With The Legend of Maula Jatt, Pakistani cinema has arrived on the world stage. Released worldwide on October 13, 2022, The Legend of Maula Jatt is a reboot of classical Maula Jatt made in 1979. It is smashing global box office records for any Pakistani film. It is written and directed by Bilal Lashari whose only previous film Waar also set new box-office records in the country and is produced by a first-time producer Ammara Hikammat.
The big-budget film is a labor of love for the filmmakers. The top-notch production quality and a star-studded cast featuring Pakistan’s top stars with a global following made sure to attract the viewers to the film. The film cast includes Fawad Khan as Maula Jatt and Hamza Ali Abbasi as Noori Natt as the two archenemies. Humaima Malik plays the role of Daaro Nattni, the villainous sister of Noori Natt. Whereas Pakistan’s most well-known film face globally, Mahira Khan plays MukkhoJatti, the love interest of Maula Jatt adding an element of romance and happiness to an otherwise dark and gruesome film.
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A golden time for Pakistani cinema?
More importantly, The Legend of Maula Jatt is a Punjabi language film, the most spoken language in the country. Punjabi Cinema had a glorious past before its decline in the 1990s. While Punjabi is a regional language in the country and there were concerns about it limiting the interest of the film to the Punjabi audience only, the film proves that those concerns were invalid and ill-founded. Maula Jatt is a visually strong film and doesn’t have long dialogues. However, the dialogues themselves are written by the writer of the original film (199), Nasir Adib, and were remarkable.
Regional cinema in the neighboring country India is also outperforming Bollywood films in recent years. The success of The Legend of Maula Jatt is likely to bring this trend in Pakistan as well where most of the films are produced in Karachi in Urdu, the country’s national language.
The film has been best described by The Guardian as “Game of Thrones meets Gladiator” (GoT). The reference to GoT and Gladiator doesn’t mean that the film tries to copy them. Though, the in-house fight for the throne in the Natt clan and the prize fighting in the “Maut Ka Khuwaan” (Well of Death) in rural Punjab gave the GoT and Gladiator vibes. However, the treatment and all the elements in the film remain true to the culture of the land of Punjab.
What makes this film bring Pakistani cinema onto the world stage is its stronger performance in the overseas markets. Second, this strong performance is also made possible by a wider South Asian diaspora, other than Pakistanis. On October 13, it was already the widest international release of a Pakistani film but the positive word of mouth and a solid run of the film in North America, the United Kingdom, the Gulf, Australia and other key markets with large South Asian diaspora have compelled exhibitors to increase its screens. The movie has done a mammoth 1 Billion business in its first 10 days.
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The most remarkable aspect of film’s business may not be this number but the fact that the overseas markets have contributed more than 70 percent to its total box office tally. Domestic collections of the film could have been even better if a few cinema chains had also released it in the country. The indifference between the distributors and exhibitors over the profit formula led to a stalemate between them.
New domestic box office records are also made by the film
Moreover, the treatment given to the film itself was on par with any major Hollywood film. The VFX, sound quality, cinematography, actions, and all the other technical aspects of the film are praiseworthy. The screenplay of the film is crisp and tight. Towards the end of the first half of the film, there were many scenes for the mid-half climax where one could expect the interval, but the film goes on increasing the expectations.
The second half of the film delivers more than expected. It is the second half where we get to see Maula Jatt and Noori Natt come face to face. It keeps audiences glued to their seats and sometimes at their edges till the end and gets claps of appreciation from them. Apart from protagonist Maula Jatt, the villainous Natt-duo surprises the audience and the supporting cast members also shine in their respective roles.
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The film can be termed brave and bold. It has brought Pakistani cinema to notice in the international market. It is also set to release in China on a large-scale making way for more Pakistani movies in the Chinese market. However, more quality productions would be needed to sustain this global success.
The writer is a Research Officer at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS). The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.