Why did I like Zibahkhana (Hell’s Ground)!!!
Ok. Let’s get the facts done first. Zibahkhana (for those who don’t know) is a horror movie (a slasher / zombie movie to be exact), made in Pakistan. Its tagline claims it to be “Pakistan’s first gore movie”. Time magazines describes it as “A horror movie on the doorstep of the Taliban”, while The Telegraph UK suggests “Beware, zombies wearing saris”.
Hell’s Ground, as it is titled in English, premiered at LUMS last year. Most of its cast and crew does not belong to typical Lollywood crowd. In fact the only “known” faces you will see would be actor Rehan who makes a comeback to silver screen after more than 30 years, and whose last famous role was that of Dracula in Pakistan’s very first horror movie “Zinda Lash” (The living corpse) in 1967 – Zinda Lash incidentally was recently rediscovered from “rusty old cans” in a film studio. The other known face is model Adnan Malik in a small cameo, although if IMDB is to be believed, the producers at one point of time were considering Indian actor Saif Ali Khan for this role.
To be exact, no zombies are wearing saris in this movie. Burqas yes… chappals too, but it appears that the dress of choice for most of the zombies in the flick was plain simple shalwar qameez. As a matter of fact, the movie features so many things “desi”, in a typical gore backdrop nonetheless, that at times “horror” takes a backseat to the sheer joy of watching something you can easily relate to. Dusty and deserted roads leading to outskirts of Islamabad, an old Khokha out of nowhere offering “deewane ki mastani chai”, featuring an eerie old man who claims that his chai is “world famous” as the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Lady Diana, Henry Kissinger and recently Angelina Jolie alongwith her “boyfriend” stopped by for the same. The background music frequently shifting to classic Punjabi tracks of 1980’s Lollywood films, a van that seemed to pop straight out of a studio in Lahore that made Maula Jutt and its contemporaries, a bunch of teenagers from urban Pakistani middle class, speaking half English half Urdu sentences (well the curses were almost always in English though), the broken limbs, flesh eating zombie from a village in hell, a Barri Bua exhibiting typical warmth for her children and then turning into a crazy revenge seeking menace, a forceful hitchhiker from a “peer’s tomb” who suddenly gets awfully thirsty, a dark foggy jungle described as “the road to the hell” – This movie has it all, and does pretty well with all of it.
So what exactly is Zibahkhana all about. If you put your logical, rational thinking hat on (which you should not be wearing all the time) Zibahkhana appears to be a low budget horror movie with some shockingly gore scenes. The movie is indeed low budget. The acting is somewhere between average and below average (with the exception of Rubya Chaudhry who acted brilliantly at times). Camera work is so so, story is very predictable and editing could have been crispier. But (and this is where you must take off that ugly looking logical hat for a while) all the above elements add to the “classiness” of the film, believe it or not. Zibahkhana, is nothing like your average blockbuster big budget entertainers. It’s a typical independent movie to the core. It’s different, very different, from what you would expect from our Desi cinema. And it certainly defies the logic that you need to have everything exactly where it belongs to make a good movie. Nothing in Zibahkhana seems where it belongs. The lighting, the acting, the props, the works, and yet it works out so neatly that you end up watching a fairly enjoyable thriller at the end of the day. (Note: not for a weak of heart)
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