November 30, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Bilal Lashari
Punjabi with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed region of India during an unspecified ancient time, the action film “The Legend of Maula Jatt” features an all-Pakistani cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and royalty.
Culture Clash: An orphaned boy grows up to become champion wrestler/fighter, and he sets out to get revenge on the family who murdered his family.
Culture Audience: “The Legend of Maula Jatt” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the 1979 film “Maula Jatt” and action flicks that have a lot of mindless spectacle and formulaic storytelling.
“The Legend of Maula Jatt” is an overblown mess with too much bad acting for it to be redeemable. The bombastic fight scenes can’t disguise how everything about this movie looks stale and unimaginative. “The Legend of Maula Jatt” is a remake of the 1979 film “Maula Jatt.” And except for the bigger budget and more elaborate action scenes, “The Legend of Maula Jatt” doesn’t do a lot to improve the storytelling quality of the original “Maula Jatt” movie.
Directed by Bilal Lashari (who co-wrote “The Legend of Maula Jatt” screenplay with Nasir Adeeb), “The Legend of Maula Jatt” drags on and on during the movie’s overly long running time of 153 minutes. The story takes place in an unnamed region of India, during an unspecified ancient time period. It’s yet another action film where the hero is an orphan who grows up to avenge the murders of his family members.
The movie opens with this statement: “This is the story of the raging fire of revenge that still burns to this day.” In the movie’s first 10 minutes, a ruthless conqueror named Jeeva Natt (played by Shafqat Cheema) invades and attacks a community led by Sardar Jatt (played by Babara Ali), a peaceful ruler. Sardar, his wife Malika Jatt (played by Resham) and other family members are murdered, except for the spouses’ only son, Maula Jatt (played by Waliullah Afridi), who is about 8 or 9 years old when he escapes this massacre.
Maula is found and raised by a single mother named Daani (played by Raheela Agha), who has a biological son named Mooda Baksh (played by Agha Hunain), who is about the same age as Maula. When Maula first arrives in Daani’s home, he is mute from the trauma of having a murdered family. However, Maula has apparently blocked out the memories of the massacre because he doesn’t remember who his family is or what happened to them. Maula is haunted by nightmares that confuse him. Daani does not want to tell Maula the truth and keeps it a secret from him.
Eventually, Mooda helps Maula overcome his muteness and become less introverted. The two friends are raised as brothers. At times, there are conflicts and jealousy about whether Daani prefers Mooda or Maula. This on-again/off-again rivalry continues into the adulthood of Maula (played by Fawad Khan) and Mooda (Faris Shafi), and it’s dragged out in a tedious subplot in the movie.
Twenty-five years after his family was murdered, Maula becomes a championship wrestler, as well as a very skilled fighter in other ways. When Maula was an up-and-coming wrestler who was beginning to win his matches, he caught the attention of Mukhoo Jattni (played by Mahira Khan), a feisty female spectator of these wrestling matches. Mukhoo is Maula’s obvious love interest from the beginning. Everything that happens in their relationship is very predictable.
Meanwhile, there’s turmoil in Jeeva Natt’s family. Jeeva’s eldest son Noori Natt (played by Hamza Ali Abbasi) is in prison for being a vicious serial killer. Therefore, Jeeva wants to make his younger son Maakha Natt (played by Gohar Rasheed) his heir. However, Jeeva’s diabolical daughter Daaro Natt (played by Humaima Malik) thinks this is a wrong decision, because she’s loyal to Noori and believes that Noori should be the rightful heir. Daaro also doesn’t respect Maahka (who is a rapist), because she thinks Maahka is mentally weak.
Most of “The Legend of Maula Jatt” shows what happens after Maula finds out that his family was murdered. He vows to get revenge on the Natt family. It’s obvious that a lot of the movie’s production budget went into the production design, costume design and the over-choregraphed action sequences involving armies of fighters. The movie’s visual effects get the job done efficiently.
The problem is that “The Legend of Maula Jatt” filmmakers didn’t care enough about casting skilled actors who can say dialogue in a talented and believable way. The acting in “The Legend of Maula Jatt” is absolutely cringeworthy—either too flat or too exaggerated. Worst of all, there’s no suspense or any real surprises in this long-winded action film, because everything in the movie plays out like a formulaic “heroes versus villains” video game that is a lazy imitation of better ones that came before it.
Mandviwalla Entertainment released “The Legend of Maula Jatt” in select U.S. cinemas on November 4, 2022. The movie was released in Pakistan on October 13, 2022.