Review: It’s up, up and away for Sherdil!

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Pakistan’s film industry takes a step upward with Sherdil where technicians from Hollywood combine with talent from Pakistan to produce a world-class film that has its flaws but flies high despite all that. The film’s timings matter the most as whatever is shown on the screen, has happened recently making it the most realistic flick to come out of Pakistan ever. Azfar Jafri does well in his first film away from IRK Films and makes you fall in love with the beautiful message that is the need of the hour. Yes, the film is not the best product from Pakistan but it is certainly one that will open new doors for the industry as international cinematographer Riki Butland and VFX artist Scott Newman were part of Sherdil and that one instance can easily change the way international audience looks at Pakistani films.

The Plot

Haris Mustafa (Mikaal Zulfiqar) wants to emulate his grandfather by joining the Pakistan Air Force and fighting for his country; however his parents refuse to entertain his ideas and it is only when his grandmother (Samina Ahmed) agrees, he begins his life with the PAF. How he becomes one of the best fighter pilots in the country from a normal cadet and what conflicts he faces during his journey is what this film is all about. He makes friends, loses the love of his life, is part of a mission when his Dadi isn’t well, etc., showing the human side of a GD Pilot. Add a battle between India and Pakistan fighter jets, a few days at an International Training Center and a life and death situation and you have a patriotic film that promotes peace, not war.

The Good

Mikaal Zulfiqar had done three major Bollywood films before this one, yet his local film debut was on the cards for a long time; finally, he managed to do that and make ‘Pakistani fighter pilots proud’ in the words of the Pakistan Air Force Chief. In the early part of the film, he didn’t look like a teenager but he could easily pass as someone in his late 20s, the age that was required for the Fighter Pilot he evolved into. Hassan Niazi was a revelation here as he came out as a modern Indian, the one we don’t hate because they are like us, not different from us. Both the actors looked fit and complimented each other, be it while being part of the dogfight in mid-air or being friends when on the ground. Samina Ahmed’s performance was top notch as she plays the kind of Dadi we all would like to have. One must commend Azfar Jafri and his cinematographers Riki Butland and Saleem Dad for presenting a film where not even a single frame was blurred. In fact, the film’s highlight is the Dogfight sequences which are at par with Hollywood because India hasn’t been able to make an Air Force film yet, and the Abhinandan incident might push them back by a couple of years. Scott Newman’s VFX were impressive as well and had there been a director with no knowledge of VFX, he might not have been able to present his ideas as he did in the final reel.

The Bad

The script is weak especially in the second half when most of the action takes place in Dubai; the unnecessary induction of a local villain in the UAE (producer’s brother Kashif Khan, who looked the same) just to show that Indian and Pakistanis can unite for a common villain wasted a few scenes that could have made the film shorter. Armeena Rana Khan’s voice was dubbed by the producer’s daughter who is hardly the actress Armeena is and that’s why whenever the beautiful actress opened her mouth, the squeaky voice that came out made her look stupid. It would have been better had she not been part of the film because her last flick with Azfar Jafri (Janaan) was a phenomenal success abroad and when her fans out there would see that the only relevant international Pakistani actress speaks like a teenager, it will affect the film. The soundtrack was bad, except for the Mustafa Zahid song, because it seemed unfit for a PAF film; in fact, it would have been a success had it been associated with a film that revolved around teenagers.

There were so many loopholes in the story, such as why weren’t the cadets clean-shaven, sporting a crew cut; what was Armeena’s character doing in Dubai when Mikaal’s character was there on a training exercise; how could some local don kidnap two fighter pilots from two of the biggest Air Forces in the world and get away with it; why did Fawad Khan (Ibrahim Ali Alavi) cheat his way out of the academy only to return in the second half; what was the motive behind including a Sikh as a Cadet; why did no character age despite 5 years passing by, why were the cadets shown to be stupid when young and responsible when older, how could Sabeeka Imam’s character dance on an Urdu song when she wasn’t good at the language and why was there a dance number in the first place in an Air Force Film!

The Verdict – 3/5

Sherdil is 100 times better than the last PAF flick Parwaaz Hai Junoon, the dog fight sequences of which seem like dwarves in front of this movie. Yes, the film has its share of flaws but at least they didn’t show a pilot falling down from the sky without his helmet on; no one spoke from deathbed to their girlfriend, instructing her to tell his dad that he died for his country and that when the cadets passed away from the Academy, they passed away from an Academy and not Riverdale High! With Mikaal Zulfiqar and Hassan Niazi giving each other tough competition as the main lead, and Samina Ahmed supporting them as the graceful Dadi, Sherdil was bound to do well. Add the excellent dogfight sequences, some picturesque locations and promising youngsters and you get a world-class Air Force film from Pakistan. Don’t miss it!