The opening scene of Gumm: In The Middle Of Nowhere lives up to the movie's title.
Our hero Asad (Sami Khan) is quite literally ‘gumm’ or lost in the depths of a sinister, silent jungle. He wakes up in a wrecked car and can't remember who he is. Next to him lies a bag full of cash. Before he knows it, the man behind the steering wheel gets dragged out by an animal. Asad manages to fend off the creature and scrambles out of the car to begin his journey through the wild.
It’s an intriguing beginning to the story and as the plot unravels, the movie delivers on quite a few more suspense-laden moments. Asad has flashbacks as he roams the jungle, often brought about by eerie visions of his wife and daughter. He moves slowly, battling a bleeding leg wound and keeping a lookout for wild animals and the police who is scouring the jungle to capture the man with the money, which apparently has been stolen from a bank.
However, the most lethal of all threats in the jungle is posed by Haider Chhura, played by Shamoon Abbasi. Haider is a hardened criminal, money hungry and, as his name implies, quite fond of stabbing people with his ‘chhura’.
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW
In one of the initial scenes, Haider snatches the money away from Asad, telling him that it is actually his and is meant for his daughter’s medical expenses. Soon, Asad has a few more flashbacks – very vivid ones, replete with songs, repartee and some very emotional moments – that help him remember that it was he who stole the money to pay for the leukemia treatment of his own five-year-old daughter. He had approached Haider to help him rob a bank but once the theft had taken place, Haider had tried to take the money away and this had lead to the car crash in the jungle.
Asad’s struggle to get the money back from Haider leads the story through several twists and turns, which are interesting but could have been more riveting should more attention had been given to details. The wild animal constantly on the periphery, gearing for attack, isn’t visible for most of the time, perhaps because showing a wolf or cheetah in action would have required high-budget special effects. A wolf does make an appearance eventually, in a clip that seems to be lifted off a wildlife documentary.
The movie has been shot in the forests near Islamabad which is certainly difficult terrain but better picture quality could have accentuated the beauty of the region. The fights are stilted as are some of the dialogues and a basic Google search could have made the story more watertight. Leukemia, after all, isn’t a disease that can be countered by a single operation. The music could have also been catchier. These details, coupled together, bring down the merit of a movie that has a plot which is ultimately quite absorbing.
One wonders, though, why an actor of Shamoon Abbasi’s stature opted to play Haider. He is convincingly malevolent but his scenes and dialogues are extremely limited. There are no layers to Haider, no back-story to explain away why he is so wholeheartedly evil. The character is so one-sided that there is a chance that some of Shamoon’s scenes may have been edited out and even Haider’s voice has very evidently been dubbed by some other actor. It doesn’t make sense for a well-established actor like Shamoon to be playing a character that is in the sidelines while the focus is so evidently on Asad’s story.
The weight of the movie, in fact, entirely lies on Sami Khan’s shoulders and he carries it very well, easily transitioning from street ruffian to devoted husband and father to the desperate man lost in the woods. Shameen Khan, as Asad’s wife, is very pretty and makes the most of a small role. She does show promise but doesn’t quite get the chance to prove her acting mettle.
And yet, for all the small holes tearing at its plot, Gumm doesn’t drag and wraps up neatly in less than two hours. The story grips simply because it remains unpredictable till the very last scene. It is admirable that directors Ammar Lasani and Kanza Zia have tried to dabble with a new genre, steering away from formulaic romantic comedies and patriotic war movies that have been dominating local cinema’s new wave. More time and thought invested into the direction, the editing, dialogues and music could have added much more finesse to the movie. Gumm may be worth a watch – but perhaps not worth watching again and again.