Monday, November 24, 2014

Na Maloom Afraad: A Movie Review

Despite living 1.5 hours away from NYC, when I heard that Na Maloom Afraad and Dukhtar would be screened at the South Asian International Film Festival, I had to be there.  Unfortunately, we were only able to choose one movie and my husband's disinterest in anything "depressing" made Na Maloom Afraad the clear choice.

So off we went to NYC yesterday (Sunday November 23) to watch this movie.  First of all, I have to nitpick just a little about the venue.  No. Stadium. Seating.  Despite the fancy lobby, the free food and free drinks (which seemed really "off" to me at the screening of a Pakistani film - but I'll leave it at that), the theater itself was incredibly "old-school."  The cramped seats and the irritating heads blocking my view of the screen were instant draw-backs, so it did prematurely cloud my mood and put me in an overly critical mind-set from the get-go.

Coming to the actual film, the movie began and my instant thought was "Oh wow, the production values seem pretty good."  Fortunately, that initial thought was not shattered.  The movie was shot very nicely.

The movie focuses on three characters, Salim (Javed Sheikh), Farhan (Fahad Mustafa) and Moon (Mohsin Abbas Haider), their difficulties and their chase to make money to pull themselves out of their misery.  Moon and Farhan are tenants at Salim Bhai's home and are equally affected when Salim Bhai is informed that his home is set to be demolished within a month.  Farhan wants to marry Salim Bhai's sister (Urwa Hocane), Moon wants to be able to provide for his family and Salim Bhai simply wants to retire peacefully in his home and start an achaar business.  Their dreams seem to be slipping further and further away when the three concoct a plan:  to be the "Na maloom afraads."  The plan itself is a little tricky and would spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it, so I won't delve into that.

Let's first start with the PROS:

I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  For a Pakistani film, this was a treat for the eyes.  Visually comparable to a Bollywood movie, an interesting storyline and well-etched characters backed up with great performances.  It was "paisa vasool," and complete entertainment.


Within the first half hour of the movie, my husband grumbled "Oh this a remake of Hera Pheri?"  To which I replied "It seems more along the lines of Delhi Belly to me."  Unfortunately, it was a mix of both.  The storyline was not entirely original and it did seem like the writer/Nabeel Qureshi was heavily inspired by both these movies from across the border.

A part of me also hoped for more "depth" in the movie.  While I completely understood that it was a fun, entertaining sort of movie, I wish the "Na Maloom Afraad" title had been pushed further and put the three in a position where they actually found themselves getting caught up in the mayhem.  I know, I'm expecting a social message from a fun film.  That's just wishful thinking on my end.

And lastly, the biggest flaw.....Kubra Khan as Hina.  Is this Pakistan's answer to Katrina Kaif?  While Bollywood fans are finally breathing a sigh of relief to see Ms. Kaif's career slowly declining, are we as Pakistanis jumping on this bandwagon of allowing pitifully-accented girls to take up prominent roles in films/dramas?  Given, she was not terrible, but that was mostly because her role did not require her to speak more than a few lines at a time and she was mostly just a pretty face.  But the climax/ending sequence caused me to squirm with discomfort at her dialogue delivery.

Alright, that's the end of the cons.  Let's move on to performances:

Fahad Mustafa is a star!  He's always been a great actor in dramas, a great producer for shows and now he's proven that he's "big screen" material.  His performance was effortless and completely natural.  You wanted Farhan to succeed because he was such a likable guy.

Javed Sheikh was adorable as the bumbling Salim Bhai.  A sweet man who deserved happiness, my heart hurt with each "jhatka" his life received.  Javed Sheikh, take a bow.

Mohsin Abbas Haider was something else, in my opinion.  He was the weakest of the trio, though possibly the funniest.  The problem was his overacting.  He seemed to be trying to hard and that didn't come off as natural.  He's not a bad actor, rather an entertaining one.  But standing next to Fahad and Javed Sheikh, it simply skewed the trio a bit.

Salman Shahid was his usual, captivating, hilarious self with incredible on-screen presence.  While he was, more or less, reprising his Ishqiya/Dedh Ishqiya role, it left the viewer in splits nonetheless.  Great performance.

