aka Shaani aka Shani
Written by Agha Nazir Kawish
Directed by Saeed Rizvi
Pakistan goes science fiction for this take on 1984’s Starman movie, Shanee! Of course, it has to get Pakistani cinemaed up first, which means it is full of lots and lots of violence! Shani, Shaani, Shanee, however you want to spell it, is billed as Pakistan’s first science fiction film (and actually is, as far as I can tell) The entire film was a result of Saeed Rizvi, who directed, photographed, and did many of the visual effects. Rizvi started doing effects when he was directing commercials, This was the first of three effects heavy films Saeed Rizvi completed, followed by Beheaded Man/Sarkata Insaan and Mysterious Island/Talismi Jazeera (a Russian coproduction).
Shanee is the first big budget science fiction effects film for Pakistan, and was designed to rival the bit 1980s US effects films like ET, Close Encounters, and Star Wars. It doesn’t quite live up to the hype. There are practical models, glowy aliens, video toaster effects, cartoon lasers and beams and glowy eyes, animated bats, animated crocodiles, a guy with a retractable knife arm, and fakey skeletons. Plus real owls and cobras, and lots and lots of explosions. Even the credits are designed to look like the ones from Superman
Whenever anything interesting is happening, the Shanee theme will blare, the refrain becoming annoying very quickly and unintentionally ridiculous soon after. Now the damn song is stuck in my head and has a good chance of being my last words when slipping from the mortal coil. Damn you, Shanee… There is a limited amount of songs in Shani, but not the no songs that the director claims in interviews. Shanee won a couple of Nigar awards (the Pakistani equivalent to the Oscars) including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Asif Khan.
Shanee is an Urdu language film Thus we’re forced to dive in without subtitles. But this is TarsTarkas.NET, and we don’t need no stinking subtitles! Luckily, the film is easy to follow without subtitles, and the few points that were confusing were easily cleared up by the review at the sadly now defunct TheHotSpotOnline.com, accessed through Archive.org. Also because it is Urdu, there isn’t a straight translation of the title, so for opening credits sake we’re calling the film Shanee, but the main character Shani, to avoid confusion by only being a little confusing. Got it? Good! Now let’s get Shaneed!
Shanee follows the basic plot of Starman before it goes off the rails. An alien craft lands in a local town, the occupant a glowy alien who beams down, startling a local woman named Heena. She flees to her house, the glowing alien creature following. He breaks in house and finds a picture of a dead man named Shani. Due to alien magic, the alien uses special effects to turn himself into a copy of Shani. While all of this is happening, a group of local citizens have formed a mob with flaming torches and are marching on the house to destroy whatever it is that’s causing the commotion in town. This might seem like an overreaction, but we find out later the town is plagued by a local madman who steals children and women for human trafficking purposes, so the locals have a mob first, ask questions later policy. The alien makes himself invisible as the angry mob closes in, leaving them confused and angry.
The next day at the town meeting, dogs and horses freak out, because Shani is back! Shani! He’s Shani! Or is he? Duh he’s not really Shani, because he’s the alien. He’s close enough everyone overlooks Shani’s weird behavior and are are just overjoyed, especially Heena, who Shani was to marry.
A man who smells of comic relief sidekick (but thankfully doesn’t appear much) explains that Shani was busy fighting a child slave kingpin and his band of goons (while the sidekick helped as part of the legion of backup cops brought along, though didn’t help enough to actually make a difference) when bad things happened and Shani was no more. But now he’s back, in confused miracle form!
Shani does manage to say “no” when told he’s going to marry Heena, which shocks everyone and drives Heena to hysterics. She leaps into a well to drown herself, though Shani jumps in to grab her. Heena’s mom injures her head during her own hysterics over her daughter’s hysterics.
There is so much hysterics going on, it’s hysterical.
Whatever you might say about women drowning and braining themselves, it works, and soon Shani agrees and it’s wedding time! And perfect time to throw in a music number.
Shani is dancing with a monkey and Babra’s youngest sister when raiders attack the town. Shani punches them a bit and they run tail to their boss Shamsher Khan to tell him that Shani is back. Shamsher Khan is ticked off! Shani is his mortal enemy and he thought he closed that chapter in his life. Shamsher kills some of his own men, and commands the others to get Shani while Shamsher beats his girlfriend. Yes, Shamsher the child slaver is evil, thanks for reinforcing this by him beating on women, movie!
The gang arrives in town, they demand Shani, but the village chief/Heena’s dad has had enough of their crap, and soon the entire town is brawling with the gang. Even Heena leaps in to punch lots of dudes. Old ladies beating up camouflaged gangsters with sticks, that is happening. But an armed gang is more dangerous than old people, and soon gets the upper hand.
Shani arrives, and uses his alien glowing eyes powers to cause all the gang members to be pelted with watermelons! There must be some symbolism with the fruit thing because not only are people pelted with watermelons, but fruit carts are continually knocked over as the film progresses.
Heena drives Shani away from town via motorcycle, and the gang gives chase with their motorcycles and horses. The chase is on, first by bike, then by foot in the deep forest (Shani teleports them off the bike, which hits a tree and explodes!)
