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Pakistani films finally delving into superhero territory isn’t surprising. Comic book-based superhero films is practically the bread and butter of Hollywood nowadays so the decision to turn some well-known Pakistani actors into our own local heroes is an idea that could have translated well on screen. Unfortunately, director Nadir Shah’s Project Ghazi falls short of being anything more than a misfire.
Project Ghazi centers on a team of scientists working with the Pakistan Army to develop super-soldiers. Leading the charge is Syra Shehroz’s Zara Iftikhar, a scientist/investigator whose poorly defined character runs out of steam before the film even reaches its second act. We also have tech expert Dilawar (Adnan Qureshi) who is given a few cringe-worthy lines in what is the film’s attempt at humor. Also present are soldiers Salar and Zain, played by Saeed and Munawar, while the former can deliver a few good scenes here and there, Munawar looks lost and wooden in much of the film.
Munawar’s relationship with his father (or lack thereof) as well as his uncle Dr. Zain (Talat Hussain) is a significant plot point in the film, but while we are told this back-story for some unfathomable reason, it has little bearing over the overall story. Adnan Jaffar’s Qataan is also shown as a masked villain hell-bent on causing a ruckus with no apparent motive and all the time in the world.
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Qataan seems like the brainchild of a prepubescent Christopher Nolan fan. He is clearly a horribly written and realized version of the Batman villain Scarecrow, mixed with Bane, and once you pick up on that, it is hard not to see Project Ghazi as a humiliating attempt at recreating a localized version of Nolan’s Batman films. We’ve seen several one-dimensional villains in Pakistani cinema, but you would be hard-pressed to find another bad guy so singularly incoherent and nonsensical.
The film’s wardrobe is perhaps the sole savior of the movie as the cast, with lead actors Humayun Saeed, Sheheryar Munawar and Syra Shehroz all looking striking in their super-soldier garb. And if I am to point out a few redeeming features in this disaster of a film, then I can at least say that at times it looked pretty.
This was mostly due to a handsome cast who mainly made the most that they could of the mediocre script and while there is nothing about Project Ghazi that is remotely enjoyable, at the end of the day fans can reassure themselves with the thought that at least we have some talented actors working today even if the films they are being offered are supremely subpar.
I’ve often been told to be more forgiving to our fledging Pakistani film industry, but movies like Project Ghazi are the reason why that is simply absurd. Project Ghazi’s biggest problem isn’t that it lacks the budget and razzle-dazzle of American movies, or that its action scenes aren’t as spectacular as the ones from Bollywood or Hollywood. Project Ghazi is a calamity because it is a film based on an absurd script, edited incompetently, and sewn together without any rationale by a novice director.
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We’ve seen better-developed characters in Commander Safeguard cartoons than this. And sure, one can praise the filmmakers for opting to go a more unconventional route with a superhero film in Pakistan, but even that seems too polite considering how half-hearted their attempt is here. Project Ghazi is a soulless disjointed mess from beginning to end, jinking from one idiotic subplot to another without ever properly bothering to explain what the hell is going on.
Asking for some semblance of comprehensibility from a film is not too tall an order, and yet it seems too daunting a task for this movie. Ghazi is so desperate for an audience to take it seriously that it forgets that the main reason people love superhero films is that they are mostly just fun to watch.
The movie’s insistence on us treating it seriously, is frankly all the more aggravating when it becomes clear at the end of its run time, that the film has absolutely nothing to say. Project Ghazi had been beset by setbacks for years since it released, and upon viewing the film, it is hard not to relish the sunny days when it appeared as if the movie was never going to come out at all.