Aar Paar: Disjointed plot, struggles to deliver its message of cross-border bonds amid diplomatic tension

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In the film “Aar Paar,” written and produced by Mashooq Qadri and directed by Saleem Daad, viewers witness the chance encounter of two strangers, Kamaal (Shamyl Khan) from Pakistan and Armaan (Moammar Rana) from India, sparking a bromance amid the diplomatic tensions between their countries.

While the idea of emphasizing the potential for peace through empathetic diplomacy holds promise, the film quickly loses its focus by introducing numerous disjointed storylines. Set against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, the narrative encompasses themes of business stagnation, frustration from lockdown measures, and inexplicably, sexual blackmail. It also touches upon childlessness, supernatural elements involving the deceased, and personal demons, resulting in a muddled and disorganized plot.

Qadri attempts to incorporate too many concepts into a simple story, but none of them fully develop or effectively communicate their intended messages. Daad, an esteemed cinematographer who previously worked on notable Pakistani films, appears overwhelmed by the confusion, likely constrained by tight schedules and limited budget. While Majid Mumtaz takes over the cinematographic duties and delivers a passable performance, Daad’s direction manages to extract some commendable acting from the cast.

Surprisingly, Shamyl Khan delivers a compelling portrayal of a man trapped in unfavorable circumstances for a significant portion of the film. However, by the climax, the character’s development, coupled with the direction and writing choices, becomes grating and difficult to endure. Moammar Rana delivers a satisfactory performance as Kamaal’s rational and supportive friend, offering consolation through video calls. Ukasha Gul Ashraf and Raneya Rana, playing Rana’s wife and daughter respectively (with the latter being Rana’s actual daughter), also deliver solid performances. On the other hand, Ahmed Safdar, Erum Akhtar, and Qadri himself, in a peculiar role as a humorously inept police officer, contribute to the overall unsatisfactory acting. Safdar, usually a reliable actor, falls short here, portraying a school principal, while Akhtar, playing Shamyl’s wife, finds herself entangled in an illicit world of sex and pornography after starting an online education system during the pandemic.

Fortunately, Daad and Qadri’s script spares Erum’s character from scenes of sexual subjugation, but the actress succumbs to overacting. As her screen time dominates the film, viewers seeking respite from subpar performances find solace by closing their eyes and ears. Unfortunately, in a cinema hall illuminated by the projector’s glow and enveloped by the booming surround sound, such actions provide little relief.

“Aar Paar,” self-released by Kalakar Entertainments, contains scenes of violence, debauchery, and distress, making it suitable only for adult audiences.