The new age Pakistani cinema has hardly ever seen a ‘thrilling’ murder mystery. While Nida Yasir and Yasir Nawaz’s Eid release Chakkar promised to change that, after watching the film we can easily say that Pakistani cinema still doesn’t have a murder mystery.
Local films returned to the cinemas after two years of a pandemic-induced coma and with all offence intended, Chakkar turned out to be nothing but a disappointment to wake up to. The Ahsan Khan and Neelum Muneer-starrer sees Khan’s character Kabir as a controlling and conservative husband who’s apparently an honest corporate employee with angst and attitude problems. Muneer plays a double role of identical twins – Mehreen Khan, a housewife and Zara Khan, a film superstar in this crime thriller.
The movie begins with an angry but morally upright Kabir standing up against nepotism in his office while his wife, Mehreen, is introduced at their house opening the doors to some very invasive neighbours. Here we also find out that Mehreen is extremely close to her twin sister Zara but Kabir despises her and their relationship stained because he disapproves of her profession.
Now here’s where the madness starts. With an item number fused with Om Shanti Om’s Deewangi’s feel, Zara dances to the feisty but needless song, which somehow ends with a promotional advertisement for Shoaib Malik’s acting career. The random narrative jumps make the film a pain-inducing watch and you lose interest way before the murder happens. With each passing scene, the film seems like a collection of pieces that can never be arranged as a completed puzzle.
It is almost a staple for Pakistani film and mainstream stage productions to have an unhinged and often irrelevant, quirky wig-wearing desperate side character that carries the burden of the comic relief. Cheema sahib, the invasive neighbour and a lawyer by profession, upholds the job in Chakkar and as expected, has terrible dialogues. Although, in an interesting climax, the thriller hands him the crown in the end.
The only time the cinema burst into waves of laughter was when a police officer with a protruding stomach was shown standing on a chair, strategising to catch the culprit. A naked fat guy used as a prop in an institutional setting to elicit some laughs is just one of the many examples of why Chakkar was off the hook for all the wrong reasons.
Moving forward, Ahsan leaves for a work trip and the twins decide to swap their lives for Mehreen to live up to her once forgotten passion for acting. Imitating Zara, the typical Mehreen dies brutally in her apartment, and Inspector Shahzad (director Nawaz) is given the “high profile” murder case of superstar Zara.
Even though Muneer’s Zara is an actor by profession in the film – a snorty one but still quite popular – yet she couldn’t keep her act straight in the film. In one of the scenes where she’s grieving her sister’s death, she literally hides her face with her palm because even she knows how bad her first attempt at crying was. The clownery in the name of a well-researched crime thriller stretches itself to yet another overlooked scene where the alive sister runs to the dead body of her twin at the crime scene and touches all evidence needed for a forensic investigation, while the police just stand there.
With about 20 minutes left in the movie, the mystery (finally) unfolds itself with another unskippable round of effortless screen presences (literally zero efforts). It turns out that Kabir and Zara were in fact lovers responsible for Mehreen’s carefully planned murder and Inspector Shahzad does the bloody deed. The crime is all for monetary gains and while the real chakkar of finding who’s responsible or in this situation who isn’t, does make a gripping punch to it, the lack of real emotions and the poor storytelling gave it a stale aftertaste to the film that could have easily been a fun watch.
The last straw was that just as the film picks up the pace and there are constant surprises thrown in your face with Kabir and Zara being the masterminds behind the crime, we see a penalty for Kabir but Zara just vanishes off-screen and there’s no closure for what happens to the girl who kills her sister—the actual murder plot.
It would be fair to call the film a mere rough draft accidentally submitted as a final, hoping to make it on the basis of “efforts” on putting out something different. With three critically acclaimed actors in pivotal roles, the film may have brought in a good turnout, but it’s high time the industry starts taking its time with stories.
To sum it up, Chakkar did have elements of surprise, unexpected twists, distractions, and even interesting clues — all perfect for a good murder mystery–only if the writer and director focused on more structured storytelling and its smooth execution instead of dedicating more than half of the runtime to unnecessary romantic ballads, item songs and forced unfunny jokes. Not to say that either of them are bad choices if they actually help the story go somewhere.