Movie Review: ‘Na Baligh Afraad’ Brings Fun Back to Pakistani Cinema

Many times, throughout ‘Na Baligh Afraad’ I burst out laughing. Whether it was the 90s references, the quippy dialogue, or Mani’s rib-tickling performance, the fun never stopped. What’s more, the writing was quick-witted enough to keep me smiling and snickering under my breath all the way through. That hadn’t happened to me in a long time.

‘Na Baligh Afraad’ Delivers Entertainment; Pure and Simple

Set in the Karachi of the 90s, ‘Na Baligh Afraad’ is a story about two brothers from a working-class family. When their father brings home a rented VCR, they hatch a plan to watch an adult video cassette so they can “grow up”.

The brothers named Mazhar (played by Aashir Wajahat) and Fakhar (played by Samar Jafri) keep jumping from frying pan to fire in this thrill ride as they deal with school bullies, sleazy video store owners, corrupt cops, opportunistic shaadi-video makers and more.

As their cousin Jugnu Bhai remarks, “Kitnay villain hain bhai tumhaari kahaani mein?!”

The movie rarely stops during its 105-minute runtime and earns its audience’s attention at every turn. New character introductions, twists and turns, and one crowd pleasing cameo all give the audience the one thing they want: entertainment.

The 90s Live and Breathe in ‘Na Baligh Afraad’

What sells ‘Na Baligh Afraad’ over and over is the detailing of this world. Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza keep throwing 90s references at you at a mile a minute.

Frooto juice boxes, Umar Sharif’s “Bakra Qiston Pe”, Karachi’s iconic Rainbow Centre, 6-digit phone numbers, Hassan Jahangir, Saleem Javed, the 1992 Pakistani Cricket uniform, ‘Munda Bigra Jaaye’, cringey wedding videos; it’s all right there in your face.

The background score by Kamran Ismail (Kami) keep reminding us this is the time period of “Hawa Hawa”. The Production design by Fizza Ali Meerza and Nabeel Qureshi and the art direction by Junaid Shahbaz and Tahir Durrani lend further authenticity to world. Aabid Ali Chauhan, Haseeb and Ali Abbas in the art team have provided a realness to the world that extends beyond the 90s references and wardrobe.

Every Actor is Spot On in ‘Na Baligh Afraad’

The cast utilizes the period setting perfectly as everyone plays their part. Aashir Wajahat and Samar Jafri play the two leads with a lot of conviction. It might be too early to call them bona fide stars, but they’re on their way.

Saleem Meiraj is adequately sleazy as the dirty video store owner, and Ehteshamuddin essays his role as Mazhar-Fakhar’s father, the timid photocopy shop owner.

However, the show stealers are Mani and Aadi Adeal Amjad. Aadi Adeal Amjad shines as the frustrated elder cousin, Jugnu Bhai; an outsider trying to navigate the slippery world of Karachi. However, no one else holds a candle to Mani as Sir Kashif, the corrupt schoolteacher.

Mani channels everything he’s learned during his career into this performance from “Sub Set Hai” to “Meri Teri Kahaani”. He gets the biggest laughs in the film by far and is my favourite character in the film. Who knew that after 20 years in the business, Mani would be essaying one of his best roles to date? He imbues “Sir Kashif” with villainy as well as sympathy, and all the characteristics of shady teachers we’ve all known growing up.

A Tight Script, Which Needed a Tighter Edit

All of this is tied together nicely with a lot of fun dialogue delivered with incredible ease by the entire cast. All future Nabeel and Fizza films will have to hit this writing benchmark.

Honestly, the only criticism I have is that the film could’ve been edited more tightly. 5-6 minutes of the movie could’ve been shaved off to quicken the pace a tad. Some shots linger on for far too long, and one or two scenes could’ve been removed altogether.

‘Na Baligh Afraad’ Is a Winner All the Way

Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza made ‘Na Baligh Afraad’ in just 17 days, with a very low budget and no big names. And they have produced a tightly scripted, fast paced, well directed movie. This template needs to be copied by every single Pakistani filmmaker until the market is flooded with films all year round.

Nabeel and Fizza should make a film like this every month. In fact, I want a sequel right now.

‘Na Baligh Afraad’ may not break a lot of box office records, but it stands a chance at becoming a cult classic in the future.

‘Na Baligh Afraad’ is now playing in movie theaters across the country.

Written by Yousuf Mehmood


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