Urwa Hocane did her part well, acting naturally and looking pretty.  Her chemistry with Fahad Mustafa was perfect.

Kubra Khan - I think I already mentioned what I thought of her performance under "cons."  We'll leave it at that.

Amber Wajid is as natural as ever.  She compliments Javed Sheikh well and acts as the supportive wife and Bhabi.

And lastly, let's  move on to songs  Oh boy.  OK, so overall, the movie utilized the songs well and they didn't serve as a deterrent from the story.  The songs were placed and spaced out nicely and were only used in 2-3 minute sequences, not stretching out the run time by much.

I do want to take a moment to talk about.....yup, you guessed it...."Billi."  This was the "item number" for the movie.  And what an item number it was.  I'm not going to knock the song or the video by saying "Oh how cheap" or "Where were her clothes?" or any of that.  Dancers and prostitutes are a part of our society as much as they are in any other society, so I won't pretend and turn a blind eye.  That's fine.  What I do want to say is that "Item numbers" are not a part of our culture or entertainment scene.  They were never relevant in dramas, they shouldn't be relevant in our films.  At a time when Bollywood actors are sitting up and realizing what their decades of item numbers are doing to their society (desensitizing them to the treatment of women), why are we NOW starting this immoral trend?  Food for thought.

That being said, I will say that Mehwish Hayat looks beautiful, dances effortlessly, choreography is good, the song is catchy.....nothing wrong with the song visually, but it's the morality behind it that does nag at me a bit.

OK!  That's it!  The verdict is that this was a great attempt by Nabeel Qureshi to bring back Pakistani films with a bang!  Despite having many "art" type films over the last few years (Josh, Seedlings, Bol, Khuda Ke Liye, etc.), it was a Masala entertainer that was missing and probably needed to seriously kick-start the Pakistani industry again.  So I definitely appreciate the effort and came out of the theater with a smile on my face.

Highly entertaining and I'd recommend it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Batch of New Shows: Goya, Dil Nahin Manta, Khata, Day Ijaazat Jo Tu and Nazdeekiyan

While "Goya" and "Dil Nahin Manta" are essentially the only "new" shows this week, with the end of Bashar Momin, Soteli and Mere Meherban, my drama schedule opened up and left room for new additions.  Therefore, I added on a few already-running shows that I'd been neglecting - and I'm so glad!

The wait is over, the wait is over, the wait is over!  I can't even pin down how long I've been following the updates for this show, reading the cast changes, waiting for the air-date announcement and now here we are!  Osmaan's long-awaited release since Aunn Zara, Sana Javed finally front-and-center and a drama that looks refreshingly different, Did the show live up to the hype?  

Definitely!  The story focuses on Omar (Osmaan Khalid Butt), the son of tycoon Rahat Hashmi (Usmaan Peerzada).  Omar can be classified as nothing short of the rebelliously obedient son.  While Omar is heavily controlled by his father, he is always hoping to one day muster up the courage to escape his life.  Rahat closely monitors every aspect of Omar's life, hoping that this will curb any onset of bad habits.  Omar also has a stepmother (Tara Mehmood), who is not the stereotypical stepmother.  Rather, though she doesn't share much of a relationship with Omar herself, she is consistently pushing Rahat to stop treating his own son like a stepson and show him affection and leniency.  Omar also has an aayah in the form of Mrs. Imtiyaaz (Shamim Hilaali), a woman who not only loves him (and fears his father) but someone he loves like a mother.  Along with a close friend, Ali (Furqan Qureshi), this sums up Omar's restricted world.

So we are not surprised when Omar has a run-in with journalist and carefree-soul, Mohini (Sana Javed).  Sana's background is entirely different than Omar's.  Mohini lives with her single-parent, Asma (Farah Shah) and calls her mother by name.  The two are less like mother and daughter and more like friends.  They understand each other and care for each other while not interfering too much in each others lives.  This is a woman-oriented household and these women are not helpless or dependent on any man.  

When Omar meets Mohini at an art exhibit she's covering, they instantly feel the friction - and not necessarily in a positive way.  Mohini calls Omar out on his uptight nature, which leads to an argument.  It doesn't, however, come as a surprise when Omar confesses to Ali that he is attracted to Mohini.  

