A love for theatre, romance and fantasy is what director Mohammad Ehteshamuddin packages and presents as Superstar, which premiered last night in Karachi. Produced by M&D Productions under the Hum TV banner, directed by Ehteshamuddin with screenplay and music by Azaan Sami Khan, the film brings Mahira Khan back to life on the big screen and places next to her, a completely new Bilal Ashraf, who has managed to shake off all the stiffness of his previous work to emerge with serious star power.
Superstar is like a well cut and perfectly polished diamond that sparkles from every angle.
The first undeniable coup is the chemistry between the lead pair, Mahira Khan (Noor Malik) and Bilal Ashraf (Sameer Khan). They have unbelievable onscreen chemistry, which one would have reserved only for Mahira and Fawad before watching the film. As someone in the film says at one point, “There is a new Khan in town!”
This is Mahira at her phenomenally best, and this should put all naysayers and critics to rest. She is a director’s actor, and Ehteshamuddin brings her to life as the innocent, dreamy eyed Noor who has fantasy in her head and yet fire in her resolve. Hers is the progressive character of a woman who wants to move on, no matter what. This is Mahira circa Humsafar, passionate and heady in love, but having traveled the world and dipped her feet into experience and self-preservation. I do prefer Noor Malik to Khirad.
Bilal Ashraf is the dark horse of the movie; after two questionable performances in Janaan and Rangreza, it is obvious that he has worked on his craft and kudos to him for turning his fate around. Bilal looks great and has screen presence that we’ve been missing in our new flock of heroes; tall, well-built, good looking and now acing his act, Bilal is what Pakistani cinema needed in terms of a hero. Sameer is a man who knows stardom but isn’t oblivious to the charms of true love, he has the airs and graces of a superstar but the affection and concern of the boy next door. It’s an endearing combination.
The film, as far as its characters and construction goes, is a beautiful combination of young and old, vintage and contemporary. I love the deep and meaningful role Nadeem ji has; he brings back a love for theatre, for performance and for love even when it’s the silent, even unrequited type. “It’s not necessary to have love in marriage and marriage in love,” he says, in one of my favourite dialogues of the film. It challenges the stereotype, as does the film on many instances.
The balance of vintage and contemporary also emerges in the way Ehteshamuddin and Azaan work together. There are nuances that romanticize and glorify the past (the glorious Walled City of Lahore, for example) but then there are urban references in the stylization of the frames, which prevent anything from looking archaic. I love that the film honours the past while embracing the future and that applies to just about everything, music included. The soundtrack is stellar; Azaan Sami Khan has delivered right on the money.
One can go on and on about the strengths of the film but conclusively, not wanting to give anything away, I do have to say that Superstar is one of the best Pakistani films I have ever seen. We often talk about the brilliance of Pakistani dramas and how their magic hasn’t been able to transcend to the silver screen. Well, I think it just did.