Review: 'Umro Ayyar: A New Beginning' is a good introduction to Pakistan's first superhero

The classic good verses evil battle rages on in this formidable tale

By Tamreez Inam

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Published: Sun 16 Jun 2024, 2:05 PM

Last updated: Sun 16 Jun 2024, 2:07 PM

Director: Azfar Jafri

Starring: Usman Mukhtar, Faran Tahir, Sanam Saeed, Ali Kazmi

Rating: 4.5 stars

Umro Ayyar: A New Beginning, hitting cinema screens on Eid Al Adha across the globe, is Pakistan’s first superhero movie, has the biggest budget to date for a Pakistani film, and it definitely lives up to the hype.

The film is a modern-day retelling of the classical Persian epic of Umro Ayyar who led a band of ‘tricksters’ supporting the warrior-adventurer Amir Hamza on his quests. Together they took on sorcerers and sorceresses, jinns, demons and false deities. The epic began as dastaans, or oral folklore, in Arabia and Persia as early as the seventh century, and gained popularity in India in the sixteenth century during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar. They were finally written down in Urdu in the eighteenth and nineteenth century by dastaan narrators. To date, multiple generations of South Asian children have grown up reading and listening to these stories.

The film’s greatest achievement is rendering Indo-Islamic heritage in a cinematic vision in the same vein as some of the best Hollywood superhero films, which a contemporary audience can appreciate.

In the film’s framing of the legend, the classic fight between good and evil has been carried forth over the millennia by the ayyars, followers of Umro Ayyar, who have special powers that designate them as ‘warriors’, ‘knowers’ and ‘leaders’ seeking to bring justice and restore balance in the world; whereas the forces of evil, led by the sorcerer Laqqa and sorceress Cheno, rely on the occult and black magic in their bid to rule the world through their campaigns of violence and injustice.

Stellar cast

A stellar cast, supported by a strong script by Atif Siddique, great direction by Azfar Jafri, and stunning visual effects bring this fantasy adventure to life.

Watching Usman Mukhtar's character Amar’s transformation from a shy but brilliant quantum physics professor dedicated to his research into a sharp-witted, formidable superhero, who is a worthy heir to Umro Ayyar, is the highlight of the film. Guided by ‘Guru’, portrayed by legendary actor Manzar Sehbai, Amar discovers his unique superpowers finally stepping into his destined spot as leader of the ayyars. Mukhtar infuses the character with warmth, understated humour and vulnerability in what is surely his best performance to date.

Meena, played by the incredibly talented Sanam Saeed, is a ‘knower’, able to access knowledge from other dimensions and one of Amar’s greatest champions. It was refreshing to see a female lead in a major character who is not a romantic interest of the male lead. Meena’s character has the potential to be a lot bigger if there is a sequel.

Captivating performances

Faran Tahir as the antagonist, Laqqa ,stole the show with his captivating performance, equal parts terrifying and comedic, which is a rare feat to pull off. There is a heart-wrenching scene in which he materialises in Amar’s house and renders him powerless. The way Tahir enacts the scene with Mukhtar left many in the audience in tears.

Sana Fakhar as the sorceress Cheno sent chills down our spines through her restrained yet impactful performance. Ali Kazmi as the valiant Maaz, leader of the ayyar warriors, dazzled in every frame with his fighting skills. Other great performances included Adnan Siddiqi as Amar’s father, Simi Raheel as his aunt, Daniyal Raheel as Babar, and Salman Shaukat as Azam, the funny yet fiercely loyal and brave warrior. Audiences also appreciated actor Hamza Ali Abbasi’s special appearance.


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