Hathkari (1975)


Hathkari (1975)
: Asiya, Yousuf Khan, Iqbal Hassan, Najma, Afzaal Ahmad, Mustafa Qureshi, Bahar, Ali Ejaz
Director: Haider Chaudhary
Synopsis:  Meandering, morality laden Punjabi action flick “inspired” shamelessly by Bollywood’s Deewar.


There are so many successful Lollywood films that we just don’t talk about.  Partially because they usually don’t have much aesthetic or artistic value as “good cinema” yet they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to analysing the film as a reflection of the era in which it was produced.

The values, the issues, the themes, the styles, the political undercurrents, the references, the clothes, the sights and sounds, and in many cases the levels of sex and violence on display are a clear reflection and a snapshot of what Pakistani society was at that particular time.

The films that reigned supreme at the Box Office in Pakistan were quite often not among those genteel, aesthetically refined and correct films that our elites liked to discuss on their dinner tables.  There is often much more fascination in a rough and gritty Black & White Punjabi film that ran in Urdu speaking Karachi for a year than there is in an “Award Winning” period piece.  Why would a film that hardly anybody even understood the language of properly run to packed houses for over a year?  1974’s sleazy pot-boiler aimed at the front bench crowd Khatarnaak scored a massive bull’s eye all over Pakistan fuelled mostly by some sleazy club dances with some highly “sexualized” choreography.  What they call “vulgar” at our dinner tables were exactly what the public were lapping up in their hordes.  As every producer who you will ever meet will tell you “SEX SELLS” and this is not a country or region centric rule.  It remains the basic and most timeless most rule, tried and tested to death and back.

My own interest in cinema has always tended to gravitate towards content that the junta, the ordinary people would watch as opposed to the kind of films that we like to talk about in droll discussions over Mulligatawny and thus the viewing of a 1975 Punjabi film in colour – part of Director/Producer Haider Chaudhary’s trilogy titled “Hathkari”.

The hope was to find some old fashioned desi masala along with some grit and sleaze as in the wake of Khatarnaak, innovatively vulgar and suggestive camera angles were the order of the day.

And so on to “Hathkari”.  The stage and tone of the film is set in the introductory scenes when Habib is leading his co-workers in a protest against the callous mill owners.  Habib is invited inside for “talks” which begin with an attempted bribe and when that is refused, the coercion turns to black mail and threats of dire consequences for his wife and children.  Habib cracks under pressure resulting in the wrath of the workers and his community.  Bahar, his wife rages at him for treachery and that night, downtrodden and crushed by guilt he leaves the village for a new life leaving his poor wife to deal with two young songs to bring up in an atmosphere where the family is hated for the deeds of her husband.  She too is forced to flee with her two sons coping with extreme hardship as she tries to work menial jobs to make ends meet and feed her children.  It is at this stage that her older son, merely 14 decides that he needs to step up as the man of the house and vows to provide for the family by working day and night.

hathkari pk

Years pass and the family barely survive with the younger son unable to get a decent job and the older one having to turn to working with some unsavoury types such as the dastardly Mustafa Qureshi.  As Yusuf Khan finds himself getting embroiled in the underworld his younger brother Iqbal Hassan lands a job with the police and presto the films main theme is born with the triangle created by the two brothers and their mother.  Aasia shows up for a few songs as a club dancer with a golden heart who falls for Yusuf Khan while Najma pops up momentarily as Iqbal Hassan’s romantic interest.

As the film progresses it becomes rather evident that it is basically a Punjabi remake of successful Bollywood film starring Amitabh Bachchan called Deewaar.  It follows roughly the same template including the life-saving locket/medallion thingy numbered “786”.  When that locket falls off, you just know things aren’t going to be right and so it proves.  Hathkari lumbers along and most of the dramatics as usual come from fire breathing Bahar but the rest of the show feels rather formulaic and not particularly innovative or exciting.  Yes there are a couple of hit Madam Noor Jehan numbers but nothing too exceptional.  There is also an appearance by the wonderful Parveen Bobby performing her typical jittery style dance movement (No wonder Amrozia dismissed her in an interview as “no competition”) but even that is not enough to relieve the feeling of boredom that begins to creep in fairly soon into the movie.

It’s all rather predictable and quite dull.  However that said, the film managed to more than hold its own at the box office back in 1975 and was yet another hit for Aasia and Yusuf Khan and of course Haider Chaudhary.  “Warrant” starring the same couple was to follow the following year with similar success.