Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor barely raises the bar for children's films in Pakistan

Did Allahyar meet expectations of better-than-before animation from Pakistan?
02 Feb, 2018

What are our expectations from an animated children’s movie made in Pakistan?

That the film should spark the imagination of its young viewers? That its story should inspire them? That its visuals should look better than Commander Safeguard?

In Allahyar and The Legend of Markhor (Allahyar), an unlikely group unites in the jungles of north Pakistan to stop a pair of poachers — Mani (Ali Noor) and his reluctant sidekick Babloo Chacha (Arieb Azhar) — from hunting down markhors on the mountaintop of Sia Koh.

This group consists of our young hero, Allahyar (Anum Zaidi); his spirited markhor friend, Mehru (Natasha Humera Ejaz); a rather entitled snow leopard, Chakku (Abdul Nabi Jamali); and the always amorous Hero (Azfar Jafri), who’s a chukar, i.e., a partridge native to north Pakistan.

Allahyar may check the above boxes, yet leaves a fair bit to be desired.

Here’s how:

Allahyar’s lots of little lessons are heard loud and clear

Allahyar has a naughty streak, but is otherwise quite the model boy. So he is heard spouting platitudes like ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ on the regular.

Perhaps the most important message that he vocalises is that of the need to overcome our differences. We see animals from across the wilderness come together, regard each other with suspicion and realise that other species aren’t so bad.

The fact that Allahyar delivers rote-learnt lines to the effect of ‘One shouldn’t judge a person on the basis of their religion, nationality or colour’ really hammers that point home, which is fair given that this is a lesson not necessarily taught in every home. In the violent, divisive times that children are now growing up in, we really can't say this enough.

These messages could definitely have been woven more subtly into the film’s narrative, but perhaps it was a deliberate attempt of the director to familiarise the audience with the Urdu versions of these popular sayings. In interviews, director Uzair Zaheer Khan has said that he works with a Urdu curriculum company and even includes a tangential scene that pointedly highlights the lack of regard for Urdu in our school curricula.

But Allahyar doesn’t send a strong enough message about wildlife conservation

That the film tries to foster a desire to care for Pakistan’s wildlife is immediately obvious.

Through the course of Allahyar's narrative, it is emphasised that the only acceptable reason to hunt animals is to feed ourselves (the vegetarian Mehru of course disagrees) and that killing animals for sport or a show of skill isn’t cool. The film also talks about wildlife as a source of national pride; at one point, Allahyar’s father says that anyone who sells markhor essentially sells the nation.

These are all ideas worth reinforcing, but do they really inspire the audience to reevaluate their role in protecting the animals around us?

Poacher Mani is the out-and-out villain of the film
Poacher Mani is the out-and-out villain of the film

Allahyar misses the opportunity to take a stronger stand for animal rights through the very interesting character of Babloo Chacha. This Chacha, who is an almost unwilling accomplice to poacher Mani’s crimes, has ambivalent feelings towards violence and holds the view that taking an animal’s life is a lesser evil than taking a human’s. This is a fairly accurate reflection of Pakistani society.

Chacha could have matured in the film to empathise with animals’ suffering, but that doesn’t happen. [Spoiler begins] In the end, Babloo Chacha turns his back on Mani to save Allahyar’s life; he doesn’t take this bold step when a markhor is under threat. [Spoiler ends] The film thus stops short of sending a more decisive message about the value of animal lives.

Ironically, it’s the evil poacher Mani who has the right idea — a life is a life — but the wrong intention — he preys on human and animals equally!

The film has enough visual appeal and funny dialogues to draw people in

Allahyar meets the current industry standard of animation, but didn’t push that envelope further, even though director Uzair promised he would. There is an obvious lack of consistency in the animation style; and basic issues like lipsyncing errors and clumsy transitions and cuts mars the overall presentation of the film.

While the terrain and environment detail was nice, some of the animal characters needed more variety in movement, although it has to be said that they got the markhors right — strong and surefooted. The rabbits were cute but far less true-to-life than the rest of the characters. They were almost puppets.

That being said, the film is colourful and situated in the beautiful north, which means there is enough visual splendour to sustain the audience through the film's short 90-minute or so duration.

What people will recall is the film’s funny moments, like Hero the chukar, whose amourous antics are hilarious (even though they may be normalising harassment for the film’s young audience!). It was welcome relief to connect with and look forward to a character, especially in the absence of an emotional connection with the two main charcaters, Allahyar and Mehru. Equally funny is the appearance of a pair of rabbits (played by Parchi stars Hareem Farooq and Ali Rehman Khan). Don’t miss out.


think Feb 02, 2018 10:38am
I don't understand why animation movies are interpreted as being for children only. Adults enjoy them as much, if not more than children do
aziz Feb 02, 2018 11:32am
It would have been better if they had also included Houbara Bustard.
Khurram K Jamali Feb 02, 2018 11:51am
It is incredibly debilitating how critical we are of each and every initiative in Pakistan =/
ASB Feb 02, 2018 12:05pm
a good achievement in Pakistan in animation industry.
INFOMAN Feb 02, 2018 03:16pm
A fantastic effort. In a land where we splurge on fashion, sing song ads with beautiful women and catwalks and take the high road to everything but education .. this is a very good effort and we should applaud the team .. well done all of you who made this film possible.
Asad Feb 02, 2018 07:59pm
@Khurram K Jamali It was boring. One can't sugar coat.
Ehsan Feb 02, 2018 08:37pm
@Khurram K Jamali completely agree
irfan aziz Feb 02, 2018 10:23pm
It is a great start, keep it up and make it better .. Thanks
Mariam Feb 03, 2018 03:32am
Language is not suitable at all for targeted young audience. E.g: in one of the scenes Allahyar's dialogue is: "Teri to esi ki tesi" while taking aim. I would never appreciate my kids learning and speaking these kind of phrases.
SF Feb 03, 2018 02:00pm
Its called a Chakor not Chukar.
Qurrat Feb 05, 2018 04:04pm
I have seen trailer of movie and it really inspired me , indeed a great work . Need beneficiary , donors to make and promote such movies worldwide . Indeed such creation if continue ll take pakistan in front row of animated movies and this concept is far attractive then production of cheaper stuff in compittition with Bollywood . As a nation we need Tarbiyah along with education , we need to change ourselves by angle of 180 and by this our new generation , and this one of the unique way . I request to Team of Allahyar to make more films to inspire and educate nation.