Shanee (1989)


Shanee (1989)
Cast: Babra Sharif, Mohd Ali, Sherry Malik, Asif Khan, Nayyar Sultana, Talish
Director: Saeed Rizvi
Nutshell: Lollywood attempts to deftly fuse Sci fi and Islam for the first time with interesting results!


Shanee arrived amidst an enormous wave of hype way back in 1989 – touted as the first true sci-fi film from the Indian sub-continent with special effects to rival those of Star Wars, Close Encounters and that lot. Well, perhaps not. Anyway, the film was unleashed on a thirsting audience who had been drooling in anticipation due to the waves of pre-release hype and publicity.

The ambitious project was undertaken by the Rizvi family of Karachi who should be given due credit for straying a little off the rigid formula of mainstream once in a while – the Rizvi’s went on to make a rare horror film a few years on by the name of Sar Katta Insaan which even went on to bag the Nigar (local Oscar) award for Best Film. They also made a fantasy special effects extravaganza that bombed at the box office called Talismi Jazeera. The film was a Soviet-Pakistani joint venture but it failed miserably. Shanee starts with a scene reminiscent of Ed Wood at his most resplendent with a glowing plastic space ship arriving in the middle of the forest near a village. A glowing figure appears and follows a terrified Babra Sharif to her house where he decides to assume the appearance of a young man he happens to view in a lovingly framed photograph. He is greeted with open arms by the villagers and especially by a blushing Babra and her family for unknown to him the spaceman has assumed the appearance of Shanee the man who Babra was due to marry and who was supposedly brutally murdered by a villainous goon by the name of Shamsher Khan (Asif Khan).

Anyway, the fake Shanee lands in the thick of it upon his arrival because when he refuses to marry Babra as everyone expected, she blackmails him and forces him to change his mind. Anyway, all appears hunky dory and Shanee even turns his nose up at going home defying orders from his planet claiming that he has fallen for the ways of the humans! Then one fine day things turn nasty when evil goon Shamsher Khan, king of flesh trade discovers that the thorn he thought he had extracted once and for all has resurfaced to threaten him once again. Now begins a chase that continues on and off for the rest of the film as Shamsher hunts down and confronts Shanee. Several fight sequences, several long drawn out chase scenes, a few songs thrown in and things sort of jaunt along at a merry pace. Alas, when one is confronted with the tenth fight sequence and the fifteenth confrontation scene and the umpteenth chase through the forest scene (a la Texas Chainsaw Massacre!).

The film does succeed to a certain extent despite the horrendously cheesy pre-historic special effect sequences – consisting largely of Shanee’s eyes emitting deadly rays of ultra violet! Sherry Malik was introduced in the role of Shanee and either performs spectacularly well or then falls flat on his face depending on how you see things. He is amazingly wooden and bordering on the demented yet one mustn’t forget the fact that he is after all an alien and it can only be expected that his behavior be a little queer. However, he is wooden beyond belief even if it was a quite deliberate attempt at cinema verite. Babra who was at the peak of her popularity does was she does best – behave like a retarded imp prancing around in a demented manner doing a fantastic imitation of a mentally challenged chimpanzee. She looks equally deranged scampering along in her 9-inch stiletto heels – her only way to avoid being officially categorized as a dwarf.

Anyway, enough brutal bashing of the less privileged, one ought to stick to the merits of the film, however few they may be. The film ends up more of a jungle adventure of the Indiana Jones kind (I can’t believe I just said that!) – what with hair raising crocodile, python, owl and cobra attacks as well as a particularly shocking assault by a bevy of blood thirsty animated bats (a leaf out of Hitch’s Birds book). There is also a particularly cheesy Shanee theme to contend with as he goes about vanquishing evil off the surface of the earth. The film comes across as a breath of fresh air to an extent though it should have been edited by an hour or so and shorn of at least half the fight cum chase scenes along the way. Despite the acting which ranges from dreadful to spectacularly good in the case of seasoned veteran Mohammad Ali and also Asif Khan who went on to win a Nigar (Oscar) award for his dastardly performance as the heinous Shamsher.

Nayyar Sultana lends elegant support while Tamanna and Talish shine in brief roles. Rizvi tries to make a noble point about man’s inhumanity to man and how the space people are shocked at how humans treat one another. Where the film fails spectacularly is as the special effects feast it was touted as – the less said about the special effects the better. Prehistoric describes them quite adequately in one short word! Anyway, despite all its considerable shortcomings, at least the Rizvi’s attempted something different…and walked away with 5 Nigar Awards including Best Film and Best Director even if their bank accounts weren’t quite affected the way they had hoped. Whatever became of Sherry Malik? Probably went back to space as he never again appeared in another Lollywood production, much to his credit some might say!