Chhalawa: We Watched It So You Don’t Have to

Does Chhalawa, a smorgasbord of filmmaking and artistic choices, represent everything that is wrong about our local movies today?


For some time now Pakistani filmmakers and media have been patting themselves on the back for seemingly reviving the entertainment industry. The resurgence of interest in Pakistani content has certainly proved to be beneficial for our cinema which is on track to once again, trying to thrive and return to its glory days.

And while this cause for celebration certainly feels earned, it’s also time to honestly start addressing factors which are detrimental to the growth of our budding film industry. This brings me to Wajahaut Rauf’s Eid release, the Mehwish Hayat and Azfar Rehman starrer, Chhalawa, a smorgasbord of filmmaking and artistic choices that represent everything that is wrong about our local movies today.

Essentially, Chhalawa is a single comedic gag that has been forcibly stretched thinly for two hours. The result is perhaps the worst of his three recent ventures. That’s clearly saying something given that the director has never succeeded to have a fine grasp over the RomCom genre that isn’t childishly stupid.

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For all their issues (and they had plenty), Karachi Se Lahore and Lahore Se Aagey at least brought something new to the table by just being road trip films. Here, all of Rauf’s worst tendencies are on display, including, but not limited to: a paper thin witless plot, characters that exist to serve a singular purpose and are caricatural to the fault, and actors who seem to have been encouraged to overact.

Lead actors Mehwish Hayat and Azfar Rehman, who Rauf directed together in his mediocre series for Indian streaming service Eros Now, seem content with the lackluster offerings the director keeps throwing their way. In Chhalwa, Hayat plays Zoya, a small town girl living in a big haweeli, who gets swept off her feet by a city boy, Sameer (Rehman), and has to find a way to disentangle herself from her impending nuptials to her cousin that her father has forced her into.

I could explain the plot in more detail but given how cartoonish the whole affair is, you’re better off not knowing in order to maintain some interest in the film. There are plenty of loopholes in the plot and despite what Rehman and Hayat seem to think, overacting will not save the film.

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From Rehman, this is frankly expected, given that as good a television host he has shown himself to be, he has never quite proven himself to be a good actor, but Hayat’s (and essentially the entire cast’s) over the top performance makes one think that this was Rauf’s directive but, sadly, one that doesn’t do the film any favours. There are also groan-worthy clichéd choices in the way the song and dance numbers come about.

No explanation is given as to why they’re happening or why is our lead, Zoya, suddenly in the middle of the field dancing with a dozen villagers. The film seems to very pointedly invoke the older Lollywood era but it seems quite stupefied in how to pay homage to it, instead claiming its worst practices as its own. From oversimplified, hokey characters, to the faux “Punjabiness” of it all, nothing rings true about this film.

Adnan Shah Tipu and Mehmood Aslam, who have proven themselves to be powerhouse actors in the past, don’t get to show off their considerable talents, with the film giving them the clichéd and annoying movie roles one would expect from a below average masala film.

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Zara Noor Abbas and Aashir Wajahat managed to have somewhat meatier characters,  yet still very forgettable once you step out of the cinema. The music is a tad bit more satisfying than other parts of the film, like everything else, even the song and dance numbers aren’t exactly great but the choreography and Hayat’s performance in them is passable.

All in all, Chhalawa is the kind of disappointing film that is unlikely to win hearts and appeal to cinemagoers. With loud performances, cringe-worthy gags and lines that would make anyone want to run a stake through their hearts, you’re better off seeing Chhalawa when it eventually finds its way on YouTube rather than paying for it.

Usama Masood Ahmad is an entertainment writer and research analyst at Global Village Space. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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