Rambo (1991)

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Rambo (1991)
Cast: Ajab Gul in and As Rambo, Reema, Hamayun Qureshi, Munir Zareef, Suneeta, and introducing Babrak.
Director:  Mumtaz Ali Khan
Nutshell: A whiff of rebellion is in the air as a brutal, Psychotic Jagirdar’s excesses take matters to an unbearable extreme. 

The 1991 Double language production is immediately set apart with its striking location around the Muzaffarabad area.  Everything looks attractive and comparatively fresh compared to the usual “look” of a normal Lollywood movie. 

On screen the people of the area are being ruled over with an iron fist with a nasty Jagirdar who clearly has Amrish Puri’s Mogambo as a role model.  The madman takes relish in “Keeping men in their place” and he doesn’t tolerate any hint of dissent.  He, Khan Baba (Humayun Qureshi) does wear some fine threads and has an 80s New Wave Pop Star look about him; occasionally very Studio 54 Chic. 

Reema and Babrak, Khan Baba’s two spoilt rotten kids return from London and the old man is terribly excited.  Reema is a rude, arrogant bitch and is ready to be “taught a lesson” along the way.  Ultimately, she has to morph into Miss Perfect.  First, she has to watch out for her brother Babrak who is a bit of a pervert and nearly makes a play for his own sister! 

You can soon easily read the plot a mile off with Reema to be rescued, “saved” and brought onto the right path along the way.  Meanwhile a rebellion led by Rambo is brewing which is the essence of the movie’s plot.

Disaster strikes Rambo’s home when Babrak makes a play for his sister one night when Rambo is away and his sister sacrifices herself rather than end up as Babrak’s conquest, dying just as Rambo finds her.

Babrak’s been shopping at Primark

Humayun Qureshi has a prime role but and looks fine but his role is a pale shade of Mogambo with mannerisms that don’t work for him and little ticks that just look awkward and infantile.  His role is a decent effort but a wasted opportunity and Qureshi is less memorable than he usually is this time around. 

Ajab Gul playing Rambo now must rise to attempt to overthrow the evil Jagirdar system and bring a rebellion among the people against the injustices they must bear.

Reema is feisty and has an odd dialog delivery style.  The film looks good because of the backdrop otherwise at 2 hours and 40 minutes its way too long and way too predictable to be able to maintain a half decent grip on the viewer.  Way too many songs and not nearly enough dramatics and action.  The fights are very flat and offer no thrill factor at all.  Ajab Gul is anonymous as Rambo and shouts a lot but does he convince?  The Script is very weak and the action tame at best.  The film is film is predictable from the start and offers no novel surprises or twists.  Its inoffensive but way too long and slow.  The villains “get up” is often spectacular but once again the script lets them down. 

Ajab Gul as a shrieking Rambo with fixed Reema.

Ajab Gul comes across as a loud and shrieky as Rambo.  Qureshi is all look and not much style as the villain Halaku AKA Khan Baba.  Fatally the songs are dreadfully frequent and manage to bloat the films time without increasing its intrigue as they don’t add anything particular to the plot and aren’t lewd enough or notable in any way, just bland.  There are also elaborate dance numbers which are a little flat and routine.  The film has a definite Pashto movie vibe as did so many films in the early 90s.  By this time Pirated content had destroyed the Urdu movie market and cinema was pretty much a male only thing in all of Pakistan.  The double language films were often catering to the Pashto audience as well and reflected the style and manner and often craft and sensibilities of those particular movies as well. Often it can work as a positive tactic but very often, especially with the habit of having a dozen songs in a film as well as an amount of “comic relief” it can be tedious viewing. 

Punjabi films of the 90s had moved three steps closer to the Pashto style of filming as highlighted by the double language films.  Even some of the Urdu productions were being handled by Pashto film makers and contained an element that would suit their audiences as part of the film.  These were dark days for Pakistani films but fortunately the blandness of a double or triple language film aiming to please three different markets left each of the markets unsatisfied.  The Punjabi and Urdu as well as the Pashto film wallahs all felt that this kind of product was a compromise.  People appeared to prefer a Punjabi film for its Punjabiness and and Urdu film for its Urduness or indeed a Pashto film for its unique flavour.  These films were soulless to a large extent.

In conclusion its fairly lame, bland and predictable but a pretty looking film with decent performances but nothing that stands out.  The much touted Babrak is amateurish and lacks the smooth, style factor of a seasoned villain.

The whole Jagirdar revolution film is a noble cause but as good masala entertainment, the film never gets into the overdrive mode.  It never manages to arouse its audience in any sort of manner.  There are simply not enough if any clap worthy moments or bits when you fell like unleashing a mighty whistle or in this case “Chile” it’s a tad disappointing.  The whole thing lacks that extra sparkle and the extra oomph that gives a film that extra something.  The dynamic, melodrama doesn’t really have that magic this time around and its all just a bit flat. Then of course there is Ajab Gul, shouting at the top of his voice, but nobody’s listening!

The film was dubbed and released as “Halaku” for Pashto audiences in 1995 trying to fool them with a new title for an old film! This dubious tactic, occasionally employed, failed this time around as the film was largely ignored by audiences. Black Cat had re-emerged as a “new film” titled Lady Boss some years ago in similar vein with producers trying to play smart but audiences aren’t so easily fooled.

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