Let’s face it; there aren’t a lot of people who went in expecting to see Baaji with high hopes. The trailer did a pretty perfect job of underlining how overdramatic Saqib Malik’s debut feature would be. What it did not do though, was hint at just how insane the film actually is.
The worst part about Baaji is really how much the film has to offer and yet how little it ends up delivering. There are flickers of something a bit more profound throughout the two-hour-long film. Sadly, the end product is the kind of trashy operatic nonsense that even our telefilms don’t bother making anymore.
Those expecting Baaji to be Meera’s big comeback wouldn’t be disappointed in the performance she’s given here. Like the Lollywood veteran’s real-life public persona, the role of Shameera is quite brash and pompous.
One can understand why the director has stated that he would not have made this film with any other starlet, given that the role is inherently inspired by her. But her role in this train wreck of a film doesn’t salvage Baaji in anyway but rather reminds you of why going to see a movie with Meera in a leading role was a bad idea to begin with.
From plot holes and some truly atrocious writing, to nonexistent character development, Baaji truly has the makings of one of the worst films to be captured in celluloid in recent times. Every time the director tries to “be woke”, such as trying to center the film on a strong female friendship, he ends up falling flat on his back.
Like Pinki Memsaab (which mind you, was a much superior film) the idea of featuring a bond between two women is sidelined by their clash, which only adds fuel to sexist notions about women. The idea that two women can only be threatened by each other’s success is an outdated theme that most of the popular media has outgrown. But outdated sadly appears to be what Malik was going for.
Every nook and cranny of the film is crammed with superficial, ludicrous characters whose whims change suddenly – Neha’s abusive brother’s turn as a supportive figure at the end of the movie is arguably one of the most bizarre turns in the entire film. Saqib Malik isn’t a good writer, and that shows from the laughable dialogues in the film to the overall story.
Had he left his concept in the hands of an actual screenwriter, Baaji could have been a thought-provoking exploration of one of the biggest Pakistani “divas” to ever exist. But Malik’s ineptitude is so great that he makes Baaji a film caught in an identity crisis.
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Not only is Baaji a look at the downsides of fame, it is also a drama about two women’s struggle in the face of ageism and poverty, a weird murder mystery, a romance and so much more. The writing aside, Baaji isn’t any bit better from an acting perspective. Amna Ilyas is reliable as ever and her agreeable turn as Neha is the film’s saving grace.
She is fierce when she needs to be and charming when she is asked to play meek. Basically, she’s doing all the heavy lifting in a cast where no one else can offer much. Meera is often striking at times but that isn’t too exciting when she is essentially playing herself.
Even then there are times when she is too loud even for a film as over the top as this one. The male characters and their respective actors aren’t given much to do and are mostly plotting against our heroines or needlessly brooding and being aggressive.
Osman Khalid Butt, who is given the meatiest role, is predictably amateurish in his performance, with neither the actor nor his corny character being a highlight. If anything, his ‘hero’ is one of the most cringe-worthy aspects of the entire film, with his cheap lines and romantic arc making the film weaker.
Some day we may very well get a good biopic on Meera, a good story of female comradeship, a great mystery and maybe even a great story about the golden days and figures of our old film industry. For now though, it’s better to spend your time elsewhere and escape the mediocrity of what is likely be the worst film of the year.