The acting, so far, is fairly natural and believable.  Osmaan is perfect as Omar and one always believes that his roles are written with him in mind.  Sana's role as Mohini is different from her other roles, though her chatter is reminiscent of Lubna in Pyaaray Afzal.  So far, so good!  The supporting cast is good as well.  Time will show the roles Mrs. Inaayat, Rahat and Mrs. Rahat will play.  

How Omar and Mohini end up together will be interesting to see!  Let's wait and watch!

While I am not a fan of either of the cast members, the positive reviews after the first episode encouraged me to give this show a try.  So far, so good!  Huzaifa (Emaad Irfani) and Shanzey (Sara Khan) are cousins and seem to have feelings for each other, something his mother and Khala encourage and support..  However, Huzaifa's Phupo hopes for her own niece Sohena (Amna Ilyas) to marry Huzaifa.  Sohena herself seems to be a very arrogant, over-confident girl who genuinely believes Huzaifa couldn't have eyes for anyone other than her.

The story, after watching the first episode, looks to be a tussle between Huzaifa's mother and father, a story of egos and the decision as to who's niece Huzaifa will marry.

While Huzaifa seems to be the obedient son to his mother in the hopes of making her happy by marrying Shanzey, it'll be interesting to see what twists and turns will come about to turn the story on its head!

Honestly speaking, I am not sure what the overall premise of this show is actually about.  What I can tell you is that "Day Ijaazat Jo Tu" is a light-hearted show with endearing characters and a good pace.  While I was hesitant about seeing Farhan Saeed as an actor, he's proved to be a natural in this role, complimenting Sohai Ali Abro well!

The story revolves around the love story of Sarmad (Farhan) and Ayla (Sohai).  While Ayla comes from a middle-class background with a doting family, Sarmad comes from a rich background but is distant from his father, stepmother and stepbrother.

Ayla's entry into Sarmad's life is a blessing for him and he feels his loneliness disappearing.  Sarmad and Ayla get married, much to the dismay of his stepmother and are forced to move into their own home due to her disapproval (despite having support from her family and his father).

At present, Ayla and Sarmad have a baby girl, but Sarmad's father (Javed Sheikh) has gone missing after boarding a flight and is assumed to be dead.  The show took an 8 year leap.......and has now left me wondering where the show is headed from this point onward?

Despite being confused about the show's direction, I'm happily watching this show, which is a refreshing change from the heavier shows on air these days.  Plus, Farhan and Sohai share great chemistry.

"Ek pal ki khataa umar bhar ki sazaa" sings Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in the OST and aptly so.

10 episodes in and I had very little interest in watching this show simply based on how depressing it looked from the on-set.  But when I suddenly found myself with a chunk of free time, I decided to play catch-up.  I'm glad I did, because while overall a depressing subject, the story actually pulls you in and makes you feel emotionally invested in the character of Rabia.

The story of Khataa revolves around Rumi (Shehroz Sabzwari) and Rabia (Sanam Chaudhry).  While Rumi is infatuated with Rabia, she often openly rejects his advances.  The two live next door to each other and Rumi often tries to meet Rabia on the terrace.  Rabia is highly focused on her education and making her family proud.  Rabia's father is a well-respected man in the "mohalla" and often serves as adviser on the problems of his neighbors.  While preparations for Rumi's sister's wedding are in full-swing, one day Rumi jumps over to Rabia's terrace and grabs her hand - right as Rabia's Phupo comes up in search of Rabia.  When Phupo sees the two together, she furiously goes to inform Rabia's father, but accidentally trips and hits her head, falling unconscious.  Worried, Rumi drags Rabia with him, scared that both will be murdered by Rabia's father.  Rabia protests, wanting to go back home, but is held back by Rumi.  

In a "khataa" that is entirely Rumi's fault and in which Rabia is innocent, Rabia's entire life is ruined.  Rabia is forced to marry Rumi and is labeled "bhagori" (run-away bride), something she has to hear every day from her mother-in-law and sister-in-law (who holds her responsible for her own marriage being called off).  Rabia's family shuns Rabia (despite Rabia's mother trying to reach out to her) and move away to avoid the "mohalla" talk.  Rabia is forced to endure pitiful behavior from her in-laws, despite having a loving husband (who is forever trying to make up for his mistake).

