Shikra (1987)

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Shikra (1987)
Cast: Shahbaz Akmal, Sangeeta, Naghma, Aalia, Tariq Shah, Perveen Boby
Director: Zahoor Hussain
Nutshell: Novel tale of revenge where factual events are cleverly merged with fiction

 

This film, directed by Zahoor Hussain is a fabulously perverse, typically ridiculous tale of a son avenging his father’s murder (peo da qatil syndrome). However the film is given a unique twist as the director and script writer have devised an ingenious plot which incorporates elements of fact to the crassly fictitious overall context.

The film is fascinating for its casting which has a direct influence on the plot which is a strange hybrid where elements of real life incidents have been worked into the story – and is in fact the central theme of the film. The film is about a fearless young man of impeccable character who learns that his father had been brutally murdered at the hands of some drug dealing brothers. The young man by the name of Shikra is played by the real life son of Akmal, who had (in reality) been the superstar of Punjabi films in the 60’s and who was also murdered by (supposedly) a bunch of scheming brothers! In the film we have Akmal’s real son Shahbaz Akmal (who has a strong resemblance to a female version of Dad) playing the son who has to avenge the murder of his father.

In the film, Shikra’s mother, the widow of the dead Akmal is played by Naghma and in one or two scenes we are shown flashbacks in the form of some scenes from Akmal and Naghma’s old hits. The film plays on the idea that their “jodi” on screen was reality in life. Otherwise proceedings follow familiar turf with Akmal Jr. vowing to avenge his fathers murder coming across a host of fabulously decked and wigged out goons along the way. The director, who started his career so promisingly with Pindi Wal, shows that he hasn’t wasted his “talent” as we are treated to a series of scintillating and quite mind boggling fight scenes with the rather effete Shikra hurtling through the air performing all sorts of spectacular breathtaking heroics accompanied by a quite brilliant “Shikra’s theme” in the background.

The opening scene features the town folk gathering around for the annual festival where a fabulously decorated Pugri (headgear) is to be placed on the head of the most powerful man in the community by the local Feudal Lord. Bijlee, a blimp whose belly is at least as intimidating as his gandaasa has reigned supreme at the festival for the last few years because no one is bold enough to face him, and this time he has arrived in his Sunday best anticipating the usual walkover wearing a dazzling crimson suit, matching accessories (gandasa, muffler, khussas, wig) and moustache.

Sangeeta and her inch thick layer of make up is the only semblance of anything resembling a female in sight, no offence to feminists – and she proceeds to taunt the bulbous Bijlee claiming that he is due for a thrashing at the hands of the “one who flies out of the clouds”. Bijlee roars the way only a true Punjabi movie actor can, laughing maniacally as a less than intimidating stallion shows up and starts trotting around rather forlornly. Sangeeta cackles in delight pointing heavenwards. Slowly we watch as an eagle swoops into view and then all of a sudden swoosh, swish, whoosh…the entry of Shikra! It’s a fabulous opening scene and the film follows in similar vein for the first two thirds or so, with just the songs slowing things down from time to time.

The most intriguing aspect of the film however is the plot which is woven around the real lives of some of its cast members. The other memorable feature is that the fight scenes and stunts are in a class of their own – utterly demented. A stunning performance is delivered by Akmal Jr. even if he resembles a woman with a moustache but the star of the show is director Zahoor Hussain who has managed to create an extraordinary mix of demented machismo and mayhem in the best(!) tradition of Lollywood lunacy.

Veteran Naghma is suitably fiery and looks good but former siren Aalia is unrecognizably fat. The songs are not up to much, but the movie is buzzing and crackling with energy of its own! Alas the feverish pace begins to flag after the halfway mark as the director tries to inject some serious drama with a succession of moralizing lectures and sanctimonious diatribes. The lectures and the wailing begin to grate by the last quarter of an hour and one yearns for a return to the delirious stunt scenes. Just when one is about to nod off completely, there are a few fireworks, but after the explosive first half, the second half of Shikra just can’t sustain the pace and lapses into dull rhetoric and tedium. Half a brilliant film, the rest is tedium.