Posted in Lollywood

Dobara Phir Se

Ok, so after the last Pakistani movie experience (Janaan), I had told myself that I will not watch any more Pakistani movies. It has nothing  to do with being unpatriotic but rather should-I-be-spending-money-on-a-movie-that’s-not-worth-it?

So a bunch of Pakistanis  movies were released- Lahore se Aagey, Raham – which I didn’t bother watching. Till I saw the trailer for Dobara Phir Se (DPS) and I was intrigued.

The trailer seemed to have it all: good looking actors, gorgeous New York locations, decent music, modern looking characters, some intense moments, a wedding song and dance, in other words, a complete entertainer. What more could you want?

The instant reaction after leaving the theater? DPS is completely and utterly forgettable (let alone predictable).

It’s not all that bad. There were some good elements to the movie that should be appreciated:

  1. The cinematography. Nothing new in the way New York has been shot (we’ve seen it umpteen times in Hollywood/ Bollywood movies) but it was refreshing to see a Pakistani movie. Scenes showing the road trip, beach, park all were gorgeously shot.
  2. The acting. All of the actors are TV actors, and they all did a great job with the roles they were assigned.
  3. The Pakistani touch. These are Pakistanis living in New York. They hang out like New Yorkers do. They look the part and blend in well with the busy city environment. But they say Salaams and don’t drink alcohol. No item songs, no one liner crass comedy, no useless sidekick characters.
  4. The characters are not stereotyped and are relatable. These were young, modern, urban Pakistanis working in professional jobs seeking for answers in life and love (Natasha works at a brokerage firm, Zainab is an illustrator for a publishing house, Hammad (an architect) and Vasay buy a place to open up their restaurant). These are everyday people. They are not drop dead gorgeous looking people (though they are extremely pleasant to look at) who are always in make-up and perfect clothes, but they feel like people you might see in New York.
  5. Staying away from stereotypes. The divorced woman with a kid is not weeping her life away but is actually looking for a job so she can move on with her life. The mother in law is not anti-daughter in law, but rather a very supportive one. The bride, who is far from being demure and coy, dances on her own wedding. Friends get together and don’t drink alcohol but juice that looks like wine. Husband and wife fights and he doesn’t get it his way all the time. Women empowerment is rife throughout in subtle ways.

So, what’s the issue then?

  1. Predictable. By the time we come to the intermission break, I already knew the ending. When I know the ending, I lose interest in the movie. Then it becomes a moment where I start to look at my phone, wondering how much more time I have to endure. Even though it starts off well, it just falters at the end.
  2. The running time. Too long. DPS should be 1.5 hours and not 2 hours. Few songs could have been chopped off. Songs started to feel very similair.
  3. No depth. Fine, so the characters have been etched out, with their motives assigned. Now where’s the character development? How do they evolve? What changes take place in them? Where is their motive coming from? They all look the same.
  4. That Little Kid. Ok, so I get it they were trying to go for the cuteness factor, but it sort of misfired.
  5. Product Placement. I didn’t know Oye Hoye chips were available in New York City. I also didn’t know that you could get McDonalds at arrivals at Karachi airport. I also didn’t know that one of the characters loves Close Up toothpaste so much they would pack it so lovingly in their suitcase. The filmmakers need to learn to make product placement more subtle.

It’s a real pity because I really wanted to like this film. This is the kind of Pakistani films I want to see more off (instead of those movies that deal with the harsher realities of rural life). Again, I don’t want to go see a Pakistani cinema to show support, but to go because I genuinely want to watch a decent Pakistani film. We always talk about Pakistani cinema revival and I’ve been hearing this for years. Reality is that despite the fact we are producing some technically amazing movies, we still have a long way to go.

With it’s heart in the right place – and the interesting theme of having a second chance at love and life- DPS fails to hold your interest (only 14 people were in the cinema on a Saturday evening show!) and by the time you leave the theater, you would have forgotten the movie already.

2 out of 5

 

Genre: Romance, Drama

Director: Mehreen Jabbar

Cast: Adeel Hussain, Sanam Saeed, Hareem Farooq, Ali Kazmi, Tooba Siddiqui, Atiqa Odho

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Young couples in New York seeks answers in life and love and a second chance to live it right

Running time: 120 minutes

Seen at: Royal Palm cinema, Lahore

Posted in Lollywood

Janaan

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.

Bilal Ashraf is famously compared to Bollywood’s Sidharth Malhotra

 

L-R: Asfandyar, Meena and Danyal (character names)

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

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Lollywood, Uncategorized

Mah e Mir

The tagline for this movie is Embrace your Madness, and so it goes with every literary/ creative genius out there. Don’t they all seem to go a little cuckoo in their minds before achieving super stardom?

The premise for this Pakistani movie is simple:

A struggling poet, Jamal Ahmad, has an issue with the modern world’s interpretation of what poetry should be all about. He is awakened from his slumber when his columns in the paper is dropped over a fashion show report.  While hanging out at the Coffee House, Jamal watches a TV show discussing about poetry, old and new. He calls in and asks the host about why the obsession with old poets.

My name is Fahad Mustafa, and even though I am a TV actor, you will see me here trying hard to play the role of a struggling poet. I am very angry at the world, but see, I am now reading Mir’s poetry, which will help me transform my life and find a real meaning to my existence.

This sets the tone for the movie, in which a debate begins about classical versus traditional versus contemporary Urdu poetry.

Hitting rock bottom, Jamal is visited by Dr. Kamal, who hands him his book of poems, which Jamal reads. In what is the best part of the movie, Jamal enters into his world of imaginarium, where he lives out the character in the poems/ ghazals.

In this imaginary world, Jamal becomes Mir.

Oh, look, here I am again. I am now imaging myself to be Mir. I will speak a lot of fancy Urdu, and so this is perhaps the best time for you to read the subtitles in English below on the screen. I will have clean hair and will be more  presentable than who I am in the modern world.

we encounter Mehtab Begum (Iman Ali) who is a courtesan, and develops a fascination with Mir, not to mention another man who also falls in love with the woman.

My name is Iman Ali, and I know I look beautiful, even though I wear contact lenses and don’t dub my lines very well. Oh, also, you will note that dancer besides me dances a lot better than me.

Ultimately, the movie becomes a journey into the maddening of Jamal Ahmad., who learns to rewire his brains and in the process of peeling of his layers and shifting his paradigms, discovers who he is and what he is meant to be. In other words, he had to go a little mad to discover his true self.

What do I make of this movie? I couldn’t have survived this movie, had there been no English subtitles.

The problem with the movie:

  1. The use of pure Urdu in the dialogues and poetry was a major put off. The subtitles saved me.
  2. The movie felt like as if it were made for television and not a cinema house.
  3. The acting by Fahad Mustafa, as Jamal, slightly backfired as someone with a greater control of Urdu prose was required.
  4. Iman Ali, though a beautiful woman, did a bad job of dubbing her lines (and please, get rid of the contact lenses!)
  5. There were lots of “artistic” elements, like the imagery of a full blue moon that failed on so many levels.
  6. I was not sure if this movie was a semi biography, and whether Jamal’s life echoed Mir’s life, or was Jamal able to relate to Mir’s misery so well? Not entirely sure.

Having said this, I do feel the movie had a few redeeming qualities, that could have been explored with greater handling of the subject:

  1. The debate between classical poetry and modern poetry is something worth exploring. Is the poetry written today destroying the classical ones? There is an interesting debate between the two main characters over the importance of the classics. “You can’t drive forward without a rear view mirror,” utters Dr. Kamal. A very valid point is made about the progression of culture while utilizing our cultural past glories.
  2. The use of flashbacks were effective and used sparingly. It didn’t hamper or slowed down the narrative. at almost 2.5 hours, the movie feels like it’s stretching out, but then it doesn’t.
  3. The quality of the movie is top notch (although some of the set designs felt amateurish).
  4. The movie does incite some level of interest in the renowned Pakistani poet Mir Taqi Mir. I personally had no idea who he was, and I came home and read up on him.
  5. Dr. Kamal’s love story, though juvenile at best, does raise up the point of a man’s ego getting in way of declaring love for someone. Ego does mess things up, and it’s fine if we can let go of ego at times.

Mah e Mir to seems to have a wonderful concept on paper, but got lost massively in it’s execution for the big screen. At best, this could have worked a two part TV series.

