There is always discourse about not supporting local cinema, yet it is the only craft where despite bolstering it, the audience and critics alike are left with mediocrity on the other side. One would have thought that after a spectacular release and run of a film like The Legend of Maula Jatt last year, we would have seen something better pop up. But alas! We got Money Back Guarantee instead.
The political satire by Faisal Qureshi starring a whopping ensemble cast with almost every celebrity possible, took its fair time to release due to the pandemic and many edits, but the final result remained rather surprising – and not in a good way.
But, all’s not lost. There are possibly a few things which makes it worth a titter or two…
At a time when there’s so much political drama all around in Pakistan, Money Back Guarantee has picked it as a topic critiquing the whole situation in a humorous tone. The borderline-slapstick nature of the narrative has given life to characters who use physical humour and snarky commentary to deliver their message. Somehow, it works. Perhaps, in its over-the-top way, it just comes off as an absurdist comedy, which would make you laugh a bit albeit, nervously. Kudos to both Mani and Gohar Rasheed in that sense, for standing out and showing some versatility in their characters.
What else worked for the film was definitely its gargantuan cast –strictly speaking from the audience’s point of view. You name it and they have it. Starring Fawad Khan, Hina Dilpazeer, Kiran Malik, Ayesha Omar, Ali Safina, Wasim Akram, Shayan Khan, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Gohar Rasheed, and Jan Rambo, amongst many many others, the exhaustive list of celebrities may keep the audience starstruck. The guest appearances too are funny and one would think ‘oh, so this one’s in the film for a scene? hmm, interesting.’
But, unfortunately, that’s where all the good things about this film end.
If there was an award like The Peabody for the most inadvertent adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, this one would take the cake. The story, which much like the Orwellian novel is about making a point that ‘all animals are equal but some are more equal than others,’ explores the Pakistani political landscape in the allegoric representation of a bank. To no surprise, the director – who is also the writer and producer of the film – then goes to use the tropes of the famous novel in designing each character and situation. After a point, it feels like the most heavy-handed approach possible.
Also read: The Ultimate Eid-ul-Fitr Showdown: Money Back Guarantee VS Daadal!
Adding insult to injury, some of the deliberate stereotyping just adds to the mayhem instead of being introspective, which Qureshi probably wanted. It may have looked all hunky-dory to use slurs against minorities in the screenplay, but it has translated miserably on screen. Without going into too much detail, one would just point out that if you’re trying to be supportive towards a certain minority, then include dialogues that perhaps don’t portray them as traitors to their own country.
If there’s something ugly about Money Back Guarantee, its the squandering of talent of Fawad Khan. It’s unfair. While the argument stands strong that Khan chose this film himself, it feels criminal that he was in such a badly-executed film. His character is stuck somewhere between a hammed up version of Heath Ledger’s Joker and American Psycho’s Patrick Beatman – both are not executed well here. One would have hoped that after making such good choices in Bollywood and giving us a film like Khuda Kay Liye and The Legend of Maula Jatt in Pakistan, he would have been smarter about his choices. Sadly, he chose this and the rest is history.
Not only Fawad, but the film has also wasted the talent of many more names whose roles last literally 5 minutes in the film – which is a critic’s nightmare. Women especially, are just for comic relief and supplementary roles. From Hina Dilpazeer and Ayesha Omar to Kiran Malik, their roles are hardly given space to shine. Full props still to Hina for standing out though.
Also read: 5 performances by Fawad Khan that blew us away
Conclusively, the film would possibly have not had suffered the fate it has if Faisal Qureshi had let go of at least one of the many positions he had helming this project. It’s never a good idea to be the producer, director, and writer of a film – especially when it is a debut directorial. It definitely gave Qureshi a hard task to make sure everything runs smoothly, which in the end, made the film’s narrative suffer.
The Final Verdict
Money Back Guarantee has too many things going wrong for it to be able to completely stand out as a film worth praising. It has its moments where you’d enjoy it, but then the bad outweighs the good. If you want a film which would help you pass your time and you really have nothing else to do, go watch this.
Diva rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars