Umro Ayyar: Sci-fi spectacle or overhyped cast?

June 23, 2024

Originally titled UmroAyyar - A New Beginning and later renamed Umro Ayyar, the film has finally been released. Your experience will depend on your taste in films, familiarity with past and contemporary Pakistani cinema, and your exposure to related podcasts and reaction reviews.

With Faran Tahir’s presence in the cast, any negative comments are likely to be met with staunch defense from his fellow cast members.

Umro Ayyar is said to be a fictional character, from Tilism-e-Hoshruba, an Urdu recension of the Islamic epic Hamzanama (originally in Persian).

This connection to the classic material, however, drew Usman Mukhtar, our lead hero, to join the project. Director Azfar Jafri skillfully integrated VFX elements into the story, bringing the story to life in a way that respects its origins while appealing to contemporary audiences.

His work impressed fellow actors like Faran Tahir, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Ali Kazmi, Sanam Saeed, Adnan Siddiqui, Sana Nawaz, and Manzar Sehbai, leading to a strong ensemble cast.

The film underwent a long development process, and its trailer generated significant excitement. However, upon release, questions arose about whether it could surpass the box office records set by The Legend of Maula Jatt. Some even questioned if it was Pakistan’s answer to Marvel’s Captain America or one of Marvel’s Phase III films.

Reaction videos offered a mix of praise and criticism. One of Pakistan’s most renowned critics, Mr. Suhayb Alavi, with deep knowledge of Pakistani cinema beyond the recent decade of revival, explained on his blog how Umro Ayyar was marketed as ‘Pakistan’s first science fiction film.’ Notably, Mr. Alavi is familiar with the original Umro Ayyar stories, so the narrative isn’t entirely new to him.

Drawing from his vast knowledge, he revealed that the first Pakistani science fiction film, Shani, was made by Syed Rizvi in 1989. The second, Sar Kata Insaan, followed in 1994. He opined, “Both films are better than this Umro Ayyar any day.”

Knowing Mr. Alavi’s critical approach, a full review might discourage me from seeing it immediately. So, I’ll watch it but not expecting a science fiction phenomenon.

Since its release, Umro Ayyar has been surrounded by questions. Unlike universally acclaimed films such as The Legend of Maula Jatt (in Punjabi, not Urdu), Laal Kabootar, or Cake, Umro Ayyar appears to be driven by its star-studded cast, including Faran Tahir, and its box office collections. These aren’t compelling reasons to watch a film on their own.

We will discuss whether Pakistan’s potential for successful science fiction filmmaking after I’ve seen the film. You should watch it too. It’s been promoted as a science fiction film, but is it truly a genre film, or just an emotional saga with some VFX thrown in for good measure? Only time will tell.

In the ever-evolving landscape of Pakistani cinema, Umro Ayyar stands as a test of whether traditional narratives can merge seamlessly with modern filmmaking techniques. As audiences continue to debate its merits, the film prompts reflection on the potential of Pakistani cinema to carve its niche in genres beyond the familiar.

Umro Ayyar: Sci-fi spectacle or overhyped cast?