While going to Atrium for the premiere of ‘Madaari’ I couldn’t get Allama Iqbal’s couplet out of my head:
“gaya daur-e-sarmaayadaari gaya,
tamasha dikha kar madaari gaya”
I kept reciting it even while I was sitting in the lobby of Atrium Cinema before the premiere began. I saw Seraj-Us-Salikin pacing about the lobby as well. His own madaari was making him dance tonight.
The sound of the ‘dugdugi’ that a madaari uses to make his pet monkey dance echoes throughout the film as characters make choices, both wrong and right. I’m willing to bet Seraj sahab was hearing that same sound in his head the entire night.
What’s It About?
‘Madaari’ is about an impressionable young man named Haaris Qadeer (played by debutant Ibad Alam Sher) who is a low-level party worker for the Nayi Awaz Party (NAP). He hangs out with his close friend Asif Baloch (played by the brilliant Hammad Siddiq) and two others as they organize rallies, rig elections, and rob people at gunpoint.
Haaris’ own father was part of the NAP once, but he was killed one night in cold blood. Tensions begin to rise when Haaris recognizes his father’s killer who is standing as the new candidate for the MNA seat from the NAP itself.
What follows is a whirlwind of events as Harris struggles to make a choice. Is he going to focus on himself and building a life; or is he going to go down the path of revenge? As his uncle (played by the excellent Paras Masroor) tells him:
“Aaj tu kisi ke baap ko maaray ga. Kal uska beta uth ke tujhay maar dega.”
Yes, we all know revenge is wrong, but if you realized your father’s killer is within shooting distance…wouldn’t you pull the trigger?
Madaari is a Moral Story Without Moral Preaching
‘Madaari’ doesn’t waste time morally preaching to the crowd and just shows the dilemma for what it is; incredibly frustrating and mentally taxing.
If you know someone who’s parents, brothers, sisters, mothers, etc. have been killed during the myriad incidents that have plagued this country, then you can’t possibly know how they feel.
At a point, Ibad Alam Sher’s character Haaris loses his mind and starts beating his chest like a gorilla to vent his frustrations. It’s his way of saying nothing is right, when everyone around him is pretending everything is alright.
Eventually Haaris finds out that most people in his life have been lying to him from the beginning. In that situation, it’s almost impossible to make the right choice. Morality becomes lost in the fog in your mind.
Madaari is a Fast Paced, Funny, and Tragic Tale of the Karachi We All Know
The entire country knows that Karachi has been through hell for decades. Target killings, Bhatta khori, bomb blasts, extrajudicial encounters, terrorist attacks, etc. have been in the news for all to see. ‘Madaari’ is set in the same metropolis.
Haaris and Asif Baloch ride out in the opening scene at a party rally waving flags to the tune of the party anthem “Bachaanay Qaum Ko Niklay Hain Bari Shaan Se”. It’s the best song in the film and sounds like many of the party anthems you and I know. In fact it could’ve been written by either Hassan Jahangir or Saleem Javed in the 80s!
Though there isn’t an exact date given anywhere, one can assume it’s set in the mid-to-late 2000s when things were getting worse and worse. And yet, Madaari’s characters laugh, cheer, dance, hoot, and make the most of life. It’s just how life in Karachi has conditioned people to live.
At one point a character asks a well known target killer his kill count. There’s a moment of tension, and then the said killer leaves after giving them a stern look. Then the room bursts into laughter. That’s just how Karachi is. A gunshot one moment, and celebration the next.
I found myself laughing quite a few times throughout the screening. It’s a testament to Seraj-Us-Salikin’s writing and direction that he was able to mix tragedy and comedy so well without there being a tonal shift in the film. There are no stupid sound effects or musical cues to tell the audience that they’re supposed to laugh or cry here. The camera and the writing do that for you as they should.
Seraj Us Salikin is a Gifted Writer-Director
Seraj-Us-Salikin has done a damn good job both writing the screenplay and directing behind the camera. Though the film is not perfect, it’s tightly scripted, well directed, and overall very well helmed throughout. That’s more than I can say for many of the seasoned directors who have been making films for years in the new wave of Pakistani cinema.
The film doesn’t drag or dwell on awkward dialogue. All the conversations and communication between characters is genuine and real as it gets. This is how Karachiites walk and talk. Life moves at a very fast pace in the city of lights and ‘Madaari’💔 rarely gives you a moment to rest throughout its 105-minute runtime.
Not to forget the camera work though; Seraj-Us-Salikin’s world moves fast and smooth. There are no jitters or awkward edits here and there. I was reminded a few times of ‘Laal Kabootar’, not just because of the overlapping themes, but the sweeping shots taken throughout the film.
Seraj-Us-Salikin is a great talent. It’s not an easy job getting almost all the notes right in your debut feature. Producers should take note and invest in him. Not since Bilal Lashari have I seen such an obvious “cinematic knack” in a debut director from Pakistan.
Hammad Siddiq Steals the Show
Paras Masroor who stole the show in “Carma” last year puts up another excellent performance, and Ibad Alam Sher makes a terrific debut which allows him to flex his acting muscles. However, the standout performance is given by Hammad Siddiq as Asif Baloch.
He refers playfully to Haaris as “Naapo” and tries to get him into the murky world of street-level politics. He looks out for Haaris every step of the way, even till the very end no matter the cost. Hammad Siddiq plays Asif Baloch as the seasoned party worker who struggles to make it big, bows to his superiors, but knows when to do the right thing.
When he introduces Haaris to the party head “Pehelwan” and Haaris instantly overtakes the conversation, he scolds him saying “Naapo…Haraamipan!” Hammad Siddiq is a breath of fresh air every time he steps on screen, but he never stoops to caricature or belittle who he’s playing.
People who’ve grown up in Pakistan know characters like him in their neighborhoods, classrooms, and workplaces. They’re not exactly model citizens, but they walk a tight rope between good and bad so that you don’t exactly detest their company.
Madaari Needs Your Love and Support
Films like ‘Madaari’ are what Pakistani cinema should be known for. It is a homegrown story that is well written, well directed, well-acted, and even has a deep moral message to unearth. The entire cast and crew of ‘Madaari’ get a standing ovation from the team at PakistaniCinema.Net.
Please make more films. And Pakistani producers; you guys should throw your money at them immediately.
‘Madaari’ will hit theaters on Eid-Ul-Azha 2023.