The long-awaited, much debated and one of the most controversial films, ‘Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’ finally released in theatres across Pakistan this weekend with a new title ‘Kukri’ after fighting a long battle with the censor board. And like any battle survivor, this one too has got its share of visible bruises and wounds at the hands of the censor. Fortunately, the censored version is still way more intact and manages to make more sense as compared to that of Saim Sadiq’s ‘Joyland’.
‘Kukri’: The Plot
‘Kukri’ revolves around the real-life character of Javed Iqbal who after the kidnapping, raping and murdering of 100 children in the city of Lahore confesses his crimes to Jang newspaper. The rest of the characters in the film are fictitious and the film presents the maker’s imagination of a possible interrogation and investigation during the seven-day remand of Javed Iqbal. The film leaves certain aspects untouched as it focuses primarily on how bureaucracy in South Asian countries is inefficient in dealing with such sensitive cases, and how the police department and media often use a scapegoat to cover for the larger crime network involved. However, it doesn’t try to delve deep into the psychological and environmental factors that can turn a normal person into a serial killer. But as this one is just part one of a two-part film series, one only hopes that the second part explores this side properly.
Aleeha’s Best So Far
‘Kukri’ is certainly Abu Aleeha’s best work. He succeeds in creating horror about the incident without much graphic content. The cinematography by Asad Ahmed and background score by Ali Allahdita and Bilal Allahdita are also effective and add up to the tension and anxiety created on screen.
The writing by Abu Aleeha is smart. He knows the Punjabi dialect, Punjabi slang and Punjabi cuss words too well and that helps make the conversations between characters appear natural rather than forced or preachy. Unlike his other projects, here the dialogues are short, crisp, to the point and impactful.
The production design is decent too. You can spot posters of Punjabi films and old ads of Dalda Banaspati at Chai-dhaaba, depicting the 90’s era. We only wish that the film was shot in Lahore rather than Karachi to make it look more authentic because you can’t mistake the streets of Androon Lahore as there is a stark difference between the streets of Lahore and that of Karachi.
The film showcases some finest performances of new-age cinema but it’s Yasir Hussain’s show through and through. Yasir in the titular role of Javed Kukri is brilliant and you can’t imagine someone else playing this role with so much ease. The calm and smirk on his face is unsettling, his laughs can make you uncomfortable and his screams can send chills down your spine.
Ayesha Omar as Zara Nigar delivers within her limited capacity. Her makeup looks bad and fails at making her look tanned. There is a scene where she has her moment of aggression and beats Javed Iqbal to vent her frustration. She fails at bringing out the rage that is required in the scene. An ardent follower of Indian content would naturally miss Shefali Shah from ‘Delhi Crime’, Rani Mukherji from ‘Mardani’ or even Sushmita Sen from ‘Samay’ and wish for someone like Nadia Afghan or Nimra Bucha in that character as Ayesha looks too ‘Khoobsurat’ and delicate for the role. But that too is intelligently covered up with smart writing through Yasir’s dialogues like “Chirrhi Jae Na Howay Tay” (You are as weak as Sparrow) and “Aj-kal kay Mummy-Daddy officers”.
Paras Masroor as Malik Riaz and Kaleem Ghori as Ashfaq Ali are effective in their roles but what stands out the most is an impactful performance by Rabya Kulsoom in a very limited screentime who is playing the role of Razia Sultana, a mother whose six-year-old son Amir has been missing from one year. Aleeha successfully makes you connect with the character to feel her restlessness, struggle, fears, denial and a lot more with dialogues like “Meray Baitay Ki Talash Mera Nasha Hai, Meri Baqi Zindagi ka Swad B Isi Mai Hai”. Rabya is given only a few scenes but she succeeds in delivering an impeccable performance that would melt your heart and can even make you shed tears.
Overall, ‘Kukri’ is a decent crime drama that showcases some extraordinary performances, particularly by Yasir Hussain and Rabya Kulsoom. The makers should start working on its part two as soon as possible. If you enjoy crime drama films and web series, this one is definitely for you.