Parchi tries to take comedy films to a new level, but did it succeed?

Updated 04 Jan, 2018 06:34pm

The film tackles some prominent issues common in Pakistani cinema but still suffers from a weak script

Going in to see Parchi I didn't have the highest expectations. The film seemed like another whodunnit comedy caper with a social justice message in the end. And that's pretty much what it was, but done right.

By the time the opening credits kicked in, my expectations had risen.

Bash (Ali Rehman Khan) is a selfish conman whose debt results in him getting a parchi from mafia boss Zodiac (Shafqat Cheema). A parchi is a death sentence but Zodiac has given Bash five days to come up with the money... or else.

Brother Bilal (Usman Mukhtar) is the complete opposite of Bash. He has a stable job, adores his mother and wants the best for his friends and family. So he decides to help Bash get the money to pay off his debt with his friends Saqi (Ahmed Ali Akbar) and Bholu (Shafqat Khan).

Not knowing how exactly to handle the situation, they end up seeking the help of Eman (Hareem Farooq), a small-time gangster who helps the needy and has a personal vendetta against Zodiac.

Together with Eman, the team decides to con the money from a rich woman Sumaira (Faiza Saleem), who is also Saqi's girlfriend Natasha's (Mahenur Haider) overprotective mother. Bash doubts his friends can handle it and doesn't completely trust Eman, while Eman wants him to realise the value of his loved ones who are putting themselves on the line for his bad choices.

Parchi shows the importance of appreciating your loved ones

You won't expect it, but Parchi is more than a crime comedy full of maar dhaar and LOL moments. Through his journey in the film, Bash's learns to depend on his friends and family.

Initially, he is shown as selfish and oblivious to the feelings of others. He believes he can handle every situation on his own so has a rather pompous attitude. He also lashes out at his friends and mocks their intelligence and lifestyle. Despite this, they all stay by his side and try their best to help him out.

Eman has lost her mother and that has made her appreciate the people by her side, which makes her more of a Robin Hood than a gangster. She is quick to point out to Bash the error of his ways and how he should appreciate the people around him, including her. Through the turmoil and chaos, Bash starts realising what he's been taking for granted.

I find it interesting that within a crime comedy that highlights the fine line between good and bad ('cos we're rooting for the bad guys throughout), we see this important theme of family. Bilal is in touch with his mother while Bash never speaks to her. Bilal has the safe lifestyle while Bash's life is in danger because of his own actions. We see how being close to loved ones is shown to be valuable in the Parchi script.

A few strong performances made up for a sometimes weak script

First things first: Some of the performances in Parchi are the best I've seen so far on the Pakistani big screen.

While Ali Rehman Khan played his role as Bash well enough, it was his friends that stole the spotlight.

Usman Mukhtar shone as Bilal Ahmed. Bilal is a 9-to-5 office employee who can't even speak up to his boss, so for him to be stuck in a world of mafia and gangsters is quite the impossible situation that is ripe for humour. And he made the most of it with his effortless dialogue delivery and comic timing, which should be a lesson for many actors.

Parchi has many over-the-top scenarios and for him to deliver subtle humour that was suitable for his sober character was a treat to watch.

Ahmed Ali Akbar also handled his role as the brothers' best friend Saqi well. His loyalty to his friends and love for Natasha makes for him ending up in the most unlikely situations but he handles the situational comedy of robbing a woman and romancing her daughter very well. He is the cowardliest of the lot but puts on a brave face for Natasha and it was entertaining.

At times, we see the actors save the script in its weaker moments. For example, Bholu's untimely complaints of hunger during a suspenseful money exchange (read the room Bholu!) was rather off-putting, but the actors made up for it by responding fluently to the joke and bringing the conversation back to the topic a hand.

It wasn't just the lead actors who stood out with brilliant work. I was impressed by Faizan Sheikh's work as Biscuit, a henchman of Eman's. He'd stay calm in predicaments where everything would be in a frenzy. His sober and serious persona added a very interesting touch to the situational comedy he was presented in.