Howver, in recent episodes, Rabia began tutoring some neighborhood children, finding solace and a confidant in their mother and a friend in their chaachu.  This twist has made the show even more interesting.  

While Shehroz Sabzwari is doing a good job as Rumi, Sanam Chaudhry is phenomenal as Rabia.

Looking forward to seeing where the show is headed!

I love Vasay Chaudhary.  A lot.  I also have a soft spot for Affan Waheed.  Maheen Rizvi is a good actress.  OK, so the only not-so-strong selling point of this show for me personally is Maria Wasti.  When she wants to be good, she's GREAT.  And when she wants to be bad, she can be the most irritating thing about a show.

As soon as this show started and I heard Maria Wasti's screeching, I knew where this was headed.  I was filled with deja vu of her performance in Qarz.  I was overcome with the feeling of "Oh no, she's going to ruin this show."  And 4 episodes later, I feel I have already, more or less, abandoned this show.

The story of watta-satta is interesting, but unfortunately, it has rarely translated into something interesting to watch on-screen.  Rather, we are confronted with overly evil characters (the case of Phupo here), insulting husbands (Vasay's character here), spoiled, unlikable girls (Maria Wasti's character here) and a feeling of "Please remind me why these nice people married into this family again?" (the case of Affan and Maheen's characters here).

If a show doesn't bring about interest, but rather complete irritation, I think it's best to put it on the backburner.  Despite Maheen Rizvi's adorable performance and Vasay's on-point zameendaar act, the show has very little else going for it.

It may simply be that this show is not the sort that you can watch 4 episodes back-to-back, but I'll wait and see if I actually want to continue with this one.  


4/5 shows are great and I'd highly recommend them!  Goya is off to a great start, as is Dil Nahin Mnata.  Khataa is taking an interesting turn and Day Ijaazat Jo Tu is a sweet, breezy watch.  Nazdeekiyan is currently a wait-and-watch situation, so we'll see how that ends up.

Happy watching!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And One More Show Comes to An End: Mere Meherban!

Mere Meherbaan, overall, was a brain-screw with over-the-top acting, black and white characters and irritating situations.  However, something about the show kept viewers tuning in week after week, myself included.

The character of Muskaan stayed true to her nature from beginning to end:  self-sabotaging.  From beginning to end, she refused to take full responsibility for her actions, especially regarding her attitude.  Hence, the "fate" of Muskaan was most fitting - she was left alone.  While I did not agree with the attitude of those around her, Muskaan's arrogance was incredulous right until the end!  Yes, no woman should have to deal with her husband remarrying and then expecting her to "deal with it."  I didn't disagree with Muskaan on that.  But the lack of remorse that Muskaan displayed towards her own role in destroying her home was frustrating.  Even at the very end, when she spoke to her mother about her "haal," she blamed her mother entirely for the state of her life at that present moment.  While it may have been true, it not only burned the now-reformed Shaista, but also the audience!

Moving on to the character of Iraj, I really want to stress THIS point:  Sanam Chaudhry has come a LONG way as an actress!  Iraj was the best, most "reformed" character, because not only was her pain real, her situation was believable.  A lot of this had to do with the way Sanam portrayed Iraj and enacted her role.  What's strange is that, in the past, Sanam's involvement in any drama was almost a deterrent for me.  Her role in "Aasmanon Pe Likha" was the beginning of my dislike-relationship with her, but things have changed!  Not only with her growth as an actress in "Mere Meherban," but also her great performance in "Khata" these days, I've suddenly turned into a Sanam Chaudhry fan.  Iraj's obsession over Shehryar, her confusion over how to confess, her idle behavior in going along with her marriage, her guilt eating her alive inside and ultimately, her grief felt torn between a wife of the living and Sherry's was all very believable and the performance itself was great!

Now coming to Hayaa, our goody-two-shoes-taken-for-granted.  A character like Hayaa was a blessing for this show, only because of the way they ultimately ended her story.  While Hayaa was subservient to her once-to-be-in-laws and her own family, Hayaa's outcome and the stand she took made her a great character and a great role-model.  This should serve as a message to women as to what they deserve in life - a huge 180 from the role of Rudaba from Bashar Momin.  Hayaa was self-sacrificing, sweet, loyal, caring - but ultimately, she understood what others inflicted upon her (namely Zeeshan and Shaista) and despite caring about them, she took a decision against them and a decision that would better serve her OWN future.  Watching Hayaa accept Zeeshan would've destroyed this show entirely, therefore the conclusion was absolutely perfect.

