Rehan Sheikh’s Azad may not be a big-budget production but it surely is the kind of film that we need in our cinemas. Yes it is slow but that’s because the story requires slowness; it has a hero who is overweight when compared to other leading men but the script justifies that; it doesn’t conform to the norms of blockbuster because it creates a different path for itself that opens up where greatness ends. It is the kind of film we don’t make anymore and the audience must be thankful to the writer/director for coming up with a project that cinegoers can be proud of.
Danish aka Azad (Rehan Sheikh) is a successful RJ who talks to people about the problems they face in their lives – the biggest problem he faces is that he does a morning show and is supposed to make people happy. His bosses (Sanam Saeed, Salman Shahid) reprimand him but he gets saved by their bosses. Things change when he meets his ex-wife Jiya (Sabreen Hisbani) and starts to understand the real meaning of life and what he is missing. He thought of himself as Azad but he finds out that no one is Azad outside the recording studio.
The film has all the ingredients to become successful even if it doesn’t do well at the box office. The music by Abbas Ali Khan and Taimur Mirza is perfectly attuned to the film’s mood as is the brilliant cinematography and script. This is the kind of film we were expecting from Shoaib Mansoor who made a mockery of a tragedy like rape; had other recent releases been treated the same way as Azad, Pakistan’s film industry would have been the winner but we don’t learn from our mistakes and hence we don’t improve. Every actor performed well and stayed in character even the irritating doodh patti wala Spider Man or the friend who always had time for tea. Sanam Saeed is improving with every other film and one hopes that she continues the upward journey; Salman Shahid doesn’t act much in films but most of the time he does, he leaves a mark just as he does in Azad. There are a couple of scenes where the audience might find some foreign influence – the scene where Sabreen Hisbani and her mystery husband (not to be revealed) meet Azad reminds you of Gulzar’s Ijazat while the Radio listening scenes can be termed as inspiration from Lagay Raho Munna Bhai. Otherwise it is a local story of a common man who realizes the truth of life as he matures and has his heart broken.
Azad is not a film for teenagers and people in their 20s since it doesn’t have a fight sequence, it doesn’t have romantic songs in the rain and it doesn’t have a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is a sweet film for mature audience who value acting prowess over other things. The credit of this film’s brilliance must go to veteran actor and now film director Rehan Sheikh who has been around for over 2 decades making a name for himself on TV. Azad would have been his entry into the films had it been released on time yet he shows that if the product is good, it will get better with time. It seems that he spent time on the script and later went onto shoot the film which is the right way to make a film. There are sequences where the characters break the fourth wall (talk directly to the audience) and one hopes that upcoming films don’t overdo something that was beautifully done here. The scenic beauty of Islamabad was captured well by DOP Ilyas Kashmiri whereas the background score and sound design was comparatively better than other local releases. Watch only if you value quality cinema!