Licence (1976)


Licence (1976)
Cast: Najma, Sultan Rahi, Mustafa Qureshi, Afzaal & Aziz Mian Qawwal, Nimmi, Aurangzeb, Nanha, Jaggi, Changezi, Afshan, Saqi, Rehan
Director: Aslam Irani
Nutshell: All the ingredients of a typical Punjabi masala rollercoaster with all the necessary ingredients in place.


Licence (note the Lollywood spelling) arrived just a few months before the arrival of General Zia Ul Haq as the Emperor of Pakistan who brought a rigid pseudo religious code of morality that struck the film community like a bombshell from which it has arguably never truly recovered.

The film has no pretensions other than as a Masala laden pot-boiler with all the ingredients to allow the film to click with the masses. The film is built around yet another larger than life performance by Mustafa Qureshi as a crazed “Badmash” who is bristling with a rage and eager to find an adversary to challenge his unrivalled power. Everyone who dares to cross him is ruthlessly dismissed and he ravages the community at will. On one such rampage when he has picked up a woman from the local kotha he is obstructed by a common coachman (horse-cart rider) known locally as a Kochwan who confronts him demanding him to release the squealing woman he has grabbed. The confrontation turns vicious and as Qureshi is dragged away for murdering the woman he swears revenge and tells the Kochwan (Sultan Rahi) that one day he will take from him that which he loves. You can be sure that their paths will soon cross again, sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile Najma is the sister of another moronic gangster who meets a nasty end at the hands of Qureshi who develops a crush on Najma and marks her as a possession he would like to have for himself. Meanwhile Najma, destitute and helpless finds solace with Achchoo the Kochwan who brings her home to his own place where she can shelter and their romance can blossom.

The Kochwan has a sister who is secretly romancing a rich industrialist’s son whose father is disgusted that his son considers a worthless poverty-stricken waif as a potential wife.
Sultan Rahi and Mustafa Qureshi soon come across one another and Qureshi find that the girls he has a crush on is now the girlfriend of his mortal enemy which he views as an exciting challenge. He did after all warn the kochwan that he will take the thing he loves most away from him and now his attention is focused on tearing away Najma from her love and having her for himself.

Matters get out of hand and soon enough Qureshi and Rahi and battling it out only for both to end up in Prison where the warden is a thinking man determined to make his prison actually reform bad eggs and turn them into productive members of society. He runs a remarkably civil prison where there is an open discussion between inmates and the warden. He tries to get both Rahi and Qureshi to squash their beef but the two go at each other hammer and tongs until both are left flat on the floor from sheer exhaustion.
Qureshi is let out of jail and sets his sights on exacting some revenge and grabbing Najma for himself. Meanwhile Najma has hit hard times unable to make ends meet and cornered by sleazy village politicians into a position of utter helplessness she ends up having to take up as a dancer in the local club to feed herself as well as Rahi’s sister and beloved horse Ghazi.

Everything builds to a crescendo and a showdown that is designed to leave audiences breathless with excitement, torn with mixed emotions, aroused by fiery passion and a display of stoic morality.

Licence manages to surprise in unexpected ways; Mustafa Qureshi turns in a winning performance and more than does justice to it while Najma also holds her own especially in the dramatic, emotional scenes while also proving herself to be a most adept dancer. Sultan Rahi too is in solid form and looking fit and lean. Nanna has fun with a turn as a druggie and swindler while Azim Mian the renowned Qawwal tears into his performance with some amazingly spectacular antics. Afzal Khan can always be relied to deliver the goods while Rehan makes a telling appearance as a Judge whose own morals are given a severe jolt when he makes a visit to his local club.

Despite the violence on display, Licence carries a discernable anti-violence message between the lines and generally attempts to take on a few issues while it dishes out the masala. This may appear as merely another in the long line of violence laden masala pot-boilers yet there is an attempt at weaving in some sort of “meaning” and the films does manage to hold together fairly well and moves along at a reasonable pace with a conclusion that isn’t the total predictable yawn that these films all tend to suffer from. Not an outstanding film by any means but one that at least has the ability to tell a story and even attempt to justify its existence with a moral which elevates it beyond a majority of similar films from Lollywood. Licence manages to surprise and for once it’s not for totally negative reasons.