Save your money and keep on hoping for the next big Pakistani film to work.

Oh, also, one of my favorite Pakistani actress Sanam Saeed, is completely wasted in this movie. Hugely disappointing.

My name is Sanam Saeed, and I play the role of Naina Kanwal. I have a very small role, and I don’t even know why I picked this movie. I have nothing to show, except look pretty.

1.5 out of 5

 

Posted in Lollywood

Jawani Phir Nahi Ani

Jawani Phir Nahi Ani (JPNA) is the first Pakistani movie ever to cross Rs. 254.5 million mark in just two weeks. That’s beating the records of previously critically acclaimed movies such as Khuda Ke Liye, Bol, Waar among others. This movie has courted controversy and interest in the same breath. Having seen it last night, I think this movie has become a very important movie for Pakistan. Other comedies, Jailabee and Wrong No., have come and gone. They were not fun movies and the humor downright unfunny.

Whether you like or hate JPNA there is no denial that it has become a very important movie. I can understand why some of the more conservative elements have expressed displeasure with this movie. Some of their criticisms range from “Why copy from Bollywood?” to “this is not part of our culture.”

We have three friends, Saif, Sheikh and Pervez, who are married to their wives, who are possessive, dominant and over-powering, rendering the men to the weaker spouse. They lead the lives of having their finances controlled, picking and dropping the kids and being forced to attend the in-laws gatherings. Enters an old college friend, Sherry, a divorce lawyer, who happens to be single (and hugely amoral) friend from the US. Through his charming ways, he manages to convince all three wives to allow their husbands to travel with him.

He takes them all to Bangkok, Thailand for a week of fun and frolic. There, at a club, Marina falls for Sherry and wants to marry him. Chaos ensues when her Don dad arranges for a quick marriage. In the meantime, the three wives find out the husbands have duped them, so the wives end up in Thailand!

What follows is a series of mishaps, confusion and mayhem. I won’t get much into the rest of the movie, because that’s spoiling the surprise.

However, here are the reasons why this movie is important.

  1. This movie is a breath of fresh air! Why must all our movies stick to the norm of what our culture is: Moor, Shah, Waar, Bol, Khude Ke Liye…yes, we get it, we have serious issues in Pakistan, and movies depicting those issues are wonderful. But why can’t we make comedy movies? Why can’t we have sense of humor too? This movie does just that without being crude or vulgar.
  2. The humor. There are loads of self-referential jokes, which are essentially Pakistani in nature. Which is what sets this apart from the typical Indian movies. A lot of fun is made and the movie makers are in on the fun, from selfies to wedding organizers to fashuon designers to married life. The comedic turns from Ahmed Butt and Vasay Chaudry was funny.
  3. The technical aspect is top notch. The cinematography, the direction, the locations, the costumes and other technical aspects are on par with any Bollywood or Hollywood movies.
  4. The women. They are not some hapless, damsels in distress women. These are women who are strong, assertive, know what they want.
  5. Culture. I am not saying this movie is representative of Pakistani culture, but we have to accept that a lot of what happens in the movie is somewhat representative of ground reality. The question this movie raises is what is Pakistani culture? Have we evolved? Who defines what Pakistani culture is? This question begs a longer detailed answer, but JPNA definitely forces you to rethink what defines our culture.

On the flip side, there are something which didn’t fare too well in the movie.

  1. Hamayun Saeed needs to act his age. He cannot pass off as a dashing hero. His second love interest was young enough to be his daughter. By making him an amoral character, you are never sure what his motives are. Is he supposed to be a nice guy or a bad guy?
  2. The songs were the weak elements in the movie. Two songs could have been deleted. The only one song I enjoyed was Khul Jaye Botal, which was slightly catchy. There are no item songs, surprise surprise.
  3. Hamza Ali Abbasi’s comedy timings is a little off. On a different note, Hamza had invited controversy when he shied away from promoting the movie as he had some scenes in Thailand with women in bikinis. Nothing earth shattering, or nothing we hadn’t seen before. It’s all a hype and only exposed him as a hypocrite.
  4. The script wasn’t entirely bad, but it could have been a little tighter and crisp. There are some scenes lifted from Housefull 2 and several other Bollywood movies, but then again, Bollywood is “inspired” by Hollywood.
  5. While I understand that product placement is important to fund the movies, let’s be more subtle about it. We don’t need Tarang milk packet thrusted in our faces, nor do we need to know that they’ve order Chicken burgers at McDonalds or shopping at Levis Jeans, and the worse of all, Fair N Lovely Jalwa song…

