An Indian wannabe thesp discovers Pakistani hospitality when he's kidnapped by Muslim terrorists in "Filmistaan," a thoroughly enjoyable laffer that manages the unusual feat of weaving an ode to cinema into a hostage drama.

With: Sharib Hashmi, Inaamulhaq, Kumud Mishra, Gopal Datt, Sanjay Mehta, Tushar Jha. (Hindustani, English dialogue)

An Indian wannabe thesp discovers Pakistani hospitality when he’s kidnapped by Muslim terrorists in “Filmistaan,” a thoroughly enjoyable laffer that manages the unusual feat of weaving an ode to cinema into a hostage drama. Although the film wears its utopian ideals on its sleeve, helmer Nitin Kakkar leavens the political content with an absurdist sense of humor and a heartwarming turn of events. Packed with culturally specific references that may be lost on auds outside the subcontinent, the pic will require careful marketing to avoid falling through the considerable cracks between arthouse fare and Bollywood extravaganza.

Chubby, ebullient protag Sunny (Sharib Hashmi) is introduced with an energetic montage of hammy auditions, his thesping aspirations as lofty as his casting chances are dim. To pay the bills, he becomes assistant director for an American film crew shooting a documentary on “infiltration” in Rajisthan, near the Indian-Pakistani border. A band of Muslim terrorists led by Mehmood (Kumud Mishra) decides to kidnap the Americans to Pakistan, but they mistakenly capture Sunny instead.

Unsure of what to do with someone who’s “worth a sparrow’s fart” to the Indian government, they occupy a hamlet and leave Sunny in the custody of its inhabitants. Sunny strikes up a friendship with the sons of the village head (Sanjay Mehta): 10-year-old Mehtaab (Tushar Jha, soulful) and Aftab (Inaamulhaq, cocky), who sells pirated Bollywood DVDs along the heavily armed frontier.

The pic’s comic timing isn’t always on target, due to Kakkar’s loose scripting and erratic pacing. But the film effectively and wryly treats cinema as first an icebreaker, enabling the villagers to warm to Sunny, and then as the lingua franca by which nations can transcend their differences.

Played with irrepressible verve by Hashmi, the rambunctious and perversely optimistic Sunny makes a lovable film buffoon, especially in a rib-tickling scene in which he provides spontaneous dubbing for a classic Bollywood film, or when he directs his own ransom video and bosses his captors around by insisting on countless retakes.

As the third act approaches, the helmer’s vision of cultural fraternity between India and Pakistan (expressed through songs, food and a shared passion for cricket) leads to some overblown action and preachy dialogue, and the friendship between Sunny and closet cinephile Aftab becomes improbably sentimental. It’s a drawback as well that even though the villagers’ goodwill flows more abundantly the longer Sunny stays, the dour and sanctimonious Mehmood remains a one-dimensional ideologue.

Tech credits are uneven, especially Subranshu Das’ lensing, which features majestic wide shots of arid, sun-streaked landscapes, but is less impressive indoors. Music boasts an eclectic and infectious mix of folk songs and Bollywood classics.

Popular on Variety



Production: A Satellite Pictures presentation and production in association with Filmistaan. Produced by Subhash Choudhary, Shaila Tanna. Executive producer, Umesh Pawar. Directed, written by Nitin Kakkar, based on his story.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Subranshu Das; editor, Shachindra Vats; music, Arijit Datta; Urvi Ashar, Shipra Rawal; costume designer, Payal Ashar Chohan; sound (SRD), Arun Nambiar, Faisal Majeed; supervising sound editors, Sushant Amin, Imran Shaikh; re-recording mixer, Sinoy Gharge; visual effects, Prasad Film Labs; stunt coordinator, Firoz Boss; line producers, Dattat Singh Ranawat, Bhawarlal Sharma, Manoj Sharma; assistant directors, Tushar J. Bhatia, Mohd. Ali Akhtar, Tony Rajput. Reviewed at Busan Film Festival (New Currents, competing), Oct. 7, 2012. Running time: 116 MIN.

With: With: Sharib Hashmi, Inaamulhaq, Kumud Mishra, Gopal Datt, Sanjay Mehta, Tushar Jha. (Hindustani, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Rugrats. Nickeoldeon Animation Studios

    Film News Roundup: 'Rugrats' Writer David N. Weiss Honored by Animation Writers

    In today’s film news roundup, David N. Weiss is honored, Rin Tin Tin is getting a modern movie and “The Shasta Triangle” finds a home. WEISS HONORED David N. Weiss will receive the animation writing award from the Animation Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild of America West. The award will be presented by Weiss’ [...]

  • Marrakech Chief on Selecting Arthouse Films

    Marrakech Chief on Selecting Arthouse Films With a Big Stress on the Word 'Art'

    The 18th edition of the Marrakech Film Festival (Nov. 29-Dec. 7) – one of the leading cultural events in the Africa and Middle East region – will screen 98 films from 34 countries. The fest is also reinforcing its industry presence this year through the second edition of the Atlas Workshops, sponsored by Netflix, which [...]

  • Emma Stone Brad Pitt Damien Chazelle

    Paramount Lands Damien Chazelle's 'Babylon,' Dates It for Christmas 2021

    Paramount Pictures has landed the worldwide rights to Damien Chazelle’s next feature film “Babylon,” sources tell Variety. Insiders add the studio has dated the film for a Dec. 25, 2021 limited release, with plans to go wide on Jan. 7. The release date puts in prime position for another awards season run for Chazelle, who [...]

  • Chris Pratt

    Chris Pratt's Sci-Fi Film 'The Tomorrow War' Gets Release Date

    Chris Pratt’s upcoming sci-fi actioner, which was recently retitled “The Tomorrow War,” has set a Christmas Day 2020 release date. The Paramount film was formerly titled “Ghost Draft.” It follows a man (played by Pratt) who is drafted to fight a future war in which the fate of humanity may rely on his ability to [...]

  • Kim Dong-Ho of GIFF Chairman of

    Inaugural Gangneung Film Festival Pays Tribute to Pierre Rissient

    The opening ceremony of the first edition of the Gangneung International Film Festival was dominated by a tribute to the French film scout and festival selector Pierre Rissient, who died in May 2018. The new festival, 240 km from Seoul, counts former Busan festival co-founder Kim Dong-ho as its chairman and former Bucheon festival head [...]

  • 'Waves': Sterling K. Brown and Trey

    'Waves' Cast Reflects on the Making of the Tragic Family Drama

    “Waves,” a partially autobiographical film written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, is a visually arresting look at the fraying of an upper-middle class black family in South Florida in the aftermath of a violent tragedy. It examines themes of grief, domestic violence, substance abuse and modern-day pressures on kids to succeed. “Propelled by color, [...]

  • Gaston Pavlovich

    Gaston Pavlovich Talks About Producing 'The Irishman'

    Through his production company Fabrica De Cine, Gastón Pavlovich is one of the producers on Martin Scorsese’s two most recent movies: 2016’s “Silence” and 2019’s “The Irishman.” The 51-year-old native of Mexico first gained notice as an executive producer on the Tom Hanks comedy-drama “A Hologram for the King.” Pavlovich also began working with Scorsese [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content