With a great looking cast, international collaborations (Shreya Ghosal sang the title track and B4U is the international distributor), along with the involvement of Reham Khan – ex-wife of Imran Khan- as the producer, all eyes were on Janaan, the highly anticipated movie of 2016.
Verdict: It’s been five hours since I saw the movie today evening, and as much as some will hate me for saying this, I have forgotten the movie already.
In short, Janaan suffers from Kapoor and Sons complex. The influence of that movie is far too obvious.
Having said that, as a Pakistani, I have to say that Janaan is one of the finer Pakistani movie I’ve seen purely with regards to the technicalities– the cinematographer and productions values are top notch. Swat has never looked so beautiful on the big screen. In fact, this movie could help promote Swat in such a way to bring in tourists to a somewhat troubled region historically.
In the same breath, I want to give credit to everyone who’s been a part of this movie for their efforts can be seen and in fact, should be appreciated. There is no denying that the team behind this movie is extremely talented.
Director Azfar Jafri, writer Osman Khalid Butt, producer Imran Raza Kazmi along with the cast Armeena Khan, Bilal Ashraf (who’s been compared to Bollywood’s Sidharth Malhotra) and Ali Rehman Khan.
So why the letdown?
Two reasons: the script and the acting.
So we have Meena, a Pakistani girl in Vancouver, Canada returning to Pakistan after 11 years to attend a wedding. Her family is eagerly and excitedly waiting for her. Upon her arrival she is surprised to see her cousin Asfandyar grown from a fat, chubby kid to a 6 feet plus tall guy with great looks. Her other cousin Danyal also flies in for the wedding. No points for working out that a love triangle develops between these three.
Palwasha, the girl whose wedding Meena has come to attend, is marrying a man from Punjab (cue the Pashto people making fun of Punjabis). While Danyal, the slightly immature cousin, is falling in love with Meena, he also realises that she is falling for Asfandyar. Asfandyar is a dark, mysterious, brooding type who doesn’t talk much and has a stern, macho image going on. Oh, he also has some anger management issues.
Things take a wild turn when Chotu, a worker at the school where Asfandyar teaches tells him that another teacher there is abusing the little children. Asfandyar has a punch up wit the teacher at the pre-wedding function, bringing shame upon the family. More secrets are revealed at the family gathering that night spoiling relations between everyone.
How they all manage to reconcile, sort out their family politics, fight off the evil perpetrator at the school and live happily ever after. Meena does indeed friend-zoned one of the guys and gets the other guy.
With a rather predictable story line, I was hoping for something unique to come up in the movie. Apart from a few jokes or references to the Pakistani culture (white friend advising Meena to not travel to Pakistan to avoid being kidnapped and sold to slavery or a grandmother suggesting a fair and lovely wash to the potential groom from Punjab), I was left in a lurch. Tonally, the movie was shifting from a love story, to a lesson on Pukhtoon culture (this is a very modern Pukhtoon family that have outdoor movie nights, light sky lanterns, women driving late night in the middle of nowhere etc) to a darker territory (there were little kids in the cinema confused as to what was happening to the little children at the school in the movie) to a rather anti-climatic ending.
Tonally, the movie was shifting from a love story, to a lesson on Pukhtoon culture (this is a very modern Pukhtoon family that have outdoor movie nights, light sky lanterns, women driving late night in the middle of nowhere etc) to a darker territory (there were little kids in the cinema confused as to what was happening to the little children at the school in the movie) to a rather anti-climatic ending.
Two people stood out more than anyone else: Bilal Ashraf, who plays Asfandyar, and Hania Aamir as Palwasha. These are people to watch out for. Everyone else seemed like they were handed over their dialogues and were merely told to act out the scenes. There were no depth in their characters and some were merely too one-dimensional, which is a pity because Ali Rehman Khan who plays Danyal is a fine actor on TV dramas.
Despite my review, Janaan is a good one-time watch, but you won’t remember the movie the next day, which is a pity because there was so much going on for this movie. Janaan has already made over 20 crores rupees which has rendered this movie a huge success- which is good news for we’ve been talking for the last several years of “revival of Pakistani cinema” and yes, Janaan is a great ambassador for quality Pakistani fims.
I want for us to get out of that “let’s-watch-this-movie-to-support-Pakistani-films” phase and actually go out to watch them because we want to. We are definitely on the rise and I am confident that one day, we will reach that point that our people will want to watch Pakistani movies.
3 out of 5