Parchi depends on OTT plot twists to get out of sticky situations

Parchi is a film where over-the-top comedy is abundant, so I can let go of many far-fetched scenarios that might not be logically accurate. Once I let go I was able to enjoy it more. However, it was quite disappointing when even the film's major conflicts were resolved via far-fetched comical solutions.

Spoiler: Natasha is cornered by some baddies and her solution to save herself is screaming "Mama!" on the top of lungs, which is enough for someone to literally fly to her rescue.

What I did love about Parchi was that unlike many films before it, it didn't feel like a drag. There was no point where I felt the film is going on for too long, although there were scenes I'd rather not be there. It felt like the makers of the film were attempting to avoid this common mistake. However, their attempt had the film being haphazard and messy, with plots and subplots moving at too fast a pace and conflicts happening and resolving too fast.

Quarter way into the film, Bash and Bilal had their biggest sibling fight where Bilal is sick of Bash's lifestyle and selfish ways whereas Bash hates his brother for not understanding him. The fight came in too soon and resembled two children fighting over a crayon and even though Bilal walks out, the next scene is him saying "He's my brother after all." Did I mention Bash socked him in the face? I'm all for good pacing but this race to the ending was too much.

All eyes were on Hareem Farooq. Did she deliver?

Hareem Farooq could have done a better job as Eman and it felt like a lacking in the script. It took me a while to understand that she is not just a dewy skinned crusader (really good skin you guys) looking for justice but has a whole backstory that explains her grudge against Zodiac. That was mentioned too casually in the script and also too late.

I admire Parchi for introducing a strong female lead but Eman's story was crowded with men. From her aggression towards Bash to her hatred for Zodiac and her backstory, Eman couldn't be seen as the powerful female character who is dependent on no one.

But did she look the part of a badass heroine? Yes, indeed! Her entire get-up as the small time boss was fitting for the film and I need to have her highlighter.

Parchi is one of the few films in which I was able to appreciate the attention to wardrobe and makeup. Each character was given distinct looks and styles.

But I didn't get why the henchmen of the mafia bosses looked like those Dothraki warriors from Game of Thrones but considering it helped me differentiate between the bad guys and the good (who were also kinda bad guys actually) I'll take it. Plus, nothing wrong with looking like Khal Drogo.

Some characters were a let-down

While some actors were brilliant in Parchi, the others were a let-down and it was obvious why. I was quite looking forward to seeing Faiza Saleem on the big screen but I was disappointed in the role she had been given.

Faiza plays Sumaira Khanjarwali (let that sink in), mother to Saqi's love interest and that already irked me. Yes, Faiza plays a desi mom in some of her sketches but why is her hair being whitened and she playing a character easily double her age? Because it's funny for those who know her?

If that weren't enough, I couldn't understand the character depiction she was going for. She said she loves zombie movies but I was wondering if she's a zombie herself. In case you're wondering why, she sounded like this through out.

Who's the zombie here?

When Batman debuted his hoarse voice, we all made fun of him, even though he was very justified in masking his voice. What's Aunty Sumaira's excuse?

Another character who was a let-down was Bholu. He was completely unnecessary and forgettable in Parchi. I mean, his name is Bholu. In a film where humourous quirks are present in almost every scene, we don't need a character made for slapstick comic relief. His dialogues were annoying and for the most part the immaturity of the character made me question where his parents were. They should have been monitoring him better. That is more the script's fault than the character.

The songs, although fun, were unnecessary

The songs 'Imagine' and 'Billo Hai' are super-catchy and fun, but the film loses only time with them. I understood the joke they were going for with 'Imagine' (Bilal falling in love at first sight with Eman... And Eman with Bash) and it could have been done in a minute tops. Same was the case with 'Billo Hai'. While I loved the honest depiction of a desi wedding, it wasn't needed at all. Time and place, people, time and place.

The only track I enjoyed in the film as a part of the film was the titular track 'Parchi' and that too because the intro credits were done very well. It added to the feel of the film and what to expect. Shout out to Parchi for its very amazing visuals.

Parchi is not a film without flaws but it has some redeemable qualities that make it worth a watch. It deserves credit for standing out among other caper flicks and the visuals, soundtrack and good acting makes it a good enough film to start 2018 with.