Rambo 303 (1993)
Cast: Jahanzeb, Saima, Ajab Gul, Madeeha Shah, Seema, Tariq Shah
Director: Sarwar Khayyal
Nutshell: Purana Pakistan and all the typical trappings of a corruption at every institution of the land, many would claim the Naya version is much the same but in this case, Luckily, we have Rambo 303 to make things better!
It’s the early 1990’s with Pakistan reeling after successive governments breaking all record levels of corruption and it is in these prevailing conditions in urban Lahore that a young man named Raheel AKA Rambo 303 emerges as a ray of sunshine and hope. Later, a young and fearless student leader joins Rambo to try to save the day becoming inspirational role models for following generations with their heroic deeds and their immaculate 90’s hairstyles.
Early on, a seedy, sleazy party man Chaudhary (Tariq Shah) takes a liking to a young helpless bechari female. When he has her taken to his pad informing her that he always gets his way and is about to grab her p@$$y when she flees the scene in horror but Chaudhary’s goons give chase.
The girl is saved by the grace of God as Rambo appears like an angel and then goes a step further adopting the stranger as a sister taking her home to Mom. Mother, played by Seema can barely contain her delight having some random woman thrust on her as a “new daughter”. Seema’s Maa ki Mamta instincts burst through and she’s all sugar-coated goodie two shoes exuberance.
Chaudhary and his corrupt pals are increasingly disturbed about student leader (Ajab Khan) giving all sorts of dangerously provocative, idealistic and patriotic speeches and getting himself quite a fan following. It is decided they need to eliminate him and a huge clash awaits.
Saima plays the feisty sister of a corrupt government official but remarkably she herself is the epitome of Girl Power and takes no crap from anyone, least of all men.
She gets off on the wrong foot with Muscle Boy Rambo but all is quickly forgotten and a romance soon blossoms between the two. Rambo soon clashes with Sikander the student leader (Ajab Khan) but their misunderstandings are soon sorted as they realize they are fighting the same evil and are better off having each other’s back.
Next, Rambo who has this thing for snapping necks at an alarming rate is unsurprisingly framed for murder. Now, his new BFF Sikander must find a way out and with help arriving from an unexpected source.
Frisky Saima is a tough cookie for sure but how will she cope without her beloved Rambo who is soon to hang for murder? For the moment the corrupt system has the upper hand but will our heroes be able to turn things around?
So far so good but soon the film begins to falter when it should be picking up a gear. The usual problems with having song and romance situations in the second half of the movie when these should already be out of the way with the plot, twisting and turning its way to its thrilling conclusion. Two dreary songs arrive just at the wrong moment and the tempo is badly disturbed but when the action gets going once again, it matches the phenomenal standards set from the outset.
The fights are stupendous and taken to another level of surreal with the sound FX and editing which had the movies thrill factor going through the roof!
The film delivers spectacular action in spades but should have been reduced by about 45 to 50 minutes. Two songs should have been omitted and the fight scenes been much leaner. There is also a dull B-grade villain who features in two extended fight scenes and is a woefully insipid character who should never have been cast as a villain of any stature. He doesn’t even have a scar let alone a villain’s get-up nor a Michael Jackson wig or a Punk Mohawk; not even stylish bell-bottoms!
Rambo 303 might be a touch low on the emotional stuff but scores a bullseye with its exhilarating action even if the story line is more than a tad predictable. The plot doesn’t contain any interesting or crazy twists to take things to another level.
The astonishing fights are also curious with most of them taking place on the open streets of Lahore with large crowds massing to watch the shooting. This adds an odd dimension of distorted reality to these scenes. Some dialogs are loaded and crackle nicely but spicy masalaydar melodrama is a little light in the mix.
Ajab Gul as the firebrand student leader shouts vigorously and is high maintenance. If you can manage to enjoy Gul’s style of acting, the rest comes easy. The movie has several highlights with the fights and stunts being other-worldly. There is also a considerable plus with youthful Saima making a major impression. Jahanzeb’s Rambo look is dashing and his array of headbands are breathtaking and incredibly fashionable but he maybe lacks a little flair and swag when it comes to pathos and drama. Tariq Shah is a seasoned hand as villain and Seema is typical Seema.
It is difficult not fall in love with a movie that has its own version of “Hands Up, Baby (Give Me Your Heart)” by Ottowan featured as Saima’s Theme. There is also a pulsating Rambo Theme with one reserved for Shafqat Cheema whose get-up designer obviously ran out of funds as Cheema fails to make the impression he usually does, playing second fiddle to Tariq Shah.
There is one particularly memorable scene when Shah lets loose a bunch of men in doggy clothes who snarl, bark and even bite like rabid dogs. It’s insanely warped and nonsensical stuff reminiscent of Pashto cinema at its most deranged. The film was probably released in 3 regional languages including Pashto, Punjabi and Urdu for maximum box office potential.
For the most part Rambo 303 is a great fun but you end up thinking if only he had been a special agent, an undercover cop maybe- any sort of fun twist. Perhaps there could have been an unmasking or a sleazy dance number or two for additional merit.
And yet, let there be no denying that Rambo 303 is a cracker of a film even if the feeling that it should have been a bomb!