What happens when an ordinary man, a monkey master makes the corrupt dance to his tune?
The opening act of Madaari immediately transports us to the streets of Karachi where one would find a tired monkey master drumming a monkey around for a forced yet vivacious dance, symbolising how society must awaken from its slumber.
Madaari is a true epitome of this in the best ways.
The plot and connecting the dots
As Haris Qadeer (Ibad Alam Sher) commands the animal to obey his orders, one is reminded of how the film’s social relevance is the highlight of the cinematic experience. The movie is not a tale of hope and love. It is a tragic socio-political drama that screams for justice and shames the culprits while at it.
When the monkey agrees, Haris calms down — both robotically responding to each other. Haris has completed his education up to Matric and is looking for a white-collar job. He manages to find one as an office assistant for a mere Rs10,000, but since the story is set in the backdrop of the 90s, the amount seems not too bad for a reasonably middle-class family.
However, destiny comes into play and fate throws its own card. Haris loses his day job, leaving him back to square one — hanging out with street company, surrounded by street brutality, and gradually simmering with revenge.
He finds himself supporting the Naye Awaz Party (NAP), a budding political party that hopes to garner votes from the Urdu-speaking youth of Karachi. Soon, this fanaticism makes him and his fellow party member, Asif Baloch (Hammad Siddiq), resort to casual street robbery at night.
What goes around comes around. One of the casual robberies returns to bite him, as one of the victims turns out to be a distant acquaintance of his uncle Ali Qadeer (Paras Masroor), who appears to be a relatively simple, religiously devout man.
Although Haris discourages Ali, the latter intervenes in the party’s workings. Meanwhile, his uncle Ali and his wife are also looking to get the boy hitched. However, Haris’ rebellious nature and anger management issues make him a questionable candidate. Left with few possibilities, he must contemplate marrying a widow with an eight-year-old boy.
When one connects the dots amongst these subplots, we find that many years ago, Haris’ father (Ali Rizvi, who doubled as the co-screenwriter), was killed. Haris’ father was a hopeful political candidate who actually cared about bringing genuine change in the country. Haris finds an opportunity to avenge his father’s death in a brutal face-off.
Haris’ character development seems rather haphazard, although he manages to evoke strong emotions at a few places, especially when he is torn between loss and revenge. As the audience, one can feel his anger, pain and guilt, typical of a NAPA graduate. One could call it a perfect portrayal in a successful independent film production, but perfection is a myth. While we understand why Haris was driven solely by revenge, by the end of the movie, to make it the sole purpose of his life and existence seems a tad overbearing. He gave an award-winning performance, nonetheless.
The rest of the characters fit in perfectly and were fairly competent. Although not a shining performance, Siddiq picked up the nuances of the accented language well. Masroor falters a bit as his tried effort can be seen as a tad ambiguous when simple storytelling could have been just as impactful.
Moving on to the technicalities, the film’s editing could’ve been crisper. The cinematography by Musab Akhtar and Ammar ul Haq was fantastic and created an experience that was as surreal as it was natural.
The movie was a testament to the fact that a successful movie is not reliant on large budgets, a star-studded cast and generous time schedules. Madaari was the result of a quirky, brilliant cohort of producers who were adamant on creating micro-budget features that are pushing what’s possible with little funding.
The movie has been self released by director Seraj us Salikin and co-producers Ammar Danish and Alee Rizvi, yet it was graced with a full house on the premiere night and well received by viewers. Its success goes to show that an industry landscape riddled with big budget films and a strong ban culture wasn’t able suppress a rising swell of weird, wacky, and creative voices.
Madaari is highly recommended for cinema-goers who are looking to be easily offended, thrilled and provoked in equal measure.