Sherdil: Fails to fly!

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Usama Masood Ahmad |

There is a lot to talk about Azfar Jafri’s Sherdil; sadly, very little of it is in the film’s favor. Jafri has competently directed films in the past and while some have lacked the punched they needed to work (Siyah), some of his other endeavors have had enough masala in them to be watchable (Parchi, Janaan).

Sherdil is easily among his weakest films to come out in some time. The film not only is poor in character development and story but surprisingly in direction too. It doesn’t help that much of the cast seems to be pointedly acting badly as if trying their hardest to do their part in sinking this already wobbly ship.

The film’s first act is passable, it introduces characters without really setting up any arcs for most of them but in terms of giving us an idea of what these characters are like, the movie does its job. Sherdil wasting its time on comedy is strangely reminiscent of another Pakistan Air Force movie, Parwaaz Hai Junoon. While that particular movie didn’t always soar, it certainly had more memorable characters and better acting than Sherdil, which quietly adjusts your expectations to a low at the beginning and somehow gets worse as it progresses.

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The movie revolves around a very ham-fisted Mikaal Zulfiqar play Haris, an aspiring fighter pilot who rises among the ranks to become a hero. His father’s disapproval of his choice of profession is a major theme in the movie and their relationship is one of the many arcs the film throws into the mix. The parents being super protective of their child because they’ve personally been affected by the tragedy of war is one of the more digestible arcs in the movie. What doesn’t work in any shape or form is the needless romantic subplot with Armeena Khan’s Sabrina.

Their love story is neither original nor compelling and is further anchored down by the lack of chemistry between the two actors. The forced love triangle makes their already weak relationship all the more unbearable. Both Mikaal and Armeena have given some memorable performances before so it is jarring how badly they mess up here.

Khan is especially poor and seems to be flat out reading lines in what is easily the worst performance of her career. She isn’t helped by poor writing from screenwriter Noman Khan who writes characters that do little but spit out nonsensical mumbo jumbo about freedom and the country.

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His one-dimensional characters, (of course there is a cowardly Sikh, a burger boy from Islamabad and a “paindu” Punjabi) often serve little to no purpose, and are caricaturized and stereotyped for the sake of adding diversity and comedy. Naturally, he isn’t successful in that particular endeavor as well.

The scenes with Hassan Niazi’s Indian flight lieutenant Arun Veerani could actually have been wonderfully tense but bad lines, editing, and direction make you quickly lose all interest in Veerani and more importantly, about our main characters too.

Hassan’s character is the films’ most complex one and yet the film only introduces him in the third act. In light of the February events that transpired after India crossed the Line of Control, Sherdil actually had a shot to be more relevant than ever. Sadly it squanders all of that by focusing on less important storylines.

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The film’s Pakistan versus India portion lacks any spice and it’s unfortunate that instead of shedding a light on the complex history between the two countries, the film chooses to go for the simple option of crafting a cartoon villain out of India. The action is at times impressive but mostly it’s sparse and ineffective, especially in the pivotal third act where it really needs to shine.

Elsewhere, there isn’t a lot that’s remarkable about Sherdil. The poor editing and mediocre music don’t enhance the movie-going experience in any way. But Sherdil’s biggest downfall remains how its writer has seemingly thrown a couple of different ways to approach this story into the blender without focusing on anyone properly, making for a messy, inelegant, and unsatisfactory movie. Sherdil may promise thrills, but those looking for a film that really soars would be well advised to check out Laal Kabootar.

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.