Teefa, the troublemaker

Daniyal Zahid reviews the recent release that has been mired in off-screen controversy

Teefa, the troublemaker
After a series of Bollywood films that garnered mixed results, Ali Zafar’s Lollywood debut is exactly how one would have thought it would be: focused in its entirety on the man in the lead.

Having produced Teefa In Trouble – a film that was in the works in various shapes and forms for a good part of four years – himself, Ali Zafar has clearly made the most of this opportunity. He appears to want to create a portfolio for himself to be pitched to other (mainly Bollywood) filmmakers.

The film quite loudly self-identifies as an entertainer, and it does in large parts succeed in maintaining its billing without showcasing anything particularly spectacular in its writing

The film is the Lollywood equivalent of some of the Salman Khan movies this decade – recent release Race 3 for example – where the film’s aim is to maximise the screen time for the star actor, putting pretty much everything else on the backburner.

In fact, that action is a clear forte of Teefa In Trouble also fits that particular billing, as Ali Zafar and in turn the film, battle off-screen controversy.

Even so, the reiteration that the film is all about Ali Zafar isn’t underlined here as a flaw. The point is just to spell out what in all truth what was evident in the film’s trailer as well.

More than being in trouble, Teefa (Ali Zafar) is a troublemaker, with goon being his obvious professional tag. Butt Sahab (Mehmood Aslam) hires his services to kidnap Anya (Maya Ali), who is Bonzo’s (Javed Sheikh) daughter. Bonzo happens to be Butt Sahab’s friend, and that’s how the circle is completed.

Maya Ali

Without divulging where the storyline moves from here, what you might need to know is the fact that the story itself is the subplot for the product that the filmmakers bring forward. Hence, the film would be judged – for better or worse – for other elements.

With significant chunks shot in Poland, the visuals of the film are unlike anything seen in Lollywood. The cinematography is one of the strengths of the film, and one major reason why those who would want to watch the movie might prefer to do so at the cinema right now and not wait for it to be released elsewhere down the line.

Building on the visual strength, the action sequences in the movie are impressively choreographed as well. And it is one department where Ali Zafar has clearly worked hard on, with a juxtaposition to his role in Kill Dill revealing how far he has come as an ‘action hero’, which was never his thing.

What, however, is an undoubted strength of Ali Zafar’s is his comic timing, which is evident in Teefa In Trouble. What also works for him is the fact that he himself has written the dialogues of the film, and so all punches are delivered with at full throttle.

The release has not been without controversy - including protests against lead Ali Zafar

This doesn’t, however, mean that all punches work. There is laughter to be had in many parts of Teefa In Trouble, but there are many misses in attempted humour as well. Faisal Qureshi’s addition as Teefa’s chum Tony Shah, of course, bolsters the comic coefficient.

The film quite loudly self-identifies as an entertainer, and it does in large parts succeed in maintaining its billing without showcasing anything particularly spectacular in its writing.

Ahsan Rahim’s direction works to the same effect as well, in maintaining the brand of humour and overall commercial value that Ali Zafar expected from the movie.

Maya Ali in her film debut adds her bits to those goals by looking particularly stunning, in a quintessential South Asian male-dominated production. The glamour, hence, is very much there in Teefa In Trouble.

Even so, the film is all about Ali Zafar and his announcement of himself in Lollywood, at a time – it needs to be mentioned – when Bollywood is very evidently avoiding Pakistani film stars.

Teefa In Trouble manages to showcase all the talents that Ali Zafar brings to the table, generating a sufficient volume of entertainment en route. But the film is no masterpiece, nor exactly a laugh-a-minute ride.