Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dillagi - What Pakistani Dramas Should Strive to Be

I've already written an essay on Dillagi recently, so I don't want to be repetitive.  What I do want to say is simply this:  This show was, for me personally, a perfect show.  

This show was brilliant.  After a long time, I watched what I felt was a pure love story.  The love Mohid had for Anmol was unfaltering.  It did not wither.  It did not stray.  It did not compromise.  It did not bow down to anyone - but to the woman he loved.  It was refreshing to see something like this on TV, but depicted in the most "real" way with real situations and emotions.

I loved that every character on this show had a personality, a backbone and a heart.  From Zulekha to Sabiha, Mohid to Dastagir, Mishal to Anmol....every character had a personality, a spark and their reactions to each and every situation never once betrayed that character (which is so rare these days)

The show had painfully flawed characters, but HUMAN characters.  Despite hating their actions, you felt for them and understood where they were coming from.  

Like I said, I've written about this show only recently, so I don't want to be repetitive.  But the last episode cemented Dillagi's place at #1 for 2016.  With an emotion packed episode that required some solid acting on the part of Mehwish Hayat and Saba Hamid, these women did not let the audience down!  I had tears in my eyes, feeling for the situation. Incredibly acted by the both of them.  Even Imran Ashraf's breakdown scene as Dastagir was power packed.  

What really made this show for me was the very last scene - a scene which not only brought the show full circle, but also showed that Mohid and Anmol were equals in their relationship.  This is the message I like seeing on TV, rather than the "let your in laws treat you like dirt, because eventually they will realize your importance" nonsense.  

At the end of the episode, I was not only left completely satisfied with the ending (which is SO rare), I felt as though I had watched something truly great and empowering.  Bravo to the team of Dillagi for making such a genuine product.

On that note, I've completely given up on Teri Chah Mein and Tum Meri Ho on ARY.  These two shows are so terrible, they're not worth an additional minute of my time.

Mann Mayal also came to an end.  Good riddance to a complete peace of junk.  That's all I have to say about that show.

Pakeeza ended well and, while I didn't appreciate the demise of the lead character or the indication that such a character couldn't have lived out a happy, successful life, I was glad that Pakeeza attained the respect she rightfully deserved, even if in death.

Ok, that's all!  I have a handful of new shows I want to write about next time!  Happy watching! 

Janaan: A Movie Review

I had the opportunity to watch Janaan on Friday, September 10 (yesterday), as it released earlier in North America.  That also means that since reviews weren't readily available, I went in without any idea how the movie shaped up and with somewhat optimistic expectations.

The story was simple (I'm holding back from saying wafer-thin): Meena (Armeena Rana Khan) goes back home after 11 years and experiences "culture shock" of sorts, thanks to her zany, wacky Pukhtun family.  She also finds herself unwillingly caught up in a love triangle between the silent, sweet and brooding Asfandyar (Bilal Ashraf) and the confident, friendly, class clown type Daniyal (Ali Rehman Khan).

To be very honest, the movie had a lot of potential.  The attempt was really good.  The cinematography was excellent, the beautiful locations of Swat were captured so nicely, you wanted to be transported there immediately.  The main and supporting cast contributed to a lot of cuteness and I did love (as did my parents), as a Pukhtun, the sheer relatability of the situations, as it's so rare to see "normal," educated Pukhtun families depicted on film.

The two main songs, Janaan and Reidi Gul, were beautifully used and definitely added to the movie.

What hindered that potential?  Well, for one, the storyline was simply too weak.  Like I said, it had potential.  Had the culture shock experienced by Meena been more to do with realities - like covering ones head when going out, arriving in a male-dominated region, load-shedding (which is briefly touched upon for 5 seconds and then never occurs again), the movie might have been more on par with what a girl from North America might experience.  Instead, her shock came across as Meena just being awkward about things like hugging her relatives (who live with her parents?) and spotting a mouse in her room (had it been a lizard, I would've found the scene 5 times funnier).  In fact, Meena spoke Urdu rather well and what would've made for great writing would've been if she didn't understand Pashto despite being Pukhtun (because that does happen).  I just felt they could've done so much more with it.

The story was a little weak.  There actually wasn't one until the last 45 minutes or so and the last half hour was just too dragged out for no reason.  I felt the story that began in the second half of the movie came entirely out of nowhere.  There weren't any red herrings (other than one scene when Armeena visits the school) or indication of trouble earlier in the movie, which would've brought the movie together.  Instead, you were left feeling like you watched two halves of pretty different movies.

Also, each character had to be very pronounced and overly Pukhtun at times - my parents, who watched the movie with me, said "This felt more like a documentary on Pukhtun culture than a movie with a solid storyline."

I also frowned and was immensely displeased by the actors playing Emma and Matt - they were not only thorough stooges and very poor actors, Armeena was equally over the top in her scenes with them.

Despite Ali and Armeena working in a few dramas each (and even one together), the cast was overall relatively new and fresh.  This really worked in the movie's favor, as I didn't have the feeling of watching a drama on the big screen, which has happened in the past with Pakistani movies.  I have to give special mention to Ali Rehman for being really funny.  He was really enjoyable to watch, in both comedic and emotional scenes.  Bilal Ashraf is so beautiful and he acted really well....until one super emotional scene where he suddenly became a really awkward crier.  He has everything it takes to be a "hero," and a popular one at that, but he definitely has to work on his acting skills in emotional moments.  Armeena looked beautiful, natural and every bit the part she was hired to play.  However, she confused me here, because she's shown so much growth in Pakistani dramas and I thought this role was tailor made for her.  In a role where she should have excelled, she was just ok.  Her dialogue delivery was on the awkward side 40% of the time.  The supporting cast was nice, especially Hania Aamir who played Palwasha, Ajab Gul as Asad Khan and Mishi Khan as Shireen.  The actor who played Sameer added some comedy to the movie as well (though he wasn't a very good actor).

I also really enjoyed the very brief special appearances by Osmaan Khalid Butt and Hareem Farooq.

Please don't misunderstand me - the movie was not bad and, in fact, I would encourage everyone to go watch it to support these efforts made to lift the Pakistani film industry.  As a step in the right direction, it was really good.  Of course, compared to Bollywood, it was kind of weak - and before anyone says "why are you comparing it to Bollywood?", if they didn't want to be compared to Bollywood, they wouldn't have included that super lame shaadi dance song towards the end.  Armeena needs to stay away from dancing.  But they are just starting out and getting back on their feet, so this was a nice attempt and I'm all about supporting the hard work.  

The verdict?  It was a good-hearted attempt and I appreciated it.  I simply expected more.  I hope the team of Janaan will take the criticisms in the right spirit and understand that if they correct these things in future projects, the industry will only better from it.  I wish Janaan a lot of success and I do hope it fares well.  I encourage every Pakistabi to go out and support this movie - and all the other Eid releases coming out (Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai and Actor In Law).  If these movies don't make money, they won't even get that chance to improve, so please support Pakistani cinema.  

Happy watching!