Madam X (2009) AKA Madame Bavary
Cast: Asha Alvi, Shaan, Sajna, Fakhar Imam, Samina Pirzada Mir, Sunny Ali
Director: Rasheed Dogar
Nutshell: Rape, corrupt cops, corrupt ministers, corrupt doctors, corrupt lawyers and wayward girls. Standard Dogar fare where literally within ten seconds of the opening scene you will have worked out the entire storyline including the end!
No real surprises with Rasheed Dogar’s latest dive into the underbelly of Pakistani society initially titled Madam Bavary but later changed to Madam X. The film opens with a shot of college campus and mild mannered and suitably modest (head properly covered and wearing a white shalwar kameez as good girls should) innocent Zara is on her way home to care for her young brother and her old father who worries about her night and day.
A flashy Land Cruiser rolls along and perched inside is Zara’s friendly classmate Sweetie who introduces the driver as Sunny, her latest rich boyfriend. All the alarm signals are there and obviously Zara hasn’t ever watched a Rasheed Dogar film or she might have been more watchful. Soon she is being driven back to Sweetie’s house where she is “gup-shupping” happily before Sunny interrupts with “Before chit chat, we should have a little juice”. Now you know that Sunny has evil intentions and has spiked the OJ with a Rohypnol like effect. He excuses himself displaying his little finger which means he needs to take a leak. Meanwhile Sweetie and Zara succumb to the Roofie and Sunny returns to have a party with the two unconscious girls!
The next morning Sweetie takes Zara home to a very irate father who claims that the bond between a father and a daughter is forever broken if she stays out overnight away from her home. He is deeply distressed though Sweetie tries to assuage his demons by telling him they had an innocent night at home.
We learn that Sunny is the spoilt brat of a sleazy smuggler with powerful connections and the protection of a super powerful minister by the name of Bajwa. A calamity breaks out in Zara’s household when the doctor her father has summoned tells him that she is pregnant. The father keels over from shame moments later and Zara is left with a young brother to fend for herself. Meanwhile as a sleazy cop tries to rape her he pushes her little brother who crashes into a glass table and has shards sticking out of his belly requiring immediate surgery. Poor Zara is told that she hasn’t enough money to buy the liver to save her brother’s life but if she allows the doctor to enjoy the fruits of her beautiful body, then maybe he can help with the life-saving operation. Likewise, when Zara approaches the lawyer to help her fight a case against Sunny who had raped her he demands a hefty salary which she can only pay for with her body. And so, a pattern develops and poor, wretched Zara has to compromise herself time and time again and resigns herself to a life of degradation but simultaneously swears revenge on those who destroyed her life.
In six months Zara transforms herself from the meek, mild mannered victim to revenge seeking Madame Bavary, a vaunted hot property on the “keep” and prostitution market at Madame Gulshan Ara’s brothel. Zara starts to hunt down her assailants one by one but plays a master stroke when she seduces the Minister and therefor has his protection as she goes about plotting her revenge against his associates. Realizing that an old farts infatuation is more intoxicating than teenage first love, the villains decide to employ the services of renowned hit man Faraz played by Shaan.
Faraz makes a dramatic entry wearing a long coat left over from The Matrix days and behaves rather oddly taking forever to remove his shades in slow motion Rajnikantesque manner and he has the tendency to dramatically turn his head at given moments and even to pirouette on occasion so that his flowing log coat twirls around spectacularly like a seasoned Queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Picture Alexis Michelle with a moustache and stubble and the loose t shirt to disguise a jelly-like protruding belly. Shaan who would pride himself on his fitness in the past looks podgy, portly and jaded and acts in a manner that is either deliberately over the top self-parody or then just bewilderingly awful. It actually comes as a bit of a shock to even find Shaan lending his name to something as low brow as this, even by his standards. The local industry had reached such dreadful decay by 2009 that even the nation’s top actors like Shaan compromised on their supposed standards by signing on for Dogar’s freak shows.
Fortunately for Shaan and one or two others, the increase in production of late and the shift away from the old school Lollywood style has provided them a much-needed lifeline because in 2009, things were as dire as could be. But to be fair, acting is Shaan’s profession and he has to earn a living after all and if local cinema has degenerated to the pits then he can’t just quit a job that he has done for decades now. Luckily for him, things have started to look up a bit and poor Rasheed Dogar has passed on, though he also passed his film making baton to a bunch of similarly dubious sleaze merchants.
The lead girl tries hard as Zara turned Madame Bavary while Shaan turns in a truly strange performance. The group of villains are suitably sleazy and Sunny’s eyes boggle alarmingly in his attempts to look menacing. There is the usual clutch of raunchy songs with the woman throwing herself in every contortion at her man and rubbing herself this way and that and of course twitching the bosom as though being administered forceful electric jolts.
The production values are laughable as they are with all Dogar’s kitchen sink epics but even though the plot is entirely predictable and the acting, script, music, production values are so dreadful and yet it remains fairly easy to watch. Maybe I am finally warming to the Dogar style of cinema verite which despite all its horrors does have some warped charm of its own. Dogar’s usual morality remains intact….” the police should shut down all brothels and clamp down on vulgarity and the stage dancers, the “keeps” and prostitutes need to kill their clients” that way all the filth will be washed away forever. But we will still be left with Rasheed Dogar’s moralistic and slightly contradictory and confused mementos to savour.