Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay
You know, there are probably many different Pakistani films I could review that explore the rich and complex social history of the culture and the various ethnic groups that make up the nation. But they all pale in comparison because none of the other films have a cat lady killing dudes!
The history of the various ethnic groups in Pakistan both pre- and post-Partition is a complicated matter that fill scholarly books. We cannot begin to go over everything in the detail it deserves in an introduction to a movie review about a cat lady who goes all Freddy Krueger on rapists. But we’ll do our best to give you a crash course.
When India was granted independence in 1947, it was split into India and Pakistan, Pakistan being set up as an Islamic country separate from the Hindu-dominated India. At the time, Pakistan was mainly populated by ethnic groups known as the Sindhi, Pashtun (aka Pukhtoon aka Pathan), Baloch, Punjabi, and Bangladeshi. Two other groups of note (more displaced people than ethnic groups) are the Moharjirs, who were Muslim Indians who fled India during the Partition, and the Biharis, Indian Muslims who moved to East Pakistan during Partition. As there was no “historic” Pakistan, the country is more or less an attempt to get several different ethnic groups with different languages to work together and form a stable government. That has been less than successful, with multiple government takeovers by the military and the 1971 civil war in East Pakistan that lead to the creation of the independent country of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has its own fine cinema tradition that we will get to someday soon, but for now let’s stay in Pakistan and
The Pashtun people are located in Western Pakistan and Southern Afghanistan. They are generally considered very conservative, and are where the Taliban came from. Pashto-language cinema was created for the Pashtun people, the industry largely based in the city of Peshawar in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Peshawar industry became known as Pollywood. The first Pashto film, Laila Majnoon, was made in 1939 but not released until 1942. Pashto cinema had to wait until 1960 to produce a second film, and a third trickled in during 1963. Eventually the trickle became a mighty river of films. Producers based in Lahore (aka Lollywood) have also created Pashto-language films since the 1970s, but in recent years production has slowed considerably.
Pashto cinema went through what you could call a golden age until the 1980s when TVs and VCRs became commonplace in many homes. Theaters dried up almost overnight, and the quality of cinema decline along with the tastes of the audience still heading to the theaters. Even overseas, the audience of Pashto-speakers instead turned to other forms of media. Now with the Pashto audience increasingly being the poor and a large influx Afghan refugees, and the fact the audience became almost exclusively male, the cheaply made films began to focus more on sleaze and violence. The amount of films made decreased significantly, the mighty river again returning to a slow trickle. The Pashto industry became known as a depository for awful films, some of the productions becoming infamous in their weirdness (this being one such film!) Noted India and Pakistan film expert Omar Ali Khan (also proprietor of the excellent Hot Spot Ice Cream shop and HotSpotOnline) has even mentioned that some cinemas would start out playing the normal sleazy awful film, then switch reels to European porn, and then return to the actual film for the final reel. Pashto cinema became known for women wearing skimpy costumes gyrating around with repeated zooms or closeups of the crotch region. It is just a weird thing to see. And these films passed the censor boards in the area, making the whole thing even more bizarre. Pashto men are manly men with big mustaches and everyone is shouting all the time. It’s like Turkish film to the power of 100.
Although there are efforts to try to make a resurgence in quality of Pashto cinema in recent years, it is not going to be an easy process especially with the ongoing political problems in Pakistan.
This being a female-helmed film, the many musical interludes involving dancing women of robust sizes are not as sleazed up as much of the Pashto cinema, so there is only a small amount of gyrating and zooming into crotches. Almost so little that you can take your whole family to see the film! Keep in mind the women of Pashto film are a little more….curvy…than you are probably used to. The VCD has moving graphics for the Musafa video company, you can even call them if you so desire! Tell them you love Cat-Beast, because I am sure they’d love to hear from you. Besides the cast below, Kamran, Liaqat, and Umar Daraz are listed as cast members but I have no idea who is who.
