The Oscar submission season is here and Pakistan’s official selection body has submitted Saawan as their entry; written by Mashood Qadri and directed by Farhan Alam, the film highlights major issues of Pakistan and suggests solutions as well, making it the obvious choice for the 90th Academy Awards. The film has won numerous awards before gracing the screen in Pakistan including Best Foreign Language Feature Film in Madrid International Film Festival 2017.
Saawan is about a 9-year old boy who suffers from polio, crawls instead of walking, wants to walk like others but is scared of his frustrated father. His mother loves him and that’s one of the reasons why he decides to follow them after they erroneously leave him behind while fleeing a natural calamity. Saawan the kid sets out on his adventure with a self-manufactured leg that allows him to walk and saves many children from abduction while braving the difficult conditions to reach his destination. Whether he gets to meet his family is something you will find out when you watch the film.
The film’s highlights are the outstanding performances of Syed Karam Abbas and Najiba Faiz who played the son and the mother respectively. Their chemistry helps you ignore the film’s slow pace; the scenes where they are separated, where they talk about going to the city in flashback, as well as their individual scenes, are one of the best-filmed sequences this year. The way Farhan Alam captures the beauty of the mountainous region in Pakistan is also commendable; also the way some of the scenes are interlinked makes you wonder whether you are really watching a Pakistan film or an international one. The film tackles some important issues here, which is something others must learn from the makers.
They say that there is a first time for everything and veteran actor Saleem Mairaj disappoints with his performance big time in this flick. He plays a child abductor in the film who keeps repeating Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to annoy the audience. If the writer and director were hoping for a Lakdi Ki Kaati effect from Wazir, then they certainly lost it the moment he repeated the line for the first time. Then there was the ‘creative liberty’ of walking across the mountainous region – a kid with a fake leg should encounter problems but here it was as if he got superpowers with that child-made leg. He limped but never once did it come off considering the uneven nature of the mountains. The film might have been based on a true story but it would have been better had it been kept a little more realistic. Adding terrorism was a bad decision by the makers as the audience left with a bad taste – a happier conclusion would have benefitted the film, especially at the box office.
Verdict – 2.5/5
Saawan is clearly one of the better films to come out from Pakistan this year but releasing it alongside more successful Na Maloom Afraad 2 and Punjab Nahi Jaungi was a disastrous decision. The film would have pulled the audience had there been no other option and it is about time that our filmmakers should learn the art of releasing films at the appropriate time. The positive aspects of the film outweigh the negatives but its length and its pace are factors that should have been less and fast, respectively. The film has been selected as Pakistan’s official entry as Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards and if all goes well, it might first get shortlisted in the final list and may be win an award for the country.