I hope you like chase sequences because we got a whole bunch of them as the gang chases our heroes, briefly catches up to our heroes, then are foiled and the heroes run a bit further. At one point Shani is captured by a net trap like in Return of the Jedi (how did the bad guys have time to trap the forest ahead of the people they’re chasing???)and Heena is menaced by crocodiles as if she’s in Temple of Doom until they’re eyezapped by Shani. There is even a weird scene where a(n animated) baby crocodile hatches from an egg, and Shani puts him back in the egg with his magic powers.
Alien magic powers. They’re so alien magical!
We get a nod from Planet of the Apes as the villains on horseback chase the heroes through a field of tall grasses, including identically framed shots of the men on horses to the apes on horses. At this point Babra has been shot in the leg, and spends the entire time loudly moaning, which should drive the villains toward their position.
Shani moves alien fast to get them away, hiding in a cave (after animated bats attack!) that has a spying owl and a cobra running around. Because you totally want to hide in a cave with a freaking cobra hanging out! Shani fixes her injury with alien magic.
After that, the aliens return, High Command has said it is time to come home – other glowy guys with metallic alien voices. Shani tells them to get bent, he’s fallen for the human ways and is staying.
Heena awakens, is confused why her leg is now healed, and gets scared by the owl and the cobra. She’s more scared of the owl than the cobra for some reason… Then she falls into a skeleton that was just chilling in the cave, and runs out screaming into Shani’s arms.
Shani is beaten by like 10 armed goons as he lies on the ground…until his eyes glow and the Shani theme plays. We know he’s seriously super charged not because of the video effects flashing over his body, but because they spliced in a reaction shot of two seagulls!
Yes, despite there being a ton of armed goon reaction shots, and this being the middle of a forest (thus there would be no seagulls around for miles), the seagulls are reacting to Shani’s magical alien powers. That’s just how awesome Shani is.
Shani proceeds to kick all their butts. He has a force field that deflects bullets, and he throws one dude INTO THE FREAKING GROUND! Not on the ground but INTO THE FREAKING GROUND!
For once, I agree with the song. Shani! Shani!
But Shani lets Heena fall to her death from a cliff that randomly appeared in the middle of the forest, except he beams down to the bottom of the cliff and catches her, so all is well. Shani!
Shamsher Khan is upset again, he kills someone from town, then when parading through the village yelling threats, he hits Heena’s young sister, who isn’t killed but is hurt. Heena’s dad is all prepared to go die fighting the villain, until begged to stop by both his wife and youngest daughter.
Shani and Heena, on the other hand, are hiding out at a couple’s house. I’m not sure who they are, but they are related to Heena somehow. Shani is fascinated by an old Three Stooges comedy western playing on the TV. Later the couple has fun at the fair.
Shamsher Khan’s men attack the town demanding Shani, are about to kill a bunch of people when Heena’s mom gives up where they’re hiding. Shamsher Khan will then kill everyone anyway, but Heena’s young sister helps her dad bust things up by car, some of the gang now chases the two on a cart out of town. Heena’s dad guns down his pursuers while the rest of the gang heads to where Shani and Heena are hiding.
Shamsher Khan’s men kill the family Shani and Heena were hiding with and take Shani and Heena prisoner. They beat Shani again…until the glowing eyes! Heena sees this and freaks, eventually fainting. Shani was to be run over by a jeep, but now that he’s electrified he zaps the jeep driver and then begins pummeling everyone.
He rips an arm off Shamsher Khan! Shani!
But then he teleports to a power tower and gets electrocuted, passing out.
The villains tie Shani and Heena to railroad tracks – and in the process becoming real 1920s movie villains! What a shame Shamsher Khan is the only Pakistani villain I’ve ever seen to not have a mustache, so he can’t twirl it while tying the girl to the railroad tracks. Shamsher Khan also seems to not care that his arm has been ripped off and he should be bleeding to death if he doesn’t get immediate medical attention. He’s just that evil that he ain’t got time to bleed!
Shani wakes up and just magic unties himself, then grabs the train tracks and sends red magic energy down the tracks, zapping the train and causing it to put the breaks on. It stops just in time and they don’t have to hire a different actress to play Heena for the second half of the film.
They get on the train, and soon Heena is writhing in agony. I thought they were trying to imply something sexual here, even though Shani runs off atop the outside of the train, because they kept showing her writhing as the train was moving faster and faster. But then the train exits a tunnel and we hear the cries of a baby. So the train wasn’t a sexual thing, it was a giving birth thing. That’s some weird subtext, but okay, sure, let’s go with it!
Heena has given birth to a baby pre-wrapped in a blanket! Despite her pregnancy not showing nor having any indication that she knows she’s pregnant. This is also when she finally realizes he’s some sort of alien freak, and clutches the baby and screams. Heena goes home and cries to her mom about Shani being a freak, while Shani is in the room.
Shani confesses that he’s an alien freak, and then opens his shirt to reveal a glowing word written there, via effects. The word floats off his chest and into the room, then into the wall. Everyone looks on in awe (except the baby, who is just happy, because babies love glowing words.)
