A hide-and-seek screenplay

Daniyal Zahid sees promise in Chupan Chupai

A hide-and-seek screenplay
Chupan Chupai sees the merger of two growing trends in Pakistani cinema: the comedy-heist genre and an increasing slating of the politicians. Considering the overall political environment, which many believe is the major source of entertainment in the country, the latter is definitely a formula for success – even if occasionally misplaced in movies, like Rangreza for instance.

In Chupan Chupai, the political angle is actually central to the film’s plot and also overlaps seamlessly with the heist genre, that has been made especially bankable in the local industry following the successes of the Na Maloom Afraad franchise, with the likes of Wrong No – whose writer Mohsin Ali has written and directed Chupan Chupai – also following the same track.

Neelam Muneer has completed her transition to films well, but suffers from her character being reduced to the periphery

In fact, like the first NMA, Chupan Chupai­– that is a remake of the Tamil hit Soodhu Kavvum – has joined the list of South Asian films inspired by Hera Pheri. NMA had a similar lead troika, while Chupan Chupai has Babu Bhai – the name of Paresh Rawal’s character in Hera Pheri– as the lead.

Chupan Chupai starts with a gang patching itself up amidst a string of coincidences, and struggles in life, deciding to earn money through low-profile kidnappings.

Babu (Ahsan Khan), Pari (Neelum Muneer), Koki (Ali Rizvi), Feddy (Zayed Sheikh) and Teeli (Vajdaan Shah), however, chance upon a bigger catch in Bobby (Faizan Khwaja), the son of minister Aijaz Durrani (Talat Hussain).

The final two meaningful characters are SHO Chaudhary (Adnan Jaffer) and Khan (Rehan Sheikh), playing the badass no-nonsense cop after the kidnappers, and a fixer vying to save the gang, respectively. There is a two scene cameo from Javed Sheikh as well as the leader of Aijaz Durrani’s party.

First things first, Chupan Chupai in many ways is a promising way for the Pakistani film industry to round off 2017. It has fresh ideas, new stars and clearly endeavours to achieve something different even in a genre that has become a bit of a go-to area for filmmakers in our neck of the woods.

That the acting is a clear strength of the film further adds substance to the filmmakers going with a cast that wasn’t familiar with the bigger screen. The storyline itself is solid, and keeps the interest levels high almost throughout the film.

But one can’t help but feel that despite working out well on so many fronts, Chupan Chupai had the potential to be so much more. It could’ve surpassed NMA in terms of the overall product, had the script’s intricacies been dealt with better and if it addressed the intermittent disconnect – if not loopholes – in the story.

As it turned out, the script itself plays hide and seek with the audience in how it spends a considerable amount of time presenting a quality storyline, but on other occasions falling off the track that it has so masterfully laid for itself. That the latter is less frequent than the former, makes it a more than decent watch, even without the now mandatory ‘for a Pakistani movie’ suffix.

Ahsan Khan, the only established star in the movie, is in complete character is absolutely smashing as Babu. Neelam Muneer has completed her transition to films well, but suffers from her character being reduced to the periphery.

While veteran Talat Hussain should need no critique, his character has its inconsistencies that dent the screenplay in the final quarter. But it’s Faizan Khwaja who perhaps shines the brightest and does more than anyone to enhance his reputation as a budding star, that could be banked to do a wide array of roles.

Chupan Chupai is a winner especially after a string of underwhelming Pakistani movies. That the film credits were preceded by ‘to be continued’ shows the confidence that the filmmakers had in the movie, and gives one the reason to look forward to an even better sequel.