Review: In Daadal, Sonya Hussyn is a killer on a mission

Review: In Daadal, Sonya Hussyn is a killer on a mission

Hussyn may have the meaty, headlining role as well as the best scene in the film, but it is Mohsin Abbas Haider who dominates the movie.
25 Apr, 2023

At the heart of Daadal, Sonya Hussyn’s new movie, smack dab right before the intermission, lives a moment of brilliance. In the scene, Haya Baloch (Sonya Hussyn), a hit-woman who kills bad men, lays out the motive of her killing spree to someone off-camera.

Minutes pass and in what becomes a motionless passage of time as Haya gets overwhelmed by the pain of her own backstory, her crushing agony is amplified by a performance that wins awards and causes the heart to palpitate.

The younger of two sisters (Maira Khan plays the older sibling), Haya’s seething fury has been on a slow burn for years. Traumatised by her drunk, abusive father — who once bet Haya’s mother on a mere Rs2,500 gamble, which turned out to be a bad hand — Haya has been training herself to be the secret avenger of women. Her targets, usually men, range from abusers to paedophiles.

Moments before Haya’s spellbinding revelation, she had broken into a gang’s lair, head-butting, kicking, slashing and killing the hoods. It’s a bloody affair, but Haya isn’t afraid of blood, dead bodies or repercussions.

The concept of this Neha Laaj produced, Abu Aleeha written and directed film could have been born from the mere idea of this scene alone. It is, by far, the most powerful sequence in the story, with Hussyn delivering sheer vivid intensity as an actor. The scene is so affecting that the rest of Daadal, panting and wheezing, runs hard to catch-up with it. The distance, however, is too great.

Aleeha’s film starts off okay-ish, launching headfirst into the plot and characters without explanation. The hazy details in the first half fail to connect the audience with the cast or their characters.

 Photo: Author
Photo: Author

The lot is made up of Adnan Shah Tipu, Rizwan Ali Jaffri, Mohsin Abbas Haider, and eventually, Shamoon Abbasi. What one learns of the motley line-up is this — Abid (Tipu) is a well-reputed, small-time mob boss who runs a tailor’s shop and keeps wayward kids away from the lure of the underworld. Sarmad (Jaffri), a boxing nut, who, when not flirting with Haya (and failing miserably), is either found training in a boxing club or recceing potential hits for the mob. Jibran — aka Jabbru (Haider) — is the good-guy cop with a villain’s off-kilter attitude. Saulat Pasha (Abbasi) is the untouchable boss of mob bosses.

The first hour of the film sporadically develops this assemblage. Despite sitting through a handful of scenes that drag, one feels a fair measure of intrigue, right until the intermission break.

Post the break, the story dawdles and then sputters to a dead-stop when it reaches a laughably bad climax that wastes the entire cast. It is a sad day at the movies when one sees a versatile actor like Abbasi get wasted this bad.

Throughout the latter half, one sees unmistakable signs of forced assembly of the narrative. The cuts and the shuffles, despite their perceptibility, do help create a semblance of a streamlined story.

The production is smart-enough — ie, despite the lack of a big budget, it does not look too low-budget. The lighting and the cinematography by Asrad Khan (Bachaana, Chhalawa) with steadicam work by Faraz Alam is quite adequate for a gritty, dark story like this.

Though Hussyn, who has a meaty headlining role, gets to go under the skin of an edgy character that has the right motive and backstory, it is Haider who dominates Daadal. The actor elevates Jabbru into a colorful oddball who becomes Aleeha’s best creation till date.

If Daadal would have gotten a rewrite (a point of contention I have with all of Aleeha’s works), it could have gone toe-to-toe with its own best moment that leads to the intermission break. Right now, it will have to contend with being the cleanest narrative the director has delivered till date.

Released by Eveready Pictures, Daadal is rated U (for Universal audiences) in Sindh and Punjab, and A (for adults) in Islamabad and territories in its jurisdiction. The film has scenes of bloody violence, torn limbs and adult language.