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‘Umro Ayyar: A New Beginning’ – Pakistani supernatural-superhero film is entertaining and has franchise potential…

‘Umro Ayyar: A New Beginning’ – Pakistani supernatural-superhero film is entertaining and has franchise potential…

It’s one of the biggest films to have come out of Pakistan in recent times…

INSPIRED by a mix of ancient Persian-Urdu mythology, culture and spirituality, ‘Umro Ayyar’, a new Pakistani film, is a welcome addition to the global superhero-supernatural film genre.

There is action, fighting, supernatural occurrences, computer generated imagery (CGI) gizmos, some philosophy, wizardry and a few interesting characters.

It’s a veritable potpourri on which franchises can turn and do deliver.

Ammar/Umro Ayyar (Usman Mukhtar)

Director Azfar Jafri has created a believable fantasy world that can function on its own rules quite ably and is assisted well by some solid performances and a script by Atif Siddique which on the whole does the job it needs to.

Aided also by some international input with ‘Star Trek Beyond’ (2016) cinematographer Riki Butland, who also worked with Jafri on another Pakistani film, ‘Sher Dil’ in 2019 and Bollywood editor Mitesh Soni, you could see an international OTT/streamer taking it on and running with this.

Out in cinemas worldwide, since Eid al-adha on Sunday/Monday (June 16-17) and still showing in many theatres where they screen South Asian films in the UK, this is an entertainer with something for everyone – it’s a 12 in the UK and while there’s some violence and killing, it’s all tame relatively speaking and in line with the genre.

So, what do we have in the way of the story?

Ammar (Usman Mukhtar) is a quiet, studious professor of science. He is a man of rationality, order, logic.

Laqqa (Faran Tahir)

He is dedicated, kind, thoughtful and caring – and has overtones of an adult Harry Potter with his glasses and unassuming wardrobe. He also appears to be single and living with a relative aunt who bakes cookies and generally cares for his welfare.

Unbeknownst to himself – Ammar is actually Umro Ayyar – a figure with mythical powers who fights on the side of the righteous and noble – though we aren’t preached to in this way and it is one of the strengths of the film – in that it wears its morality axis quite lightly.

Things are not good in the world we have been introduced into – the jinns or evil spirits are walking the earth (as it is today) and are about to take charge – they too have special powers and need to eliminate Umro Ayyar, so that they assume total control.

These jinns work with – or on behalf of – the fearsome Laqqa (Faran Tahir) who you can imagine eating babies just for fun…

All this is well set up and Ammar is one day kidnapped – more or less, and taken to a mountain hideaway where with other Ayyars, who also have special abilities but not to the extent of Umro – to be taught about his powers and trained in warfare and combat.

Meena (Sanam Saeed) and Umro Ayyar (Mukhtar)

There is a supporting cast here – most noticeably Meena (Sanam Saaed) and Maaz (Ali Kazmi) who help him – and here we get the ‘Rocky’ style initiation into the world of Ayyar-Jinn warfare.

Of course, Ammar is sceptical at first, but a meeting with Guru (Manzar Sehbal) convinces him that he must accept his duty to fight. Ammar’s late dad himself was an Ayyar and a great leader – this particular backstory has been left vague no doubt to be filled in at some point, if this does indeed spawn a spin-off or two.

You can kind of see where this all going and for the most part, it is entertaining and enjoyable – our only more substantial critique: the mix of the contemporary and ancient is a bit mixed and inconsistent – sometimes there is hand to hand combat but the same scene the combatants also have guns.

And in terms of pacing in the last phase, there is a scene with what closely resembles Umaro Ayyar’s (Mukhtar) encounter with a sort of Sufi troubadour (if we can mix eastern and western nomenclature here) and is in a nether world between heaven (?) and earth… the juxtaposition of this seemed strange, as we entered the very last segment of the film and still while the final fight has not reached any conclusion.

It rather detracted or undermined the tension of the conflict and the climax.

Nevertheless on the whole, this a sign that more mass mainstream big screen entertainment offerings such as this and the hit ‘The Legend of Maula Jutt’ (2022) are indicative of a Pakistani entertainment industry moving forward and while not quite reaching the international heights of its independent film sector, with such films as Joyland’ and ‘In Flames’ (2023/4), with both screening in Cannes, it is still a sign that things are happening and should suggest better and more creative times are ahead.

Acv rating: *** (out of five)

Two hours and five minutes

‘Umro Ayyar – A New Beginning’ is out now worldwide…

All pictures are screengrab from trailer and produced by VR Chili Productions

A Pakistani animated feature recently had its world premiere at Annency International Animation Festival in France and the Pakistan Crescent Collective was launched at the Cannes Film Festival last month

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture