Impressions of a Cinema-goer

Originally published in Us Magazines. January 15, 2016.

The term “revival” of Pakistani cinema has been going around for so long that a number of people have had children, new jobs, new wives and most importantly, personality makeovers since the term first came out in the open. And during this time, the trend has shifted from “Hey it’s a Pakistani film, let’s go support it”, to actually watching and critiquing a film. Which is just as well. So yours truly caught up with the frenzy some of the recent Pakistani flicks have generated, and went to watch these. However, these aren’t film reviews. The writer isn’t trained to review films, and the closest he came to making a film was shooting a friend’s birthday party on his VGA camera, and all those who watched that film kept on wondering what the friend looked like (maybe because the cake was all that was visible in the footage). However, this statement doesn’t imply that Pakistani films critics are doing any better a job at this – they’re just as hapless when it comes to real reviewing! So what follows is some of the impressions these films have made on the this impressionable mind here…

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Bin Roye:
The best thing about Bin Roye? Mahira Khan. The second best thing about Bin Roye? Mahira Khan. The third best thing about Bin Roye? Mahira Khan, with the brilliant use of music and extravagant cinematography soaring shyly to claim their position with her. The plot, despite being predictable, runs at a pace we all wish our trains ran at (admittedly, I don’t really know if I got the whole story). Thank you for keeping it short and swe-whatever! There’s enough of glamourising the desi feel in in this film, including Chaand Raats with all the Qawaali and bangle settings, and shaadi songs with all the pomp and show. (Spoiler alert: Adeel Hussain plays one of those Abdullahs who dance like deewanas in the weddings of begaanas, and run off after collecting the money). People die like mosquitoes in this film. And God knows that even those who don’t, try at least once. They also fly like mosquitoes, as if United States is some phuppo ka ghar to Karachiites; money ain’t no issue honey, neither are visa requirements. Mahira Khan plays the young, beautiful, desperately in love (the way most South Asian women are) cousin of Humayun Saeed, who doesn’t really play anything (the way most South Asian men are). The only foundation of his character is that he likes all the cliches: White colour, Ghalib’s poetry, rain-fall, aroma of soil (and pretty much every other stereotype that exists). Damage control on his age has been done by inserting a dialogue that starts with, “Tees saal se ooper kay ho gaye ho…”. But essentially, Bin Roye is about the melodious soundtrack and Mahira Khan, who sizzles even (or especially) when the plot fizzles. The film-makers seem to have a pretty firm grip on this reality, since they’ve put her in almost every sequence – even in those where her nose doesn’t have much to poke about. She’s particularly striking in the crying sequences, there’s no doubt she has come a very long way since her “Mummy yeh app kya keh rahi hain” days.

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Karachi Se Lahore:
Except that the major part of this film takes place on the Makran Coastal Highway that connects Karachi to Gwadar,Karachi Se Lahore is about a road trip between the title cities. Starring Shahzad Shaikh (who struggles to act, often falling flat on his face like the fish in his neighbour’s aquarium) and Ayesha Omer; it’s the inclusion of the latter that amounts to a really curious case. Here’s how I think the offer to her would’ve been made. “Hey Ayesha, there’s a film we want you to do. You don’t get much lines, but I swear on my head that you get to rope in skimpy clothes at the drop of a hat and dance like a lunatic.” “Are you kidding? That’s my dream role. Will do it!” “One more thing. Let it be clear that Cornetto and HBL get more screen time than you do!” “Are you serious? Wow! Will definitely do it!” Conjectures aside, the film is replete with hilarious oneliners that’d throw friends in fits (of laughter) and families in fits (of embarrassment). Done to death Pathan jokes are nevertheless bone-tickling, and Moti (played by Yawar Hussain) is the real star of comedy here. Another friend Ahmed Ali tries to be comic with all his English manners, yet all he achieves is the accent of those who hail from Mansehra and act like they’refromManhattan. This is an instant and forgettable entertainer. The plot is as thin as a tissue paper you’ve just wiped your tears with, so songs are called out desperately for rescue,item numbers included. And never does the lack of decent choreography discourage our actors from shaking (more than) a leg at will. The film is perhaps twenty minutes too long (they should’ve put this material into a special features’ DVD that no one will buy and no one will watch), but the cinematography is excellent. All in all, this road trip from Karachi Se Lahore might be one of those trips that you’re just too desperate to make but realize later that maybe, just maybe, staying back and enjoying your mommy made parathas was a better deal. Oh, and for love’s sake, drunk jokes just aren’t funny anymore. What are we living in? 1940?

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Wrong Number:
While watching Wrong Number, you only tend to agree with the first word of the title. There’s something intrinsically wrong with this movie, from the obsolete jokes to the photocopied sequences. The plot is essentially outdated by some thirty years at least: two people who look exactly the same get switched to charter into the unseen territory.  The female leads of this film are endowed with a dainty quality of turning this film into an excessively obscene fair only by their sheer presence. The songs have a peculiar sound to them, reminiscent of old cities’ rickshaws (or more honestly, donkey carts). The lyrics are a plain work of genius too, achieving the heights of literary supremacy like “Maa zara dupatta chehray se hatta, tu bhi aa ja mer selfion men aa!”. Also, what sort of a film is it that cannot make even Tooba Siddiqui look good? And what tries to be comic is mostly more on the painful side. The intended funny twists are so twisted that your brain runs the full damage of turning into wellchurned pudding by the end of it. While we shamelessly sat through the film (real Pakistanis never give up on something they’ve paid for), some preferred the integrity of their grey matter and left the cinema. But then, there’s good in the film too. The setting of the film in an over-crowded, middle-class family is actually funny at times; and acting by most cast members is quite good (except that both the versions of Danish Taimur are so alike that you can’t tell them apart. When the film was copying so much else – it should have followed another trend too: of putting a mole on one character’s face). Moreover, never before have the metro buses graced our silver screens, and that too this amply (arguably one of the most original things about the film). And then the really good thing: the ending,not for anything it packs but for the sheer joy that it’s over!

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