Pakistan’s first big-budget movie, ‘Waar’ (meaning ‘Strike’), has opened to enthusiastic audiences. The film depicts the volatile relationship between Pakistan and its nuclear arch-rival, India.
Bilal Lashari, ‘Waar’s’ 31-year-old director, said that even the film’s production crew were surprised by the response:
“We were expecting a pretty decent opening. However, we weren’t still expecting the kind of reaction we got because the film was breaking new records every single day,” said Lashari.
“So it’s been overwhelming. And yeah, I mean we were expecting it to be big, but it was even bigger; it ended up being huge.”
‘Waar’ took more than three years to make and official production costs were around €1.6 million in a country where the average film is made on less than €18,000.
Its distributors say the film grossed more than €650,000 during the first week – a record for Pakistani cinema.
The narrative is simple and packed with action. Indian villains team up with Islamist militants to plot spectacular attacks across Pakistan.
Though yet to be screened in India, the film serves as a reminder of tensions between the neighbouring states, which have fought three wars since claiming independence from Great Britain in 1947.
India and Pakistan trade accusations of staging cross-border attacks and supporting militants; particularly in the disputed region of Kashmir, where violence has seen a resurgence in recent months.
Wary of what they see as fiery nationalistic rhetoric and scenes demonising India, some liberals have mocked ‘Waar’ as a propaganda film.
Cultural critic Nadeem Paracha claimed the film is basically the Pakistani state’s fantasies being played out on a big screen. However, he does admit that ‘Waar’ was great fun to watch:
“Its plot is extremely thin and not very convincing as such, and based on a lot of things which now seem like self-parodies,” said Paracha.
“I think it’s a mindless movie, but with great action, and great fun to watch”.
‘Waar’ is in great demand outside Pakistan, with Dubai, London, Canada and the United States all asking for the rights to the film.