By Maliha Rehman
“I am aiming for a thousand crore at the box office!” Shayan Khan, producer at Zashko Productions tells me at the trailer launch of his latest cinematic venture Money Back Guarantee (MBG).
We are talking on the red carpet, right before the trailer gets unveiled. Shayan is producing the movie in collaboration with Mikaal Zulfiqar and both of them are also acting in it. Dotted across the red carpet are other members of the cast: Mani, Jan Rambo, Fawad Khan, Ayesha Omar and Gohar Rasheed. There are others that are missing; Wasim Akram, Shaniera Akram, Javed Sheikh and Kiran Malik, among others.
MBG veritably features the biggest ensemble cast to ever be seen in a Pakistani movie. Written and directed by Faisal Qureshi, it is an ambitious project endeavoring to bring a new cinematic flavor to local screens: a comic heist coupled with slapstick humor, eccentric characters, action and madcap sequences. All this can ascertained from watching the trailer which zips through multiple scenes, hinting at the story but not quite revealing it.
Perhaps Shayan’s colossal expectations from the box office stem from the recent success of The Legend of Maula Jatt, a movie that has brought hope to local cinemas with its phenomenal success and stars Fawad Khan, who is also starring in MBG. Or perhaps, he simply has faith in the entertainment value offered by his movie.
From a vantage point, after merely watching the trailer, MBG may truly storm the box office. The montage of characters look very interesting. They are evidently aiming to rob a bank – ‘Pak Bank’, to be exact. There’s Fawad Khan laughing manically as he schemes and plots. Mikaal Zulfiqar is a stereotypical Pathan. Shaniera Akram and Wasim Akram are seen dancing around a large pile of cash. A motley crew is dressed in all black – perhaps about to rob the bank?
The voiceovers in the trailer give out random hints of what the plot may be. “Ab jo khel khela jayega, bohot maza dega,” a voice says.
“Agar election se pehle aise larho ghay tou party ka image kia banega? Vote kese milenge? Election se pehle sab ko sirf acha acha dikhna hota ha,” says Fawad’s character at one point.
“Kal raat yeh kaam karne ka behtareen time hai,” Mikaal says in a pronounced Pathani accent, probably referring to the bank robbery that they are planning out.
One after the other, different short sequences flit by in the trailer: a silhouette in a tunnel, police cars racing down a road, guns firing, a man dressed as a bride with henna on the palm of his hand, stating, ‘Jahaiz Haram Khori Band Karo’. The visuals are sharp, played out to fast-paced music, and it’s evident that a considerable budget has been invested into the making of this movie.
But will an all-star cast and high-end visuals ensure box office success for MBG? The movie looks promising but we’ve seen exciting trailers before which have lead to not-very-exciting movies. Faisal Quraishi is a well-respected name and the brains behind some very entertaining TV dramas and commercials. This is, however, his very first tryst as a writer and director for cinema. Will his script fit well into the cinema-scape? One hopes so.
Also, while the ensemble cast could be considered the movie’s strongest selling point, it remains to be seen whether MBG will be able to do justice to such an extensive variation of characters. Will each character fit well into the narrative? Will there be lose ends that won’t make sense or will the story come together in a way that every character and every scene makes sense? One doesn’t know although certainly, audiences will want to see a movie that stars long-time comedy stalwarts like Jan Rambo and Mani as well as others who rarely delve towards the comic genre, such as Fawad Khan, Mikaal Zulfiqar and Gohar Rasheed.
At Zashko Productions, the two producers have high hopes. “It’s a complete entertainer,” Shayan tells me on the red carpet. “It’s a really good movie, I am not worried at all,” Mikaal says.
The confidence is heartening. We do need a few more hits to spin Pakistani cinema’s wheels back into action. Come this Eid-ul-Fitr, MBG could turn out to be one such release.
What do you think?