Sahir Lodhi has a kind of insufferable magic about him. His new film, Raasta, is out in cinemas now, but should you go watch it? Why did I watch it?
To me, Sahir Lodhi’s earnest, self-congratulatory, over-the-top narcissism is absolutely fascinating.
“I’d rather get herpes,” said a friend when I asked her to watch the film with me. I safely assumed that the problem was my company, not Raasta.
(Another friend, Salik, came along eventually because the ticket was on me… Thanks Salik).
But I was in for a treat. My hero Sahir Lodhi was not only the ‘hero’ in this offering, he was also the anti-hero, villain, anti-villain, director, screenwriter, producer and executive producer.
It’s 11:15pm and I’m ready to go skinny dipping inside Sahir Lodhi's mind.
Raasta is a two-part story, designed to encapsulate and showcase all of Sahir Lodhi's talents.
Sameer is Lodhi’s exhausting character. Sameer moves to Karachi and starts living with his brother Sultan, played by Aijaz Aslam, and his brother’s wife, Bhabi, played by Sana Fakhar.
Aijaz Aslam’s character, though, could have just as easily been played by a tree, or a rock. But perhaps executive director Sahir Lodhi wasn’t looking to cut costs with this one.
Bhabi and Sameer are really, really close. A bit too close, some would say.
Sultan is a policeman whose honesty is worryingly unusual to everybody involved with his life.
Their relationship is rocky, mostly owing to Sameer’s eight-year run at failing to get a job and look after himself. During this time we also see two women in Sameer's life. He's predictably torn between the two (more on this later). Part one ends with Sameer being kicked out of his house by his brother, sowing the seeds of intense hatred between the two.
In the second part of the film, Sameer, severely disillusioned by his own righteousness, decides to become a gangster and avenge all the wrong that he felt had been done to him.
The film rolls out like a checklist of scenes that Sahir Lodhi really wanted to act in. In what felt like a glorified, high budget audition tape, Sahir Lodhi even slips in the odd hint about his real acting career. In one scene, one of his love interests passes a remark on his over-use of 'filmy dialogues' (and that held factually true as well). He says something to the effect of; “Yea, nobody gives me a role in their film so I’m having to make my own movie.”
The whole film was actually Sahir Lodhi’s internal monologue, masqueraded by the clingy, over-bearing character of Sameer. To the extent that some of the characters that are actually developed (given slots) in the beginning of the film, never appear again until the end of the film.
Unapologetically violent, disproportionately proud, self-righteous, relentless, surreal and borderline absurd; this film brings together all that I find profoundly interesting about the quintessential Pakistani pop celebrity.
Would you hire Sahir Lodhi?
A significant portion of the film is about Sameer not being able to land a job.
In one particularly troublesome job interview, Sameer shows up for a position that requires minimum 12 years of experience, but he hasn’t worked a day in eight years.
Clearly, that could have been avoided by a quick YouTube search on “how to apply for a job”.
Furthermore, when he physically misplaces his degree on top of a bus, he firmly believes that his university years have gone down the drain - not knowing he could always shoot an email to his university asking them for a duplicate of his degree and resume his job hunt.
Salik and I felt that Sameer was just looking for excuses to not work.
“His idea of a degree is a lot like that of a person’s who doesn’t know what a degree is. Degree certificates don’t have any intrinsic value and if he’d lost his degree, he could have easily got another one,” observed Salik, in one of our post-movie chats.
There was also zero clarity on what kind of a job Sameer was looking for - and failing so miserably at it.
Sameer blames nepotism for his unemployment. He blames his brother too, for not getting in a sifarish for him. It’s weird.
However, being unemployed isn’t the only reason Sameer is butt-hurt.
Enter Maya the ‘NGO’ girl
One day, a woman called Maya (played by Saima Azhar) is introduced as someone running an NGO.
Two guys are crushing madly over her. One is the villain and the other is - you guessed it - Sameer.
But because Sameer is broke and unemployed, and the villain is clearly wealthier, the ‘NGO’ worker, Maya, is lured in by her greed and chooses to date the villain. Was that a dig at NGOs being opportunistic and exploitative? It seems too deep to be true. It was perhaps just a very predictable instance of an entitled, immature male labeling a woman as manipulative and mercenary when the truth is she just wasn't that into him.
Sameer eventually realises that he is more into the girl played by model Abeer Rizvi. Her character seriously lacks personality, but that works out because she is largely only required to be on the listening end to an endless barrage of Sameer's intense dialogues.
Why should you watch this film?
Distraught Lodhi ends up getting shot a number of times throughout the course of the film. Of course, it doesn’t hurt much - especially if you’re being shot for the wrong reasons.
Sameer has been mistreated by the world and there is no way his sense of pride is going to be deflated by some flying bullet piercing through his lungs. Sameer will not die because there is a lot more acting in different scenarios that still needs to be done. And you need not ask for an explanation as to how he survives the multiple gun attacks he’s been a victim of.
One very important thing to note is that in this film, Sahir Lodhi only whispers.
Whatever he has to say, he whispers it. Isn’t that cool?
Whoever has followed Sahir Lodhi in real life would know that he has roughly two public personas. One: the guy who you’d want to have marry your daughter. Two: the kind of guy you would fight tooth and nail to protect your daughter from.
In that sense, Raasta has an auto-biographical quality about it, which for a Sahir Lodhi fan (like myself) is a source of invaluable entertainment.
The film wasn’t completely fluff either. Things did happen and there was indeed a story.
The entertainment value was also unexpectedly high. Every scene was extremely dramatic and lots of clothes were changed during the film. The sound design was quite poor with dialogues often not synced with the video, however, to expect any kind of technical acumen from this film would be naive and missing the point.
I was there to witness the insufferable Elvis Presley-Shah Rukh Khan-Raj Kumar knock off, Sahir Lodhi, and I surely got my money’s worth.
Heading out of the cinema, I knew it would take a really detailed shower to rid myself of the slime that I had willingly desired to be smothered with.
It doesn’t matter which side of the Sahir Lodhi camp you’re at. Just go (don’t go alone) and watch the film. It’s hilarious.