A very close friend of mine got married last weekend, so I missed all three Pakistani releases. By all accounts, it looks as if apart from Pari, I didn’t miss much. So, when I got the invite for Azad, I was getting in cinema eager and energized. The film didn’t have an elaborated marketing plan. There were no dances on the street, no fire tricks on a truck. Nor did we see a well patterned social media campaign. Hell, we didn’t get complimentary popcorn at the premier. But what we did get was a decent film. One can’t ask for more.
The film is really ‘Azad’ from any genre. Is it a commentary on social issues? Is it a love story? Does it show how media works in Pakistan? Well, you can’t really box it. The brainchild of Rehan Sheikh, Azad doesn’t seem forced at no point. The pacing is a bit of a snag but the focus on dialogues, subtly of his communication and connecting everything to the base idea of the film more than make up for it. However, I’d much rather watch a slow film than a bad film. And Azad is definitely not a bad film!
The story revolves around Dani. He does a morning radio show, as the character of Azad. His show focuses on deep meaningful dialogue with the audience and fails to meet his ‘commercial’ obligations, bringing the wrath of his bosses in Saadia (Sanam Saeed) & PK Sher (Salman Shahid). However, he somehow manages to get out of difficult situations with his wit. In a rather ironic situation, he comes up with a new slogan for a certain brand & their ‘marketing’ guy presents it as a part of an elaborative strategy. Anyone with even little corporate experience will relate. Azad’s focus is on philosophical aid of his audience, but in doing so he burdens himself and starts to question the meaning of his own life.
His has built a bit of a fan following with his audience, which is portrayed nicely. The scene with Kiran (Nimra Bucha), odd one out, as it is loud and in your face, could have been better. There is a friend Billo, who discusses everything under the sun with Dani, but we don’t get to know much about him except that he ended an engagement with a cousin of Saadia (Sanam Saeed). Yes, the world is intermingled. Back to Dani, he had a girl friend who he loved dearly, Jia (Sabreen Hasbani). They had broken up 3 years ago (or hazar din ago in the song), and met accidently again. Their meeting for a day, is one of the most interesting part of the film. Their love for each other is evident yet concealed.
Do they get together? What has occurred in the last 3 years? Does ‘Azad’ manage to balance his personal drive for meaningful content vs commercial demands of radio? Does he find meaning to his life? I don’t like spoilers, so please go watch the film.
The background score deserves a special mention. Often they have used old Indian & Pakistani film songs, delightfully. All the actors are on their A game, with Salman Shahid and Sanam Saeed standing out especially. Salman Shahid communicates without speaking much in many scenes. Sanam Saeed is awkward, confused and communicative. Everything needed to be Saadia. All characters are linked to Azad and his pursuit of meaning to his life. There are lot of digs at how media operates in Pakistan. Portrayals of human nature which would make you relate and chuckle. The film is a risky project, and could have gone wrong easily. However, kudos to everyone involved, coming up with such a different film focused on content.
We are generous when bashing films when they bore us. So, it is only justified when film makers come out with a decent film, it is appreciated. This weekend, go watch Azad, if you like your films subtle & content oriented.