A woman is being chased by a scary rapist dude through a windy forest, but don’t worry, Cat-Beast is there! Well, getting there. Very…..very…..slowly….. Finally, Cat-Beast catches up and slices and dices this rapist guy, all while screeching like crazy. The composite shots of her swinging her claws while stagehands throw leaves at her (which is trying and failing to match the windy forest from the other shots) is awesome. Rapist guy gets stabbed dead via a branch as Cat-Beast isn’t playing.
Maid Banno is awakened in time to cook food for the family she works for, a husband and a wife, who discuss the recent murder of the rapist. We know Banno is Cat-Beast because it’s the same actress. But no one else does. The town gathers over the dead body that was dumped in the middle of town when a police inspector we know is an awesome dude strolls up. We know of his awesomeness because he’s walking slow motion with his own theme music. Not cool music life Shaft, but music that’s sort of dramatic. Since I can’t figure out his character’s name, he’s now Supercop! The police fingerprint every guy in town looking for matches on the murder weapon (the stick Cat-Beast used to stab the dude)
Local badass Asata says “I ain’t doing this fingerprint thing!”, probably because it will mess up his leather jacket that has 832 chains and blades hanging from it. It also says “TROOP” on the back in huge red letters. Just so you know what cool in Pakistan is. Supercop and Asata exchange words then Supercop takes off his shirt and they tussle. Supercop manages to get a bloody handprint when Asata throws a punch that misses, then speeds off. Brains beat brawn yet again.
Asata is then warned by a female villager and responds to a woman screaming. But it was all a trick by the girl (I think Nool is her name) and her friend. Asata is ticked off, but a musical interlude will show he is not as angry as he pretends to be.
The fingerprints on the body match none of the men in town, Supercop is angry!
Some rejects from a post-nuclear war movie now enter the picture. We got…a devil horned guy, a crazy tribal dude with a crossbow, a masked guy with a trident, a mohawk guy, some groupies, and a bunch of less prominent people who wander around in the background. This is our evil gang. They spend their time worshiping the devil and raping women. They’ve been at it for a long time as we’ll see later, you would think that the police would have done something about them long ago, but the wheels of justice move slowly. Because someone stripped the car for parts and it’s up on cement blocks.
The female friend who warned Asata from earlier sneaks out with a dorky boyfriend who she really likes, as a musical number attests to. Asata’s buddy Asa pretends to have been sliced up by Cat-Beast, causing Asata to vow revenge. But it’s a joke. Asata has the meanest friends in the world! I imagine this is what it would be like to have Allen Funt as a best friend.
Next we have a whole scene done out of focus. RESHOOTS, people! Ah, who cares? The blurry film represents the breakdown of reality as Cat-Beasts and demon gangs roam Pakistan. That sure sounds better than the film was over-budget and they didn’t bother to just reshoot. The scene involves Supercop and Banno, and is partly a dream sequence of her liking him. Later she’s going to give him milk, but he’s asleep, thus she falls asleep and spills the milk on his mouth. Which causes him to awaken and sing of his love to her while she belllydances about.
Pakistan is weird.
The bad guy gang discusses what to do for the night. They send four girls with them out to attract a random guy in a car, then rob that dude of everything so he’s just running around in his underwear. Later a gang member has motorcycle trouble at the wrong spot, as Cat-Beast is there and she remembers he was one of the guys who went all rapetown on her mom. She slices and dices, he somehow escapes up the stairs of a random tower (this tower seriously just appears out of nowhere!), but she climbs up the sides and tosses him off the roof. Then she jumps off the roof after him and kills him.
Asata’s friend Asa is also killed (off camera) and despite Asata at first thinking his friend is faking it again, he realizes he is really dead. Asa is sliced up just like a Cat-Beast victim. The baddies celebrate before their boss (possibly named Kanji or something similar), who is like a black robe wearing Obi-Wan Kenobi of evil. He also knows Asata somehow in his civilian identity, which I could never figure out what it was. The bad boss kills a random dude just because he can.
Asata is arrested by the cops because think he knows something, Supercop beats the bottom of his feet but Asata ain’t talking. A dying guy wanders in the jail and tells Asata what is going on. The gang found their dead member so went out and killed Asa, slicing his face up because the devil guy has a claw hand so it looked like Cat-Beast’s work. Then he dies. Why didn’t you tell this to the cops in the station too??? Stupid dead guy.