The main crux of the movie: marriage is a two way street. It takes two to tango. The wife and the husband needs to be on the same platform. Marriage cannot be run by one spouse. When one couple is nearing a divorce, the wife understands where she went wrong (too possessive). There is a strong underlying current message about marriage in a society like ours that’s obsessed with marriage.

Secondly, live your life. Not necessarily by partying it up, but live your life fully. Fulfill your dreams. Don’t waste away your life.

This movie will make a lot of money. This will set a benchmark on how to do a Pakistani comedy (with jokes relevant to our culture) and will pave the way for more such comedy. I had a good laugh throughout the movie. I want to give credit where it’s due: to the director, Nadeem Baig, to the writer, Vasay Chaudhry, for clearly JPNA has made an indelible mark in the history of Pakistani culture.

Verdict: Despite it’s flaws, JPNA is a good one time watch, with decent jokes and fun storyline where the humor will have you chuckling away into the night. Watch it to support Pakistani cinema.

3.5 out of 5.

Posted in Lollywood

Jalaibee

A story of two friends Billu and Baggu, who get caught up in debt with the local mafia, led by the King. At the same time, another guy Ali has his own plans to kidnap the King for his own motives. Along with this, there are two women who each have their own motives. All are connected to Dara, the henchman who is stuck between collecting the money and keeping his control and fear over the city. These three story lines all connect at one point and causes confusion and a series of twists, in other words, a jalaibee.

Ok, let’s get the good stuff out of the way.

1. Jalaibee is no doubt a very high standard technical movie (it was shot with the same camera that was used for Gravity, Skyfall and Iron Man 3). The cinematography was world class.

2. The art work, by Babrus Khan in Lahore, was brilliant (even if it reminds you of the art work in Kill BIll) and used very effectively to trace the back stories.

3. That 1963 yellow Ford Mustang!! What a brilliant car. I want that car.

Unfortunately, there were so many glaring errors that one couldn’t help but feel sorry for the movie (it won’t make much a of a difference because the movie is a super hit anyways!).

1. The acting is bad all over. The only decent actor was Zhalay Sarhadi as the bar dancer. Wiqar Ali Khan, Adnan Jafar, Sabeeka Imam, Ali Safina, Danish Taimoor…all need to go back to acting school.

2. The script, the script, the script. With so many loopholes, one quickly had to switch their brains off to get through the movie.

3. The action, the one item song, the comedy was all lacklustre. No oomph, no hype, no fizz…just like a flat coke drink.

Even though we went to see the movie because we support Pakistani cinema, Jalaibee just didn’t cut it out for us. Zinda Bhaag was way better, and for that matter Waar was a lot better.

Having said that, we should still be proud that a movie like Jalaibee can be made on the same level as any Hollywood/ Bollywood movie. The effort and the time spent to make this movie needs to be lauded– so a very well done to the makers of the movie. However, I would also recommend to the makers of the movie, to focus on the script next time.

2 out of 5

Posted in Lollywood

Waar

After Mein Hoon Shahid Afridi and Zinda Bhaag, there comes Waar- A brilliantly shot Pakistani film based on terrorism. Great cinematography, high production values and awesome acting by the leads (well done Shaan). Credit must be given to Bilal Lashari for producing a sleek and slick Pakistani movie, which is at par with a lot of Hollywood and Bollywood action movies. Sure, there are a few glitches here and there, but that will not detract me from liking this movie (and which movie is flawless anyways!).

Go watch it and be a proud Pakistani!

4/5

Posted in Lollywood

Zinda Bhaag

A brilliant Pakistani movie (and it’s set in my hometown of Lahore!) Great acting, humor, story, cinematography et al. No wonder it’s been winning awards (though I don’t think it will win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film!).

I smiled. I laughed. I pondered. I wondered. But it was the poignant ending that made it’s indelible mark in my head!

4/5