Film Review: ONE OF A KIND: Faryal Mehmood Delivers a Standout Performance in an Intriguing Dramatic Film [SXSW 2024] SuperNayr

Faryal Mehmood Wakhri

One of a Kind Review

One of a Kind / Wakhri (2023) Film Review from the 31st Annual South by Southwest Film Festival, a movie directed by Iram Parveen Bilal, written by Mehrub Moiz Awan and Iram Parveen Bilal and starring Faryal Mehmood, Tooba Siddiqui, Sohail Sameer, Bakhtawar Mazhar, Gulshan Majeed, Akbar Islam and Shees Sajjad Gul.

One of a Kind (Wakhri), directed by Iram Parveen Bilal, is a movie from Pakistan that paints a realistic picture of a woman named Noor Malik (Faryal Mehmood) who has found herself teetering on the edge with many different life dilemmas that have become immensely challenging in their excesses. So what does she do? She invents an alternate persona to express her concerns about life and a media frenzy ensues that will ultimately prove to be heartbreaking. Mehmood, herself, is a one-of-a-kind actress and holds Bilal’s picture together even when the threadbare plot seems to be crumbling in a mid-section that plods along at a snail’s pace until the ending hits like a sledgehammer. That being said, that ending makes up for some shortcomings in the mid-section, highlighting the intensity of Mehmood’s first-rate work as an actress.

Mehmood’s Noor is a well-written character who has, sadly, lost her husband and is raising her young son, Sulay (well played by Shees Sajjad Gul), while working at a girls’ school in the interim. These students who Noor educates, however, will soon need to find a new institution to attend for their studies as finances are extremely tight and budgets are being cut. Noor’s best friend and inspiration in life, Guchhi (Gulshan Majeed), owns a drag nightclub, is queer and is quite lively with a lot of wisdom to share with the struggling but highly ambitious Noor.

Guchhi indirectly encourages Noor to take on a new persona as she throws on a new hairpiece and hides her true self under a different identity. Money starts to trickle in slowly as Noor speaks her mind about the difficulties of being in Pakistan and being female. Of course, she hits a nerve with people. Noor calls herself “Wakhri” and starts making statements that strike chords that end up making her an instant sensation. Unfortunately, there is just as much bad to come from her messages as there is good and we can see where the story is headed as Noor (as “Wakhri”) reveals more and more about the harsh realities people like her face in their daily endeavors. Noor may be “one of a kind” but her story is easily relatable for many.

One of a Kind takes its time to unfold. The costumes, make-up, etc. all work together to create Noor’s expressive alter-ego. While the film doesn’t lack in character development at all, a lot more of the film feels like set up than execution. This film teaches the viewer about the power of originality and freedom of expression but also feels a bit sorrowful in terms of the situations it explores and their consequences. The problem is that it takes forever to get where it’s going even with a relatively brief running time.

That being said, Mehmood pretty much immerses herself in her two very distinct characterizations–the one she presents to the world as “Wakhri” and the one she presents to her friends and family. They seem like two different people although they are, in fact, just one person underneath the multi-faceted layers that Mehmood brings to the character. More often than not, Mehmood gets this role right on the money which makes the last scenes feel powerful for the viewer. This film’s ending makes an impact which won’t soon be forgotten.

The supporting cast is all solid. Gulshan Majeed’s Guchhi is an original character that is full of charisma and whose inspiration on Noor is easy to comprehend. It’s Guchhi who ultimately gives Noor the platform to express what many women before her have probably wanted to express but, most likely, felt restricted by their roles in society. One of a Kind reminds us of the passions that lie within us as human beings but, at the same time, shows the viewer the consequences of those thoughts which are rarely expressed in the public view.

While the ending of One of a Kind will make the viewer intrigued enough, getting to the conclusion requires patience due to the slow-moving nature of the earlier half of the movie. The acting is all of the highest caliber, though. Mehmood is a first-rate actress who is going to get a lot of acclaim for this role. In the end, there is a little bit of “Wakhri” in many of the similar women who she represents. Ultimately, this movie makes a bold statement that reminds us of the power of social media and how it can work two ways. Being a sensation and having “five minutes of fame” comes with consequences that most will not want to face. In that notion, lies the thought-provoking nature of Iram Parveen Bilal’s powerful film.

Rating: 7/10

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