Asata busts out of prison and is getting chased down by the cops, who fall for the oldest trick in the book as Asata hides from them after getting shot. Asata’s girlfriend helps get the bullet out via giant Rambo knife
Meanwhile a wedding goes on with some side characters thanks to encouragement from the shot gun guy, and that also gets us another song and dance sequence at the wedding. Side characters are the friend of Asata’s girlfriend that helped trick Asata and a nerdy guy who is dating her and now marrying her via gunpoint. The wedding upsets Banno so much she goes outside and after a rather lengthy piece of time becomes the Cat-Beast. Before she does she manages to get rubber glove manufacturers some work by the awful special effects that are suppose to make her look like she’s transforming into the cat-beast and instead they just make her look like the Hulk or something. and it might be the moon and not the wedding so it is even more confusing. She finally transforms.
The bride and female friend who warned Asata earlier is attacked by the demon gang who rob her and are about to have their way with her when a dude with a shot gun comes in. His weapon is ineffective and it gets snatched and the guy gets stabbed with a trident for his trouble.
The gang leaves with the girl as their captive…until Cat-Beast shows up! She kicks dudes over fences, slices up dudes, and then one gang guy gets down an all fours and starts barking like a dog. Cat-Beast responds in kind with the all fours action.
Pakistan is weird.
Dog guy gets all sliced up and killed dead because he was a BAD DOG! While she was killing dog guy the rest of the gang escaped with the girl as a captive. Cat-Beast leaves, but not before being spotted by Supercop.
The nerdy guy and the girl that was captured have a song and dance in the woods. This begins to make sense once you realize it is just him daydreaming. Soon he’s brandishing a giant sword and another dude has a big gun and they are yelling and shouting things. They talk tough and run off. Asata is still recovering from his wound, just in time to have a fever dream dance song sequence with his girlfriend. Didn’t we just have a song and dance???
Intermission!!! Take a break, kick up your feet, get a drink, loosen up those pants. Hey, wait a minute! Put those pants back on! You’re getting a little too comfortable. Don’t make me call in Cat-Beast!
The movie resumes with Asata beating up a dude in the middle of a busy street in the public. The guy escapes, and then tells a story to another guy thus giving us a flashback origin story of where Cat-Beast came from:
The story begins with more singing with another couple…even the flashbacks have dance numbers! She’s having a seizure on the bed or something! Oh, wait, I think it is supposed to be dancing… Put a wallet under her tongue just in case. The large amount of belly dancing and crotch close-ups excites the big-haired boyfriend. The boyfriend is married to another chick, and now he’s telling her that he’s dropping her! He tosses her into the streets and it rains. She’s pregnant, by the way. What is odd is he was packing to walk out but he threw her out instead.
Homeless and pregnant? Hope you don’t run across the evil gang. Oh, hello evil gang! The bad thing you think will happen happens as the gang has their way with her, represented by lightning. The Count counts rapists? Suddenly Sesame Street takes a dark turn…
After the horror ends, a black cat watches as she gives birth to a very clean baby, who the cat then possesses or something based on the camera flashes. Then the mom dies, and that’s the story of how the Cat-Beast was born. No indication of how they know the baby was a cat-beast. Maybe when the baby grew baby claws and scratched up another toddler in pre-school. That’s what you get for not sharing the blocks, Jimmy!
Hey, the movie Catwoman totally stole the origin story here!
The bad guy in black vows something or other, and to prove a point he kills the guy who told him the story by stabbing him with a broken beer bottle.
The other characters mourn, Banno vowing revenge and also shaming Supercop for not saving he town from horrible criminals already. Get to work, Supercop! This gang has been around for 25 years!
Asata threatens the guy who is Cat-Beast’s real father, but he sics his goons on Asata. Outside, real father runs into Cat-Beast, who is all too happy to slice up her deadbeat dad. This is like Jerry Springer, except Springer would have had strippers ripping off their clothes by now and there’d be more teeth than IQ points.
Supercop spots Cat-Beast, and soon they are kung fu fighting. Supercop is not a match despite his slow-motion attacks. Perhaps he can talk to the cameraman to speed up his footage so he can keep up with Cat-Beast.
