In Sacch — the most Bollywood-looking movie one will see in 2019 (and perhaps, next year as well) — Ayaan (Asad Zaman Khan) promises his best bud Zain (Humayoun Ashraf), that the latter need only ask for anything, and it would be his. When that moment comes, as we knew it would, Ayaan thought his bicycle-peddling buddy would ask for a car. Zain, however, wants Ayaan’s girl. But then, one already knew this going into the movie.
What one wouldn’t know, at least judging from the song-less trailer, is that Ayaan and Zain are stepbrothers. But again, there is hardly any mystery in that department, as we’re introduced to the fact in the movie’s first few minutes.
So, what is the mystery in Sacch? Apparently nothing, because everything is laid out in the open from the start.
Director Zulfikar Sheikh’s film debut (he directed The Castle: Aik Umeed and produced Aansoo and Des Pardes for television), is a mish-mash of Bollywood-ish ideas, produced with Bollywood-ish zeal that was all the rage earlier this decade. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, the premise, also from Sheikh — of brothers growing up in different circumstances, and the consequential rollercoaster of emotions — is fine as well; it’s the magnitude of muddles in trifling details that does the movie in.
First, let’s get the good aspects out of the way.
Sachh tries hard to be a Bollywood film but remains a Pakistani one with much room for improvement
Shot in Scotland, the cinematography by Kabir Lal (Taal, Pardes) elevates the visual grandeur of the films (there is also another credit of a ‘director of photography’ to Shahid Lal, which is perplexing, because cinematographer and director of photography are two titles of the same job).
Secondly, the soundtrack by Simaab Sen (who also composed for Wrong No. 2, Mehrnunnisa V Lub U), is near about pitch-perfect for the movie’s drama-romance genre.
Thirdly, the pacing: Sacch progresses with the deliberate measure and ambience of any thematically similar Bollywood movie.
But the buck stops here.
The screenplay by Kumud Chaudhry (amazingly, she also has a script credit; scripts and screenplays are the same thing in filmmaking), and the nearly dismissible dialogues from returning veteran writer Haseena Moin, need a thorough second draft to get the kinks out of their systems.
The entire brother-against-brother dilemma could have been ideal fodder for a romance drama teeming with themes of love, power, betrayal and heartbreak. In their current form, they appear as impractical, impulsive and idealistic foretastes of a far more substantial idea that still lies somewhere on the drawing board.
A second draft — maybe even a third one — would have done Sacch a world of good. At the very least, it would have given its leads — Zaman, Ashraf and Elysee Sheikh, the leading lady — cogency and dimension.
Zaman, who plays the uber-rich businessman of few words — and even fewer expressions — actually delivers the most consistent performance from the lot. Sheikh, playing her namesake Elysee, is surprisingly fine despite occasional misdirection from her father, Zulfikar Sheikh.
Ashraf, perhaps surmounted by the indecisive trait given to his character, is all over the place, sporadically oscillating from one emotion to another within a span of seconds, let alone minutes.
Without well-written scenes developing his complex psyche, Ashraf’s character appears as an irksome pest. Heck, even Elysee feels that way during certain scenes.
Ayesha Sana, Javed Sheikh and Uzma Gillani appear as amateurish as Ashraf. Fazila Qazi, Nauman Masood, Tasmina Sheikh, and the unwarranted post-intermission addition of Zulfikar Sheikh himself, help bring some measure of professionalism in the acting department.
Despite the necessity of the supporting cast in the story, as the story moves forward, one sees that they hold little substance and offer even lesser value to the story.
Speaking of things of little value: the edit decisions by Rizwan AQ are insensitive to both the flow of the scenes and the performances of the artists.
Forget the immature split-second ‘flashes’ of gloss (the kind where the screen flashes for a micro-second to accentuate drama), or the 12-frame long swipe-transitions the editor indulges in, the whopping problem one often sees is how dialogue-based scenes — which amount to nearly 90 percent of the movie — are forcibly conjoined together. The cuts, especially between different camera angles at times, do little to weed out half-effective, borderline amateurish performances from the actors.
Half-way after the intermission — when the romance and the drama wobblingly enter into what may be considered their high points — I was reminded of a saying: Na teen mein, na tera mein [neither here, nor there].
This, perhaps, is the ‘Sacch’ [truth] behind Sacch: it looks like a Bollywood movie, it moves like a Bollywood movie but, at the end of the day, Sacch is very much a Pakistani product — the ones that display a lot of room for improvement.
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, December 29th, 2019