Warning: The review contains mild spoilers
In one important scene in the recently released Tinseltown thriller ‘Chakkar,’ Ahsan Khan, playing Kabir, the husband of Neelam Muneer’s character Mehreen is livid and infuriated at Zara, Mehreen’s twin sister. “I will kill you,” he angrily barks, as horrified neighbors look on, his visibly miserable wife caught in the crossfire. Perfect cue this is for a romantic number between Kabir and Mehreen in Yasir Nawaz’s cinematic universe — surely an alternate one, where humans can develop bipolar disorder and amnesia at random instances. Also where women let oddballs in Einstein wigs, who chatter in endless, tedious gibberish, into their house — like practically all the time. But more on that later.
The aforementioned scene and the song-and-dance that follows are likely part of the director’s vision to concoct a masala-thriller that is palatable for local audiences. The underlying logic, it seems, is to inject ample comedy, music, and melodrama for the genre to cross over to mainstream audiences. As far as I can recall, the last thriller that managed to do so, to a certain extent was 2019’s ‘Baaji,’ but then neither was that film a true-blue thriller nor did it feature inane comic relief. There are quite a few situations in the movie where the build-up of drama and tension leads nowhere. And we are just scratching at the surface of what ails ‘Chakkar.’
Let’s roll back a bit.
The film’s plot, around the familial and on-set affairs of a tempestuous, volatile screen siren, and her eventual murder, holds promise. Looked at in totality, the movie’s murder mystery and its resolution would likely make for a decent logline and had the potential to be developed into an engaging screenplay. The writer’s take on the criminal justice system in the country, excluding the idealistic climax, is likely accurate, too. However, too many distractions, contradicting plot elements, and yes, needless, insufferable characters act as sore points, preventing the watchable remnants of the film to gel into a coherent screenplay. The one character that in particular is a downer is Mehreen’s omnipresent neighbor Cheema, shown to be a lawyer, who wears bizarre hairpieces and trousers that would put yoga pants to shame. It is hard to fathom his how loud, endless chatter all vocalized with the wrong dialect and a clamorous inflection by the actor playing the role would be anyone’s idea of humor. This writer was rooting for this man, in particular, to be mowed down in one of the film’s many grotesque, violent sequences, however, that was unfortunately not to be.
Nerve-grating characters aside, the film also features many instances, where the filmmakers in their attempt to plant red herrings unintentionally insert character and plot contradictions into the storyline. (Warning: Mild spoiler) A case in point is Kabir, initially depicted as an honest officer having trouble with his bosses, who then undergoes a rather implausible transformation later in the film. That is to say character development and depth take a backseat, as the director’s intentions are purely to shock and awe you into being spellbound with the loud, violent, and sometimes provocative and unexpected montage of events. Even the relationship between the twin sisters, which should have been one of the central elements of the screenplay, is superficially touched upon. Their different trajectories in life are not adequately explained either. All we are shown is that Zara is that cocaine-snorting, foul-mouthed caricature of a cinema temptress while Mehreen is the happy-doing-the-dishes sort. Any depth, rationale, or attempt at giving the turn of events some believability is thrown out of the window.
The somewhat sincere efforts of Ahsan Khan and Neelam Muneer, the two leads, are hampered considerably by the over-the-top directorial cues they likely received. (Spoiler ahead) While Muneer gets at least some screen time to demonstrate that she has what it takes to portray powerful, dark characters, Ahsan Khan doesn’t get the same opportunity. Yasir Nawaz and Naveed Raza, playing the cops, too don’t have much to do either. One wonders, then which character is the film is eventually about? Your guess is as good as mine.
In terms of positives, the film’s action scenes are rather convincingly done. The sequence where Neelam Muneer’s character is murdered is quite effective and unsettling, although it has to be said that gratuitous violence should receive as much attention from the censors as intimate situations, smoking and drugs do. Also, the portions towards the climax where all the characters are revealed to be double-crossing each other were relatively engaging. If earlier in the film, certain clues had been left for the audience that they might be in for a surprise, the transformations would have been a lot more believable.
The bottom line
While ‘Chakkar’ features an interesting central idea, its execution is let down by a screenplay featuring all sorts of elements intended to cater to a mass audience. If you look beyond the loud acting and overdone melodrama, or the film’s peculiar brand of comedy, the mystery at the core is a reminder that there was some thought given to the film’s central story, a point also underscored by the movie’s concluding portions.
‘Chakkar’ is directed by Yasir Nawaz and produced by Farid-Nawaz productions. It is currently running in theaters across the country.