Supercop gets the last laugh when he locks up Banno in jail. That’s how you take down a Cat-Beast. The scratched up and bruised Supercop is handsome enough to warrant a dream sequence song and dance number.
The two guys with weapons and swagger from earlier shoot at some kid who lives in the sewer, then go chasing after them. This sewer romp has them stumble across the devil gang’s hideout and find their kidnapped friend. No one sees them rescue her as they’re all watching a midget lady dance. Yes.
They’re finally spotted, but a few blasts of the shotgun slows the pursuit. They save the girl, but nerdy guy gets an arrow through the neck. True love…
The girl wanders around and collapses in front of Asata and his girlfriend. The other guy from the sewer goes to the cops, allowing Banno to also hear the story of where the gang is hiding. The devil gang awaits their fate at their lair with some belly-dancing. Dance, belly, dance! And if you ever wanted to see a guy with a mohawk, big mustache, big fake nose, chain necklace, and leather biker jacket sing a song to a belly dancer in the sewer, boy is this your lucky day! The rest of you…
The Devil Guy with big metal claw hand also sings.
Asata bursts in after the song with a gun. Why couldn’t have gotten their earlier! The bad guys are undaunted, taunting him. Asata fights Devil Guy hand to hand. Or hand to metal hand. Eventually, Asata pulls out a knife and slices up Devil Guy.
Then Supercop bursts in with grenades and starts lobbing those. Things explode everywhere, Asata starts to shoot some of the goons, and Mohawk escapes above ground. But Cat-Beast is there! She eats a bird! Then they fight. Poor bird.
Cat-Beast gets injured a lot as the fight continues. Mohawk dances around celebrating, so Cat-Beast just picks up his weapons and stabs him.
Supercop shoots Cat-Beast and she turns back into her human form. Banno lies bleeding in his arms but is all happy. I guess the curse is broken.
The end! And may all your beasts be cat-beasts!
Rated 8/10 (Evil Bert, Evil Rapist, growing ear, what the audience came for, stray cat strut, gang member, dead hubby, licking the sword that cut you)
UPDATE: As you can see, the cast changed a bit above as further investigation revealed that the Banna/Cat-Beast was (most likely) not played by Shehnaz Khan/Hussain, but by Shehnaz Begum, who is a completely different Shehnaz Begum than the Bangladeshi singer I kept getting YouTube and Google search results about. I had guessed that Omar Khan in his review had simply written the wrong Shehnaz name (and a look at the image of Shehnaz Khan/Hussain as she appears today could plausibly be an older Shehnaz Begum.) As this is the only English independent verification that a Shehnaz Begum is running around under that name in Pashto film besides Omar’s site, it was very hard to find. There is literally almost nothing about Pashto cinema in English.
Khan, Ali and Ahmad, Ali Nobil. 2010 “From Zinda Laash to Zibahkhana Violence and Horror in Pakistani Cinema” Third Text, Vol. 24, Issue 1, 149–161
Another fact discovered was the translation of Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay, it actually means something like “Beautiful as the 14th Moon” or “Half-Moon” – the 14th moon being around the halfway point in the 29.5 day lunar cycle. So know you know, and knowing is half the battle!
I have at least one more flick that Shehnaz Begum is supposed to be in, so hopefully I’ll have the time to get to it soon.
The deleted martial for completion sakes:
(aka Shehnaz Khan aka Shehnaz Hussain) is a Pashto actress who tried repeatedly to crossover into Urdu film but failed to become a big star. Instead, she found a home in Pashto cinema. Shehnaz left home to become a star without her parents’ approval. Her first marriage to Urdu and Punjabi movie director Iqbal Kashmiri ended after one son and Kashmiri unable to get Shehnaz a starring career in Urdu cinema. (Their son Faisal Kashmiri is now a Lollywood movie director himself) She later married police DIG Fataih Ali and had three more kids, but that marriage also ended and Shehnaz has resigned to live a life with her children. Although Shehnaz has millions of Pashto fans, she never achieved the fame she wanted.