There is a lot to talk about Azfar Jafri’s Sherdil; sadly, very little of it is in the film’s favour. Jafri has competently directed films in the past and while some lacked the punch they needed to succeed, Siyaah, for instance, some of his other endeavours have had enough masala to be considered well worth watching such as Parchi, and Janaan.
Sherdil is easily among his weakest films to come out in some time. The film not only lacks in story and presentation of characters but surprisingly in direction too. It does not help the viewer much when the cast too seems to be acting badly.
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.
The at times unwanted comedy in Sherdil is strangely reminiscent of another Pakistan Air Force movie Parwaaz Hai Junoon. While that particular movie did not always soar, it certainly had more memorable characters and better acting. Sherdil, on the other hand, quietly adjusts your expectations to a low at the beginning and somehow gets worse as it progresses.
The action is at times impressive but mostly it is sparse and ineffective, especially in the pivotal third act where it really needed to shine.
The movie revolves around a very ham-fisted Mikaal Zulfiqar play Haris, an aspiring fighter pilot who rises through 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 have personally been affected by the tragedy of war is one of the more digestible arcs in the movie. What does not work is the needless romantic subplot with Sabrina played by Armeena Khan.
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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 further unbearable. Both Mikaal and Armeena have given some memorable performances before so it is jarring how badly they messed up here.
The film not only lacks in story and presentation of characters but surprisingly in direction too.
Khan is especially poor and seems to be flat out reading lines in what is easily the worst performance of her career. She is not helped by poor a poor script from screenwriter Noman Khan who writes characters that do little but spit out nonsensical mumbo jumbo about freedom and the country.
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 is not successful in that particular endeavour as well.
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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 and yet the film only introduces him in the third act.
Mikaal and Armeena have given some memorable performances before so it is jarring how badly they messed up here.
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 it all by focusing on less important storylines.
The film’s Pakistan versus India portion lacks any spice and it is unfortunate that instead of shedding 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.
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The action is at times impressive but mostly it is sparse and ineffective, especially in the pivotal third act where it really needed to shine. Elsewhere, there is not a lot that is remarkable about Sherdil.
The poor editing and mediocre music do not enhance the movie-going experience in any way. But Sherdil’s biggest downfall remains how its writer has seemingly squandered the opportunity to approach the story in different ways.
The writer has failed to focus, 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.