Shamsher Khan has built himself a knife arm to replace his missing arm. Conversion to James Bond parody villain is complete. He is prepping his army to go to war against Shani, and brings in a Professor Jonesy to devise an ultimate weapon against Shani.
Shani takes Heena’s hand and shows her the universe, as well as a planet that is exploding via volcanoes. Is that Shani’s home planet? Probably. Their son is now like 7 years old and winning tricycle races! (It’s obvious every other kids is just lazily peddling along and spending effort not to pass the actor playing the son, who is peddling his heart out but just so bad at tricycle riding!)
The devious Professor Jonesy has created a copper statue of Shani! He and Shamsher Khan go to the next room and activate a gigantic gun which shoots the statue dozens and dozens of time. Finally, after like 100 blasts, the statue begins to melt. Everyone is happy, because they know that Shani will just stand there like an idiot and get shot 100 times by a giant gun, instead of moving slightly to the side. Shamsher thanks Professor Jonesy…by having him dragged away! Never build stuff for evil dudes, people.
It’s a fun day in the village with music and dancing horses, when suddenly….KILLDOZER ATTACK!!!
A bulldozer bursts through a wall at the same time dozens of armed goons on horses attack. How did the villains sneak a bulldozer into the town without anyone spotting it? No time to answer, there are dozens of villagers and goons punching the crap out of each other. Numerous fruit carts get flipped over in the chaos! Shani punches the driver out of the bulldozer (and he falls into yet another fruit cart!)
The villains escape with Heema, and blow up their house, killing Son of Shani! Except it’s not clear that Son of Shani is killed right away, so bad editing here.
Heema brought back to the villains’ lair and tied up under the giant laser gun. Shani teleports next to the lair, and then then teleports inside, right where he can be shot with the gun. Shani just stands there like an idiot and gets shot 100 times by the giant gun, instead of moving slightly to the side. I take back any criticism of the villains’ plans, they obviously knew Shani was dumber than dirt. Shani falls down, defeated.
Shamsher’s abused girlfriend runs in with a gun and shoots the ray gun, destroying it. She frees Heema, then is gunned down by Shamsher. Heema cries over Shani’s dead body
By now the villagers have had enough of their town being attacked all the time, and hundreds of villagers storm Shamsher’s compound as a big mad angry mob. That’s the best kind of mob! Sure the compound might have tall walls with guys with guns shooting from them at approaching villagers who have to cross a long flat plane with almost no cover, but the villagers have some axes and homemade explosives in jars which make short work of the heavily armed and well-positioned guards, who tumble from the walls one by one in dramatic enemy death fashion. The villagers battering ram the door down and run inside.
Shani twitches awake while Heema beats up her two guards with her desperate grieving widow and mother powers. Shani awakens and speaks a bit, then Heema gets Shani out of Dodge via a horse drawn cart.
Shamsher decides to waste sending 8 guys on motorcycles pursuing the couple, despite the fact his base is full of invaders and he’s probably going to lose all his power if he doesn’t stop them. The villagers rescue all the children held captive in the compound, and Heena’s father lays explosives all over the tunnels of the compound.
Shamsher attacks Heena’s dad with his retractable blade hand! Heema’s dad rips off Shamsher’s retractable blade hand and beats him with it! The compound explodes! Heena’s dad got out, but Shamsher is now dead.
The UFO comes to take Shani away. Heena is like “Don’t leave me alone!” Shani hears her cries and gives off a yell that brings their dead son back to life. The Son of Shani bursts through the rubble of the house and runs to where his parents are. Despite being on foot and far away, he arrives exactly when the goons on motorcycles arrive, and they prepare to kill him. Also there are goons on horses because, why not?
Haven’t these guys been paying attention? This kid is a freak of nature, so of course Son of Shani has magic eye powers as well, and shoots eye beams that blow up the horse guys and the motorcycle guys, sending the survivors fleeing. Heema is rejoiced that her son is now an alien hybrid with unchecked destructive power and the ability to take human life with but a thought. And also that he’s safe.
“I’ve got to go, have fun being a single mother!” says Shani as he leaves, but this is probably not an exact quote. But away he goes, and it’s The End!
No word on if Shani died on the way to his home planet, but since there isn’t a Shanee 2…
Shanee is an interesting flick in that it grafts a bunch of science fiction elements onto the usual revenge movie, allowing someone to actually avenge their own murder. But it is bloated, and the lead’s alien strangeness makes him so disconnected and uncharismatic that it transcends me not even having subtitles. Whether Sherry Malik was a really good actor who gave an accurate portrayal of a strange alien, or a terrible actor whose bad acting was advantageous in this role, I cannot say, because he appears to not have had enough of a career for me to be able to watch him in anything else. As for if you should watch Shanee, its not the most gonzo of wild Pakistani action cinema, but its now outright terrible. But if you have a lot of free time and are tired of the same old thing, Shanee will always be there. As the song says over and over again: “Shanee!”
Rated 7/10 (space shipping, transmorphing, watermelons, baby alligator attack!, kid sis, The Three Stooges are the biggest show in Pakistan, more transmorphing)
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