One of the big Pakistan Day releases – Sher Dil – had two things working in its favour prior to the release: its timing (23 March) and the Pakistan versus India conflict post Pulwama attack. Both of these things will prove to be its savior as there isn’t much to hold onto.
The film revolves around a central character Haris Mustafa (Mikaal Zulfiqar) who joins the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) against his father’s wishes. We are shown that he is patriotic and wants to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps; Sikandar Khan who attempted a kamikaze attack in 1965 war when his jet ran out of ammunition. All this buildup became stagnant after Haris joins the academy as we realize there is no progress in the narrative.
Same old academy ragging, drills and stereotypical jokes at the expense of ethnicities and cultures saturate the script (or its lack thereof). The writers also attempted to be inclusive and we see a Sikh character as well, unfortunately used only for punch lines. We saw Haris and his friends playfully goofing around, placing bets on winning over a girl (yes, we are still showing that in films in 2019) and no training? The only conflict we saw was between two boys fighting over a girl Sabrina (Armeena Rana Khan).
Though we don’t believe in unnecessary comparisons but at this point you have to gauge Sher Dil on its content. Last year’s hit Parwaaz Hai Junoon (PHJ) was also a PAF-based film and one has to question what’s new in this year’s offering. Credit should be given where it’s due; Sher Dil has some of the finest and well-executed dogfights and aerial battles that we have seen in the Pakistani cinema. If you weren’t happy after watching PHJ, then this one takes the game up a notch. However, it crash lands later as the plot has no novelty.
It’s impossible to understand how India attacks Pakistan more than once in such a short span of time. There is also an ambiguous Air Force exercise programme which only focuses on Pakistan and India’s pilots. It seems like the plot is driven by the need of the story. We also hear threats about surgical strikes from India which ‘will happen actually, not mythically’ this time. I also have serious doubts if Air Force allows customized fighter jets with names of characters Hassan Mustafa and Arun written on their jets.
The camaraderie between Haris and the Indian pilot Arun Virani (Hassan Niazi) is convincing. At least we saw Mikaal’s character arc grow (unlike the girls who are barely love interests); his menacing tone while talking to the Indian pilot completely vanishes till the end. The unexpected friendship between the two pilots is an interesting angle to the story. And without spoilers, all I can say is the end justifies the means.
A key ingredient for any patriotic film is its music, as background scores always keep you hooked to the narrative along with being good for emotional play. However, Sher Dil fatally lacks in this department. The loud and pounding background score is distracting and we also hear an instrumental of Pakistan’s national anthem to lift up the spirit. The song sequences emerge out of nowhere and end abruptly as well (thanks to sloppy editing throughout the film). The album is a complete miss in comparison to what PHJ offered, even with renditions of hit numbers by Vital Signs.
Sher Dil doesn’t divulge into the details of larger sociopolitical conflicts between the two nations. It is just a feel good film to highlight our strengths in contrast to India and its biases. The film cashes in on patriotism rather than emotional quotient and entertainment value, hence it is a nose dive with bleak chances of survival.