Zeeshan made his bed and had to lie in it.  Despite feeling remorse for his behavior towards Hayaa, he was unable to get his way and had to do what was right regarding his wife and child.  What made my sympathy towards Zeeshan deter was in the moment between Zeeshan & Hayaa when, after Hayaa rejected Zeeshan's too-late proposal, we as viewers saw that flicker of anger in Zeeshan's eyes.  Unfortunately, regardless of how sorry Zeeshan may have been, he still failed to recognize how terribly he treated Hayaa and didn't feel any shame in trying to attain her once again.  Therefore, it made it so fitting that Zeeshan would now have to go back to his wife (and child) and actually work on that marriage, rather than falling on his "backup" of Hayaa.

Shaista, despite reforming her attitude and her ways, was unable to completely fit all the pieces of her life and her children's lives together entirely.  While Iraj was able to piece her life together again, Muskaan was left empty-handed and Zeeshan was forced to abandon his mother (albeit temporarily).  It was actually painful to watch Shaista in such a state.  But isn't that the point?  All wrongs cannot be made right!

It was nice to see Falah, Hayaa and Nayaara's entire family at peace at the end.  This was truly a story of "good trumps evil."  And while the "Evil" (Shaista and co.) reformed themselves for the most part, it was a long, painful struggle and one that would continue for them.

Alright, that's the end of Mere Meherban!  I had many more shows to write about, but didn't want to "messily" combine them all together.  Watch out for my next post on a batch of new shows, including Goya!

Happy watching!

(Photos Courtesy Hum TV's FB Page)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

More Endings: Soteli and Bashar Momin!

I know, I know, I know.  I'm definitely a slacker these days and I not only apologize, but applaud you all for putting up with me.  Haha.  I promise to consciously make an effort to improve!

I was incredibly excited to watch the first episode of Goya this week!  However, I will write up my review in a couple of days rather than group it with this blog, as it deserves some attention.  Before I can give it the needed attention, I definitely need to discuss two shows that concluded.

This week, two of my shows finally came to an end.  Whether those endings were well-written, well thought-out endings or not, that's what we will discuss.

Let's begin with Soteli.

The essential premise of this show was endearing:  A little boy loses his overtly loving mother at a young age and lives his life in the shadow of that love, feeling rejected by his own father, mistreated by his stepmother and neglected due to his step-sister.  Interesting.  The performances by the little boy who played Milkoo was great!  Then, the story took a leap.

Unfortunately, where the story should have taken a turn and leaped bounds, the show moved in the opposite direction.  Rather than seeing how (naturally) Milkoo's relationship with his stepmother progressed, how she turned his father against him and how Phupo protected him, we were treated to........two love stories.

Mishaal's love story was blocked by her own mother, for reasons beyond anyone's understanding.  But then she changes her mind. OK, let's blame it all on a tumor.  Was this tumor there from the beginning?  Is this why Ayesha Khan's character was so horrible to Milkoo?  And if  that's the case, how would a tumor grow SO slowly as to being treatable?

Now if the tumor was NOT the excuse for her bad behavior, why did she have such a huge change of heart?  Milkoo always cared for her, respected her and treated her like a part of the family.  Did a few dreams simply change her mind entirely?  And if that's the silly.

We see that Ayesha's character discovers the box of Milkoo's letters.  She breaks down after reading them.  But again, why such a huge change of heart?  Was she unaware of all the things she did?  Of course not.  She knew.  The wrap-up was simply too convenient for my tastes.

And lastly, we come to the final "Put in place" moment:  The wrapping up of Milkoo's love story.  Oh my goodness, and what a love story!  The writer took a page from "Mujhse Dosti Karoge" for this final scene, almost ridiculously so.  Why couldn't a logical discussion have taken place between the friends rather than the dramatic scene?  Or was the love triangle necessary at all?  In my opinion, it did nothing to serve the actual story, which was a nice one.  Rather, it distracted entirely from the original story getting the attention it deserved.

