Billi (2001) AKA The Cat
Cast: Saima, Nadeem, Noor, Saud, Meera, Arbaz Khan
Director: Syed Noor
Synopsis: Supposedly a true story about female victim turning scum-busting Avenger!
The film opens with a courtroom scene where fiery criminal lawyer Meera is battling to put a rapist behind bars, but sadly for her the judge rules against her and the scum-bag is set free. Though the rapist walks free from the law courts of the land, is there a power on earth who can save him from the justice of the “Billi” – a shadowy figure dressed in a black cat-suit who has taken to the streets at night rounding up all scum and sleaze and dishing out her own brand of justice to chilling effect.
There is an earnest police office (Saud) determined to nab the cat but he doesn’t appear to be making much headway as this cat appears to have at least nine lives. In her brutal quest for justice she doesn’t even spare the lawyer representing the rapist who was basically just doing his job. She corners him one dark, stormy night and hacks off his tongue so he can never twist a case to his benefit as he had done with the rape case.
Meera looks glamorous and turns in a suitably theatrical performance as the lawyer though she might refrain from using her English too often as her phrases are somewhat bizarre as in when she exclaims “Live Long Billi” when she probably meant “Long Live Billi”….and there is another occasion when she asks Saud if he entered from the “Bal-Konee” where one did a slight double take before realizing exactly what she meant.
Sadly after the courtroom opening scene, there isn’t much else for Meera to do as the focus shifts to Noor and Saima’s characters for the rest of the film. The feline superhero rapist bashing Billi becomes a feminist champion and icon for all her deeds and the downtrodden support her wholeheartedly yet the police are embarrassed by its inability to apprehend Billi. Who is she? Where does she come from? What has turned her into the killing machine she is?
Saud has two brothers, one a fine upright journalist (Arbaz Khan) while the younger one is a total wastrel spending all his time boozing, womanizing and listening to really bad late 70’s disco as in Lipps Inc’s horrendous Funky Town! He clearly has some serious issues to grapple with and hangs out in a den of debauchery where such “anarchic” words are sprayed all over the walls and ceiling such as “Snake, Love, Cool, Crazy, Kill and Prince” – almost Mansonesque!
Seasoned veteran Nadeem plays Noor’s sensitive father, a man who has lost his first wife to some accident and who now has to deal with a daughter who is deeply troubled due to a tragedy that befell her when she was an 8 year old child. Noor is also determined to find her father a replacement wife and her primary candidate is a golden hearted village bumpkin Saima. Though Nadeem finds the idea preposterous at first, slowly he begins to warm to Saima’s busty charms and they are soon married. Later complications arise as the net starts to draw around the elusive Billi and all the indications are that somehow or the other mild mannered Noor is involved yet in a mind boggling twist it is Saima who is caught red handed and unmasked as the Billi and awaits her fate at the gallows.
There is another final twist in the tail and all matters are revealed in a typically dramatic few closing scenes. The film directed by Syed Noor opened in the summer of 2001 and died a quick death at the Box Office, sinking without much of a trace. However why it was of particular interest was that the film-makers had advertised the film as being based on a true story and one wondered when, if ever there had been a case of a cat-suited female crime-buster taking to the streets of Lahore.
Having witnessed the film, one will have to take the producers claims of authenticity with just a small pinch of salt – nice try though. Its not an unbearably awful film as one has come to expect from Lollywood in the modern era yet it suffers from some serious and basic drawbacks. The narrative is very weak, the script utterly threadbare and the film tries so hard to fulfil formula requirements that it ends up with none of the elements that are considered prerequisites of a successful thriller or even horror film such as suspense of tension. Instead we have the obligatory comedy sequences, the long and tedious song and dance sequences, the action scenes including a chase and several fights – very much the usual formulaic drivel that is dished out mind-numbed local audiences on a daily basis.
A lazily made, sloppy effort, this could have been a reasonably interesting twist on the worn out I Spit on Your Grave rape revenge scenario that is so prevalent here in Lollywood. In this case you will be better off going for the Pashto classick Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay which is a far more robust and dynamic and demented version of Billi which with its child rape scene manages to leave a rather nasty after taste to contend with.