"Akbar and Pasha make a formidable on-screen pair."
Cinema plays a great role in bringing a change in society. The 21st century has seen a positive change, with Pakistani films conveying a powerful in them.
Since 2007, filmmakers have made Pakistani films with different storylines, which showcase stimulating content.
Pakistan films clearly moved on from the typical Gandasa (iconic weaponry stick) culture, with some based on true stories or events.
These Pakistan films featuring A-list stars and fresh talent have generally been appreciated and recognised by critics and fans.
Filmmaker Shoaib Mansoor has had a pivotal role in starting a trend of making thought-provoking Pakistani films. This has resulted in the revival of Pakistani cinema.
We explore in detail 10 Best Pakistani films, which present a powerful message:
Khuda Kay Liye (2007)
Director: Shoaib Mansoor
Stars: Shaan, Fawad Khan, Iman Ali, Naseeruddin Shah
Pakistani drama film Khuda Kay Liye revolves around two young singers, Mansoor (Shaan) and Sarmad (Fawad Khan).
The film shows how the lives of Mansoor and Sarmad change, following the aftermath of the 9/11 incident in America.
Iman Ali (Maryam) plays a British Pakistani girl with western values. Meanwhile, Naseeruddin Shah has a special appearance as Maulana Wali, highlighting how faith is being put to wrong use.
Khuda Kay Liye touches upon a wide range of issues. These include radicalisation, racial discrimination, gender bias and unfair treatment.
The most important message of Khuda Kay Liye is how leaders use manipulation tactics. These include a leader of a small jihadi group and influential international leader.
All these leaders and personalities manipulate young minds, burdening society with hatred and vengeance. Khuda Kay Liye is a very unique film from Pakistan.
Ramchand Pakistani (2008)
Director: Mehreen Jabbar
Stars: Nandita Das, Syed Fazal Hussain, Navaid Jabbar
The directorial debut of Mehreen Jabbar, Ramchand Pakistani is a drama film adaptation of a true story.
The movie essentially focuses on Pakistani citizens, Shankar (Rashid Farooqui) and his son Ramchand (Syed Fazal Hussain/Navaid Jabbar) who become cross border prisoners.
Indian officials mistake the father-son duo as spies. Thus, the two have to face an Indian prison for a long time. They both undergo many trials, following their arrest.
Left behind is Shankar’s wife Champa (Nandita Das) who feels very empty inside. The story shows the impact of the family splitting up, amidst the conflict between India and Pakistan.
The film is realistic and not made for commercial purposes.
Ramchand Pakistani portrays the real-life struggles and traumas faced by prisoners on either side of the border. The film also reflects on how citizens can be ignorant of these primitive issues.
Director: Shoaib Mansoor
Stars: Humaima Malick, Mahira Khan, Manzar Sehbai, Amr Kashmiri, Atif Aslam, Iman Ali, Shafqat Cheema
Bol is a social drama that portraying the harsh realities of Pakistani society.
The movie revolves around a household full of relatively young female siblings, led by Zainab (Humaima Malick) and Ayesha Mustafa (Mahira Khan).
Their father, Hakim Sahib (Manzar Sehbai) who is desperate to have a son, has an intersex child, Syed Saifullah ‘Saifi” Khan (Amr Kashmiri).
With Saifi becoming a victim of rape, Hakim Sahib eventually kills him using a plastic bag to suffocate him.
As the women of the house have an unpleasant life, Ayesha marries Mustafa, making Hakim Sahib feel furious and helpless.
Meanwhile, Hakim Sahib marries Meena (Iman Ali), a prostitute and daughter of Ishaq ‘Saqa’ Kanjar (Shafqat Cheema).
Hakim Sahib and Meena have a baby girl. Zainab saves the newborn’s life from Hakim Sahib who wants to kill her as he feels that she will have a horrible future.
However, Zainab comes to the rescue and kills her own father. Before facing death, Zainab has a strong message as she poses two comparative questions:
“Why is only killing a sin? Why is giving birth, without any family planning, not a sin?
