I am someone who grew up in Karachi reading Marvel and DC comics as well as watching their cartoons and films. Excited and happy as I was while consuming their content, at the back of my mind, I used to wish we had superheroes who had risen from the streets of Karachi. Heck, I used to believe (and still do) that Karachi is Gotham (Batman’s) City.
The earliest Pakistani superhero I saw was sponsored - P&G Pakistan’s Commander Safeguard. He appeared in a comic strip featured in Dawn’s Young World, and later in an animated cartoon series which, along with the subsequently released merchandise, really helped recall for the brand among children.
In 2015, Team Muhafiz was introduced in comics by the AZ Corp and is now in an animated series produced by GEO in collaboration with the ISPR. The aim of this team of ‘aam aadmi heroes’ from Karachi is to fight the social ills that plague society, including extortion, human trafficking, drug abuse and terrorism. All the characters have one thing in common - they do not have superpowers; their greatest strength is that they come from different social, economic and religious backgrounds and they unite and fight together for the betterment of society, portraying a positive message for the audience regarding diversity and unity.
Some of the characters that audiences relate to include Parinaz (voiced by Sajal Ali), leader of Team Muhafiz and the only daughter of former Olympian hockey player; Zane (Shafaat Ali); he is the most aggressive team member reminding everyone about his love for cricket; Reza (Wahaj Ali) is an expert at Kung Fu and archery and Mahnur is the youngest member of the team and the first martial arts champion from Gilgit-Baltistan. Havaldar Farman is a former SSG commando and mentor of the team. Arya is a strong-headed Hindu girl from Umerkot. Badshah Khan, from Swat, is the eyes and ears techie of Team Muhafiz. The antagonist is Rawka who plans evil activities in the city.
Parchi, Zeher, Purisrar Aag and Deemak are the titles of the episodes released so far. They centre on critical problems our society faces in a very direct manner; in my opinion a smart move to embed those messages in the minds of the audience.
However, from an animation point of view, the series is somewhat disappointing (given its title song Dil Fatah Karain which was promoted before the series aired). This is all the more a surprise given that the director and animation team are the same people who made Sitara, which is on Netflix and is of far better quality.
Much like the challenge many people face in advertising, a great concept is often victim to poor execution and at times an average concept comes out better due to an amazing execution. Sadly, Team Muhafiz falls in the former category.
Furthermore, each episode is only 12 minutes long, so quite an information overload in a short space of time. Episode one focused on introducing the characters in one go, leaving no room for any character or story development.
Syed Faraz Ahmed is an Advertising & Marketing Consultant, Comedian and Voiceover Artist. firstname.lastname@example.org