To wrap up, Soteli was a show with good direction, good emotional content and great acting.  But unfortunately it failed to capture my interest after the leap due to throwing in too many sub-plots.  Yet another drama knocked off my shortening list of shows!


And now let's move on to the "blockbuster" drama of this year, Bashar Momin.

I can't explain my thoughts towards this show.  I honestly can't even explain why I watched this show from beginning to end without giving it up.  My views towards this show have been blatantly clear in my blogs about it:  The show was generally an over-stylized, dragged-out, prolonged story of a thoroughly bad man who destroyed lives and used his power (and money) to dictate the lives of others.

It was only in the last two episodes that we began to see where Bashar "came from."  What was his past?  What caused him to behave this way?  What made him so hateful?  In fact, the last two episodes may have been the most interesting ones and one is left wondering why the writers and director didn't focus MORE on the back-story, Bashar's true emotions, his scars, trials and tribulations?  Instead, we were treated to 28 episodes of smoke-filled rooms, blue tinges, Faisal Qureshi's barking, Usha's timid expressions and Maheen's crooked smiles.

The episode began with Rudaba meeting Bashar in jail, the two finally connecting and declaring their love and respect for each other.  What?  Why?  How?  I don't know.  Don't even bother asking those questions, because it won't make sense any way you spin it.  When Bashar handed Rudaba that glass of juice, my insides churned and I wondered "HOW can she trust him AT ALL?"  But that logic is not for you and I to understand.  It's LOVE.  Forget that this love has transpired and materialized out of nowhere.  

We then witness a (useless) scene between Bashar and his "friends" (rivals) where he persuades them to let him go that day rather than the next, because his wife gets scared alone.  The sole purpose of this scene was to show that "Bashar Bhai still has it."  That's it.  And of course, Bashar Bhai gets his way and comes home to a waiting Rudaba.  Yay?  Sure.

We also find out that Bashar's servants were sent home before the raid, because Bashar cares SO MUCH about his servants and their well-being.  As an audience, we are supposed to forget how badly he treated these servants previously.

We are also treated to the world's most awkward family reunion!

Saira basically taunts Rudaba for not looking in on Saira and Tayyaba while Bashar was in jail, leaving them in "buray haalaat."  She also taunts Bashar for being a doormat to his wife.  If there was ANY scene in this show worth watching, it was THIS scene, because we finally got to see Saira bearing the brunt of Bashar's anger for her bad behavior.  Bashar's anger when Saira accuses Rudaba of STILL leading Buland on was actually something that was necessary for this show.  Both Saira and Tayyaba needed to hear that they were responsible for their own life situations, regardless of the hand Bashar played!  Adil's SMIRK at Saira's pain was simply the icing on the cake, as we have all seen his treatment at the hands of this family.  

In all the chaos, Tayyaba goes into labor and gives birth to Buland's child (who is completely missing in action).  

It was also nice to see Aadil give Saira and Tayyaba a much needed dose of reality - not only about their misdeeds, but their overall bad attitudes.  To hear Aadil tell Saira how "Full of herself" she is was the best moment of this show.  On the down-side,  Saira's apology and acceptance of Rudaba was completely hurried and very unnatural.  Women like Saira do not accept their flaws that quickly.

The heart-to-heart between Bashar and Buland was actually refreshing to watch, because it tied up all the loose ends and emotions of the show perfectly.  Bashar's plea to Buland to accept Tayyaba and her child for the sake of society was so beautiful to see, as he didn't want another Bashar to be created.  

The show ended happily with practically all problems being resolved and tied up.  The last episode actually provided the viewer with quality content.  If anything, this made it glaringly obvious that the rest of the show had been lacking entirely in this aspect!  One is left wondering why such quality content and writing was lacking in the other 30 episodes!  

Regardless, it was nice to see an otherwise mediocre show pick up and right its wrongs in the last episode.  Bashar Momin was an eyesore throughout for me, due to lack of emotions and content, but ended up being a beautiful, well-written last episode that ALMOST wiped out the negative thoughts I had of the show.

Alright, so now we can retire Bashar Momin and Soteli after their prolonged runs.  Here's looking forward and hoping to add more good shows to the roster!

Happy watching!