With Shoaib Mansoor introducing new faces and fresh content, Bol had a major contribution to the revival of Pakistani cinema.
Director: Afia Nathaniel
Stars: Samiya Mumtaz, Mohib Mirza, Saleha Aref, Asif Khan, Abdullah Jan
The drama-thriller Dukhtar subjects the daughters of Pakistan whose voices are dim.
The film shows how 15-year-old Allah Rakahi (Samiya Mumtaz) marries tribal chief Daulat Khan (Asif Khan). She has to leave her family in Lahore and start a new life in Pakistan’s northern areas.
After two decades, history repeats itself. Khan agrees to marry off his 10-year-old daughter, Zainab (Saleha Aref) with his arch-rival, Tor Gul (Abdullah Jan), a tribal chief.
Not wanting her daughter to face a similar fate, Allah Rakahi and Zainab run away.
When the two flee they meet a truck driver Sohail (Mohib Mirza). Sohail faces potential danger when trying to transport the mother and daughter to safety.
The bond of Allah Rakahi and Zainab is visible in the movie. Dukhtar portrays the sad side of Pakistani society where child marriages go ahead with tribal traditions not being so women-friendly.
This movie highlight the struggle of a mother to protect her child from the outdated norms.
Na Maloom Afraad (2014)
Director: Nabeel Qureshi
Stars: Fahad Mustafa, Mohsin Abbas Haider, Javed Sheikh, Urwa Hocane, Kubra Khan
Karachi was the host for the shoot of comedy-thriller, Na Maloom Afraad.
There are three main characters in the film. They include sales representative, Farhan Ahmed (Fahad Mustafa), Moon (Mohsin Abbas Haider) who travels from Punjab and business owner Shakeel Ansari (Javed Sheikh).
Farhan falls in love with Shakeel’s younger sister, Naina (Urwa Hocane). Hina (Kubra Khan) plays the love interest of Moon.
The film primarily focuses on the issues faced by the people of Karachi. The name Na Maloom Afraad symbolises terror and jeopardy.
The film is a case for unknown influential political personalities of Karachi. The movie shows the disorganisation of the system and society in Pakistan.
Hence, the film represents the personal goals of Farhan, Moon and Shakeel. The three try to outsmart the system as it does not do them any good.
Director: Sarmad Khoosat
Stars: Sarmad Khoosat, Sania Saeed, Saba Qamar, Shamoon Abbassi
The biographical film Manto is a direction of Sarmad Khoosat. This masterpiece movies which has a stark tone sees Sarmad also play the title role of Manto.
The film is about the personal life of eminent writer Saadat Hasan Manto. The film depicts the resilience of Manto. Despite backlash from his own people, he continues to powerfully write.
The film registers flaws in the system, which had become widespread in society. But the people and the system itself judge Manto.
An IMDb user reviewing the film describes it as “the naked truth, that needs to be shown to the world.”
Sarmad won ‘Best Actor’ at the Jaipur International Film Festival. Praising the performance of Sarmad, Adnan Murad from Blasting News writes:
“With an interestingly intricate premise, ‘Manto’ depicts the life of an accomplished writer of the subcontinent.
“The movie clearly rests on the shoulders of supremely talented Sarmad, who eloquently plays Manto.”
Other key characters and actors in the film include Safiya/Begum Manto (Sania Saeed), Noor Jehan (Saba Qamar) and Eishar Singh (Shamoon Abbassi).
Director: Asim Abbasi
Stars: Aamina Sheikh, Sanam Saeed, Adnan Malik
The comedy-drama Cake is a film, which became very popular with audiences worldwide. The title of the movie, Cake has a strong connection with the storyline and plot.
Cake portrays the Pakistani family system in interior Sindh, promoting women empowerment. The film shows how women can also play an effective role in society.
The film observes the values of the family system in the sub-continent. It also highlights that though the family is important, it can be disloyal.
Despite any conflicts or disagreements, the film depicts the importance of family and relationships.
