Explosive. That was the word that kept spinning in my head over and over again as I sat through the two-and-a-half-minute preview of Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza’s latest cinematic offering “Khel Khel Mein”. Rarely have Pakistani filmmakers been brave enough to broach tricky, difficult storylines — and well, what could be a more challenging subject matter to handle than the loss of East Pakistan in 1971? That’s the rocky territory “Khel Khel Mein” attempts to venture into as its leading lady Sajal Aly decides to perform a play on the fall of Dhakka in a college drama competition in Bangladesh. We learn that she is faced with the (somewhat expected) disapproval from all quarters, which includes the college’s administration, faculty members, and her family members. Even college mate Bilal Abbas, who we presume is the male protagonist and possibly Sajal’s on-screen love interest, tends to think that her idea is a tad too ‘controversial.’
However, our heroine gets her way and we see snippets of the play being performed, interspersed with flashbacks of the actual events of 1971, and glimpses of a narrative that weaves the plight of stranded West Pakistanis in Bangladesh into its storyline. Those events are, in turn, linked to the present-day troubles that we have witnessed in our contemporary times.
Sounds neat? Well, that’s because it is. Credit has to go to the Filmwala team for pulling this film off and that too during a time period when the film industry was at a standstill due to the ongoing pandemic. The production looks lavishly mounted, and the actors’ performances — Sajal Aly and Manzar Sehbai’s, in particular — look spectacular. We don’t see much of Bilal Abbas, however, he will possibly end up being the film’s easter-egg performer. It’s hard to fathom Nabeel Qureshi’s direction missing the mark and he seems to be very much in form here.
While most industry observers were waiting for that grand mega-blockbuster to reignite the box office after a two-year lull, Khel Khel Mein just might end up being the dark horse that catches everyone by surprise.
Don’t believe us? Check out the trailer and find out for yourselves! The film releases on November 19 at theaters across the nation.