Sir Katta Insaan (1994)
Cast: Ghulam Mohiuddin, Babra, Nayyer Sultana, Izhar Qazi, Qavi, Asif, Adeeb
Director: Saeed Rizvi
Nutshell: Frankenstein meets Dirty Harry in Lollywood’s BEST FILM of 1994 winner
The Rizvi family of filmmakers from Karachi ought to be lauded for their risk-taking as several of their home productions have at least attempted to break away from stale Lollywood formula of “light” romantic-comedy, violence and mushy dramatics. The family being devout Karachi folk even built their own studios so that they wouldn’t have to travel to Lahore each time they shot a film. In 1989 the Rizvi’s released a much hyped “first science fiction film of the sub-continent” named Shanee which proved popular and managed to bag an award or two along the way. Now he aimed even further with an oddball mix of Starman, Frankenstein and Dirty Harry and Sir Katta Insaan, a film that went on to garner no less than 8 Nigar Awards which are Pakistan’s version of The Academy Awards.
Clearly encouraged by his success with science fiction and hooked on special effects, the senior Rizvi now began to concoct his next magnum opus – a film that would again be heavily reliant on special effects and make-up but instead of the Raiders of the Lost Ark like scenario of 1989’s Shanee, this new film would have a sort of desi-gothic setting with horror as the story’s backbone. The Rizvi’s signed up several of the actors from Shanee including Babra Sharif, Nayyer Sultana, Asif Khan and Talish who were joined by Izhar Kazi and Ghulam Mohiuddin in the key role of the Sir Katta Insaan.
The story of this film follows a very similar pattern to that of Shanee’s – a “dead” man returns from the “outside” to find that he appears to have a mission to accomplish as well as to track down those who were responsible for his premature death. However, while Shanee was more of an adventure film, Sir Katta Insaan is an outright Horror film that includes fleeting moments of spectacular gore, some memorable imagery and even some thinly disguised political references. It’s a horror film that attempts to be somewhat profound at the same time – a noble effort but whether it succeeds in this endeavour is certainly questionable.
In 1967 Lollywood produced the stunning Zinda Laash which was a straight remake of Stoker’s Dracula and this time around Rizvi appears to be taking more than a leaf out of Shelley’s Frankenstein as the film begins with a mad scientist (Qavi) attempting to bring a cadaver back to life. This experiment has a strange twist to it as it involves not only bringing the dead back to life but also merging one man’s head with another man’s body – and here’s the twist – the head (freshly killed) belongs to some brilliant police officer Anwer (Ghulam Mohiuddin) while the body he is being attached to is that of a cold-hearted murderer! The mad scientist’s diabolical experiments are being funded by a notorious group of international terrorists whose aim is to destabilize the country for their own nefarious purposes. Unfortunately, like all mad scientists deranged schemes this one too goes horribly wrong and “Super Mission” as the creature is known simply walks up to the severed head and attaches it onto his neck and walks off triumphantly having caused Qavi’s lab some serious damage.
The creature seems to be ruled by the brain of the instinctively good police officer by day but by night the creatures body is taken over by the murderous spirit of its previous inhabitant and it takes to removing the head from its neck and walking around town with a sharp axe in one hand and the severed head in the other – not a pretty picture at all. The good Anwer tries to subdue the killer instincts of the mass murderer but doesn’t really succeed as the body count continues to mount. Then he realizes that he has to harness and channel the murderous rage by turning it against that criminal terrorist network that had been responsible for his own death less than a week ago. So, the headless creature prowls at night searching out the scummy terrorists one by one.
Meanwhile an impish Lois Lane type by the name of Ambreen (Babra Sharif) develops a massive schoolgirl crush on the dead creature, which leads to some awkward complications. This desi fusion of the typical revenge masala film and the Frankenstein story needs to be commended if only for the fact that it is something so different from the drab run-of-the-mill norm. However it suffers from the usual problems that films of this nature from the sub-continent suffer – they don’t quite know if they want to be a horror film or a romance or a typical “commercial” film and it seems that film makers are so straight jacketed by their reliance on “the prescribed formula” that they end up having to pander to all the ingredients of the magic “formula” and thus you get horror films being injected with romantic sub-plots and extended comedy routines as well as songs which completely destroy any semblance of tension that the story might have been able to create.
Another rigid formula that seemingly has to be followed is one of running length – it seems that the filmmakers perceive that unless they provide films that are above 2 hours and 20 minutes in length, they will be seen to be ripping off the public. Sir Katta Insaan could have benefited enormously with some judicious and extensive cutting. The plus points are a restrained performance by Ghulam Mohiuddin, which won him the Best Actor Nigar award and some effective camerawork and lighting, both of which also won awards. The low point of the film is an abysmal disco number picturized on Babra Sharif that features a particularly loathsome Ninja Turtle and his equally nauseating friends bopping along with the dwarf-like Ms. Sharif to a song that is beyond unlistenable.
The special effects, which needed to be very impressive in order to give the film any credibility are spectacularly and laughably bad for the most part though there are moments when they just scrape bye. The film was awarded the Best Film of the Year Nigar Award for 1994 (a total of 8 Nigar’s won) perhaps due to its sensitive, thoughtful and positive portrayal of the creature and his quest to rid the nation of nasty anti-state elements! A sober, noble effort from the Rizvi clan but a word of warning for lusting horror fans – this aint no Zinda Laash!