali Kazmi) I-will-control-you-because-I-love-you type boyfriend. To bolster this upward trend further, enters Rohail Khan (Osman Khalid Butt). A US return film maker, whose yet to be released film is titled ‘Thief of Hearts’, is now in Pakistan looking to make his dream project. Certain events pan out, a few borrowed from Meera’s real life, some made up. In this insular world (thanks to the writing by Saqib Malik and Irfan Ahmed Urfi), everyone is connected yet apart. The film ends up being a murder mystery. As I said earlier, there is a lot going on here.
Both actresses have played their role to perfection. It’s a role tailor made for Meera. Amna, also impresses with her gradual transformation. For Shameera and Neha, at least initially there is genuine affection between the two. I wished we had seen more on that relationship. Ali Kazmi, who is now perfected the role of being an abusive fiancée/husband (remember Motorcycle girl and drama Baaghi), is also on point. An entitled brat, who is determined to get what he wants. We have seen the type. Nayyar Ejaz, is spot on with his sleazy character, especially his entry scene would have you in a hoot. His character, however is more talk less action. Mohsin Abbas Haider, should really be getting a film of his own. Even is a small role, he is brilliant. While, Osman Khalid Butt does the part, he isn’t as convincing as the others. It’s a tight enough script to pull off a murder mystery without leaving any lose ends. Yes, the script there are certain subplots which could be termed convenient and some unnecessary.
Having said, one cannot say that even the smaller characters are not fleshed out. This makes the film engaging. We want to believe in the dream of Neha, Ajji, Shameera, and Rohail. With Suleman Razzaq’s cinematography too, you’d be hard pressed to find any errors. Wahab Shah and Nigah Hussain’s choreography is decent too, especially the ‘disco song’, which most Pakistani film makers mess up. The music especially couple songs by Hania Aslam, are worth listening too.
It’s a world where people drive vintage cars in pristine condition, newspaper is named sholay, casting is done in narrow Lahore lanes and people still genuinely care about a much maligned super star’s marriage. Baaji, is an unabashed Saqib Malik creation. Glamourous, engaging but a peculiarly different world!