Cake reassures the cultural values of Pakistan and if they are not interpreted correctly or sensibly, they can be harmful.
Zareen (Aamina Sheikh) and Zara (Sanam Saeed) play the lead characters in the film. Adnan Malik made his debut in the film, portraying the role of Romeo.
The film was also the directorial debut of the inspiring Asim Abbasi.
Laal Kabootar (2019)
Director: Kamal Khan
Stars: Manza Pasha, Ali Kazmi, Ahmed Ali Akbar, Rashid Farooqui
Laal Kabootar is an action film about crimes in Karachi, with plenty of thrilling moments.
The film follows a single woman Aliyah Malik (Manza Pasha) who has to fight the justice and social system, after the brutal murder of her husband, Noman Malik (Ali Kazmi).
The film holds a strong message about the corruption and hidden face of society. Cab driver Adeel (Ahmed Ali Akbar) and Inspector Ibrahim (Rashid Farooqui) are the other key characters in the film.
Complimenting the actors, direction and cinematography, along with the film being a boost for Pakistani cinema, Rahul Aijaz from The Express Tribune wrote:
“Akbar and Pasha make a formidable on-screen pair. Khan, on the other hand, oversees the project to perfection and let the film breathe on its own.
“Stunningly shot by acclaimed cinematographer Mo Azmi, the film shows how camera can play an active ‘character’ in the film.”
“Laal Kabootar will make you regain your faith in Pakistani cinema.”
Laal Kabootar was Pakistan’s official entry for the 92nd Oscars.
Director: Mohammed Ehteshamuddin
Stars: Mahira Khan, Bilal Ashraf, Nadeem Baig
Superstar is a commercial film, falling under the romantic-musical genre. The plot of the film revolves around the ambitious Noor (Mahira Khan), a theatre actor who wants to reach the top of her career.
The film shows the difficulties that women face when entering the field of showbusiness. Superstar focuses particularly on how society can treat women as an object and not appreciate their abilities.
At the end of the film, the determination of Noor outshines her competitors and fellow misogynists.
The film explores themes of romance and betrayal. But the strongest message the film conveys is to fight for your love.
Speaking about the message behind the film, actor Bilal Ashraf who plays the role of Sameer Khan says:
“If you do love someone, go out there and get that someone. I would give up everything up for love.
“But I don’t think the person who loves me would ask me to give up everything I love though. It isn’t love if that person asks you to do that.”
Veteran actor Nadeem Baig portrays Agha Jaan who runs a theatre and is the uncle of Noor.
Director: Shamoon Abbasi
Stars: Shamoon Abbasi, Sherry Shah, Maira Khan, Nouman Javaid
The mystery thriller Durj is a real-life story of two brothers in southern Punjab. Durj shows a family that engages in the Cannibalism. The story is frightening and very real.
Playing the brothers, the two lead characters of the film are Gul Baksh (Shamoon Abbasi) and Laali (Sherry Shah).
Durj was briefly banned by the Censor board of Pakistan, with it portraying the real face of society.
The most powerful message of the film is about poverty and social relations.
Shamoon Abbasi who is also the director of the film took inspiration from true events and states that Drurj is not just about cannibalism:
“Durj’s plot does not just revolve around cannibalism, it is about a cannibal but we have multiple stories. There are three stories which merge into one.”
Shamoon and his team undertook extensive research for the film, collecting data from different cases.
The film also stars Maira Khan and Nouman Javaid.
The above Pakistani films certainly indicate that Pakistan filmmakers being braver with the stories they tell.
There are also many more opportunities through which social reforms and messages can be sent to the masses. It’s not just about availing the right opportunity but also creating one.
Pakistani filmmakers can continually attract an international audience by being bold, taking a particular message to the next level.
They can do so by representing the realistic culture and social practices that are prevalent in Pakistan. By focusing on more social issues, Pakistani films will further contribute to the revival of cinema.
Similar to dramas, filmmakers have proved that they can produce Pakistani films of the highest quality. Hopefully, this trend will carry on throughout future decades.