Moosa Khan (2001)
Cast: Shaan, Saima, Abid Ali, Shafqat Cheema, Rembo, Noor
Nutshell: despicable for its message of hatred & intolerance and woefully inept
After months of hype, Shaan’s highly awaited labour of love Moosa Khan finally arrived as the biggest of the season’s Eid releases. Shaan had reportedly spared no expense in constructing his third effort as director – the quest for excellence being top priority. Not only was the critical expectation sky high but so are the hopes of massive financial gains.
From the very moment, the film opens one is assaulted by a surge of serene, triumphant music that is instantly identifiable as the theme from Last of the Mohicans (we later get treated to repeated doses of music lifted from Mohicans, Gladiator, as well as snatches of Prodigy! The very first impression is “rip-off” and alarm bells start ringing as the music strides on shamelessly until the end of the credits which curiously never seem to list the cast. Maybe it’s just a foregone conclusion that every single Lollywood production be it Urdu or Punjabi is bound to star Shaan, Saima, Shafqat Cheema and Rembo.
As of the April 2002, Moosa Khan’s censor certificate has been withdrawn and the film has been effectively banned from further exhibition. The reason for the ban were the scenes depicting minority religions in poor light…the only question is what took the censors so long to realise that this film is full of such venom and why did it take them three months to react. The film has already made a mass of money and now that it has been banned it will no doubt simply increase the interest in the film tenfold.
Anyway, back to the plot of the film…the setting is in some time warp suggesting a pseudo colonial subcontinent where the land of Kashmirpur and its environs are seemingly inhabited by Muslims, Hindus and Christians under the dominance of obese Punjabi men wearing an assortment of blonde wigs (Colonials). Beautiful white doves of peace flutter about in the foreground in idyllic slow motion while an all-male choir of angels kicks up a heavenly tune as the audience is introduced to the local Mosque and its saintly Maulvi Mufti played by Abid Ali. The Maulvi completes his prayer in regal slo-mo and emerges from the distance as pigeons and doves flutter about in a mad frenzy.
Meanwhile we are shown that across the way there is a temple where instead of doves of peace, there is a menacing looking python at large along with a group of snarling, drooling old men draped in orange robes, with funky hairstyles who are cringing at the sound of the azaan from the nearby Maulvi. So, enraged are they by this sound and the pompous Maulvi who is responsible for it that they hatch an evil scheme in collusion with the local godless firangi gora’s (white men – who worship only money) to bring about the end to the sound once and for all. The director runs all the clichés into the ground with the long, drawn out glorious “shaheedofication” (martyrdom) of the Maulvi in a scene of unintended hilarity.
As the “infidels” try to gun down the lecturing Maulvi their guns suddenly malfunction by divine intervention and when the ghastly infidels decide to fire some heavy artillery at the mosque (it appears divine intervention only disables rifles and pistols but not rocket launchers) the super-human Maulvi appears magically (again by divine intervention) leaping in the way of the projectiles, thwarting any attempt at desecrating the mosque. Then, while the background choir of angels turns from Peace mode to jihad mode, the Maulvi mumbles a few pious utterances and launches his “tasbee” (holy beads) into the air to see it transform in mid air into a holy Sword of Islam. He dramatically catches the falling blade and proceeds to hack to death the entire posse of goons who had dared to try to attack the mosque. As Maulvi Abid Ali finally caves in as his blimpish child Osama, sorry Moosa waddles in slow motion to the death scene, his eyes burning with the fire of vengeance.
Moosa grows up in a cave somewhere (Tora Bora?) having turned his back on his religion due to the disillusionment that he felt when his father was murdered. He has instead taken to living alone in some distant caves with his horse Sheru as company and likes to dress up like one of the members of that awful 70’s glam rock band Kiss. Moosa (Shaan) has turned into a cold-hearted mercenary but all that is soon set to change with Saima’s arrival. She shows up, dressed to kill with her father to a place that is obviously a den of vice. He clearly had his own reasons for bringing his daughter to this place but when the salivating goons start making moves on her he turns indignant and starts spouting moralizing lectures for which he is swiftly shot. Shamoon (Cheema) sporting his usual bizarre “get up” with flowing pony tail and reptilian accessories becomes obsessed by Saima’s voluptuousness, snaring her in his lair. However, in keeping with the films utterly warped manner Saima chooses to stab herself to death rather than to compromise her “izzat” (honor) as any normal “honorable” woman would (should?) do. Shamoon has her stitched up in the nick of time, yet she remains merely a captive pet for her tormentor, waiting for the first opportunity to flee.
Saima is rescued from Shamoon’s clutches one night and whisked away to freedom, but just when she is beginning to take a fancy to her rescuer it transpires that all he intended to do was use her as part of a transaction. Saima is dumbfounded when Moosa turns her over to another set of captors and begs him not to but he continues to walk away, stone faced and impassive. As Moosa is about to mount Sheru and ride off into the distance, Saima comes up with a brainwave; she takes to covering her head (in dramatic slow-motion) and starts reciting the words (with added echo effect) of the Quran in a last-ditch effort to get through to the uncaring Moosa. When Saima reaches a crescendo with the retort of “Kya tum Moosa nahin ho” (Are you not Moosa?) her words finally seem to hit the right spot and suddenly Moosa assumes the role that his father the saintly Maulvi had always dreamed of.
Moosa bludgeons his way through the fully armed opposition and makes away with Saima to the safety of the forest where they are joined by his childhood chum Georgie (Rembo). Love blossoms and Saima and Moosa get married and build their dream home away from the troubles of the world but Shamoon’s henchmen are constantly searching every inch of the forest in order to recover Saima and destroy Moosa and it is a matter of time before they discover the mountainside home. Meanwhile Saima produces a child-thing and forces her husband to bury his weapons and to take to praying for solace.
One fateful day while the ghastly tot and father are away hunting, Shamoon’s horrible henchmen show up. There follows the usual bloodbath and mayhem as sprog and dad return to begin their jihad against those who were responsible for Saima’s death. In one of the more hysterical scenes of the movie we have Moosa performing his prayers when a goon with a huge machine gun arrives firing shot after shot at Moosa, but these giant bullets float in Matrix-like slow motion towards our hero and each time by divine intervention they somehow fail to hit their target. In a moment of sublime ridiculousness Moosa in fact catches the last bullet in mid air and tosses it aside disdainfully before striding out, (angels in full battle cry by now) to purge the land of all evil.
Moosa is a woeful, pitiful piece of excrement from beginning to end with no saving grace at all. Poor Riaz Shahid must be turning in his grave that his name be associated with filmmaking of this gutter level. It is a quite nauseating film and perhaps it’s worst aspect is that it attempts to dress itself up as a religious sermon with its long passages where the Quran is directly quoted.
This film is a sickening new low in exploitation as it blatantly attempts to use religion in order to justify its sick, twisted message of hatred and intolerance and its demented call for jihad. Its perverted message aside, the film is a rollicking disaster on a technical aspect as well. It drags badly in the second half and the sequences of Shaan emerging from the caves (in obligatory slow motion) with “Smack My Bitch Up” blaring in the back are ludicrous and suggest a dangerously bloated ego. The slo-mo shots of his riding out on Sheru to Prodigy are reminiscent of Bo Derek’s famous romp from “10” – a total embarrassment.
Acting wise Shaan’s awfulness is shown up by the fact that he can actually be fairly good at given moments. Saima is adequate, while Cheema, one of the better actors in the industry is totally wasted and Rembo is painfully clichéd. The songs other than the Noor number are instantly forgettable and the largely borrowed background score is constantly jarring.