Uzair Zaheer Khan can safely be called ‘a lone crusader’ for successfully being able to tap into unchartered territory in cinema. From producing, directing and writing a full-fledged animated film, Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor, he has given the best gift to cine-goers and the entire film fraternity by exploring a new genre.
The film opens with two animated characters; a pious saint advising a Markhor who has saved him from a venomous snake. The saint passes his spiritual powers to the Markhor before passing away and holds the wilderness as witness. The second story line shows an eight-year-old school boy Allahyar (voiced by Anum Zaidi) shown as a meek character being bullied by his class-fellows as well as his teacher.
However, everything changes as one night, Allahyar awakens after hearing a loud noise coming from the outside. As he steps into the dark with a torch in his hand, he sees a Markhor in a wooden cage, accidentally dropped by poacher named Mani (voiceover by Ali Noor). The Markhor introduces herself as Mehru (voiced by Natasha Ijaz) and they both run to save their lives from Mani who after attacking Allahyar’s father comes after them.
The two run towards a jungle and while hiding in the terrain, become friends. Mehru is more worried about her family than her own life. She informs Allahyar that Mani is going to capture her family living in a conical cliff, Saiko, which she calls her home. Allahyar and Mehru now set their direction toward Saiko to save Mehru’s family, whereas Mani still follows them, knowing well the price value of endangered species like the Markhor, who happens to also be Pakistan’s national animal. As the two navigate, they make a few friends in the likes of an owl named Choker, voiced by Azhar Jafri and a frenzied-looking snow leopard called Chakku and fight consistently while chasing a pack of wolves.
The musical score has a special surprise treat for the audience, especially when Mehru sings Zoheb Hassan’s hit number ‘Muskuraye Ja’ to cheer-up Allahyar.
The writer has successfully interwoven messages for children, as well as for adults, through his animated characters. Allahyar’s conversation with his squad compromising Mehru, Chakor and Chakku is full of advice: Not to discriminate others on the basis of cast or colour; to fight with your equals not those who are weaker; respect teachers so on and so forth – that makes one appreciate the beauty with which the film delivers on message delivery!
The film set in the Northern Areas of Pakistan brings the best out of the region. Snow-clad mountains, pristine streams, a gravel terrain, blossoming apricot trees, wild flowers and bushes take your breath away and leaves you smitten by the mesmerising beauty of our very own countryside.
Another picturesque song with a large group of multi-coloured parrots dancing melodiously in a symphony of colors, with Aerial shots is extremely artistic. Each frame syncs so well with the dance steps, making the audience part of the joyful moment itself. The use of rhyming dialogue easily deters viewers from losing interest in the film.
Parallel to this simplistic storyline is an aesthetic that is accessible to viewers of all ages, and not just children excited to watch an animated film.