While the film isn’t without its flaws, what it has – in spades no less, is character.
And that’s really where the film truly gets you – in its unabashedly intimate portrait of Karachi, capturing it in all its chaotic wonder. Karachi after all, is so many cities in one, that it’s tough to say that ‘this was the real Karachi.’ For the city is at once a sprawling haven for outsiders, an urban mecca of fancy high end malls and restaurants, and the constant lights of never ending markets and bazaars.
But it is also something else. The seedy underbelly of the city in the film, is gritty and raw – just the way it ought to be. You can at times, feel every bump on the road and smell every smell.
The film depicts this homage to the city in a tight narrative in terms of story. There are multiple storylines that converge as one. The movie is gripping in several parts, particularly its explosive climax.
There’s also something almost cathartic about the short little epilogue that the film closes with – a quiet reminder that things may not always be as they seem.
Most of the cast does a brilliant job in conveying the director’s vision including the supporting cast. Ali Kazmi does an entirely natural and comfortable turn in a brief but meaningful cameo. Mansha Pasha keeps it real and captures the essence of the character – vulnerable, yet resilient. The standout is Ahmed Ali Akbar, who commands every frame. His character is almost always out of depth for his own good and the actor portrays that gritty confusion perfectly.
What the film doesn’t quite get right, are things ironically intertwined with the things it does get right. While the story is interesting, the indulgent editing in the middle half of the film lets it down. The pacing is too often off, and that doesn’t sit well with a film of this nature. Moreover, the climax, while fittingly edge of your seat, is clumsily put together in terms of plot. The sheer implausibility of certain elements takes one right out of the narrative.
All said and done though, Laal Kabootar is a strong debut by its very able director. It has legs. We just hope the audience finds theirs as well, to go and give this a chance.