Feature | High-Concept Stories, Adaptions and Branding: The Industry’s New State of Depression

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Kamran Jawaid  |  This is the unedited original copy of the feature published in DAWN’s ICON with the title “Cinema Without Ideas” on the 21st of May 2017. The Dawn copy can be read here and its print copy is attached at the end of the post.


Pakistani cinema is in a state of rut. We push, we pull, we skid-forward a centimeter, if not an inch. We have cinema screens and motion pictures, and we have a working model where films “perceived” to be high-concept – that is, films that give you the best bang for your buck – vie for the most financially lucrative release dates: the two Eids. And yet despite the formula, good motion pictures are as rare as a big-foot sighting.

Like wrongly spotting the abominable beast (often just a bear, or an unshaved hobo living in the forest), the realization of a fake-hurrah at a films premiere gets embarrassing – fast. One sighs, and moves on.

Pakistani Filmmakers share that same awkwardness. They humbly apologize for their blunders, admitting their amateurism and lack of insight right after their film’s first show. Their initial rush of enthusiasm, instantly gunned-down by bad reviews and the audience’s indifference. Forget a five-star rating – at that day, three-stars would do.

Or would it?

The only recurring theme in Pakistani Cinema– other than the superfluity of brands and mediocre plots – is a producer’s state of depression. Today, even blockbusters lose money – and with rare exception, barely breakeven.

Talking to Icon, four filmmakers – Jamshed Mehmood (Jami), Asim Raza, Hassan Waqas Rana, and Hassan Azhar. Each representing an idiosyncratic mindset, discuss cinema’s “new lacks”: the lack of good writers, source materials, big ideas – all while holding on to one’s own identity in the current state of the industry.

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Review | Chalay Thay Saath – But To Where, and Why?!


Kamran Jawaid  |  The post is the unedited copy of the feature published in DAWN’s ICON on 30th April 2017, which can be read here with jpegs of the print copy at the end


“What would make my film different. How would it stand out from the rest of the pack?!” asks a worried little voice inside a filmmaker’s head. The most obvious answer, and logically also the most effective one, is to use a “Cold Open” as the very first scene of the film.

Cold opens are a devious storytelling tool: they often use a dramatic scene from the middle or end of the film, and if need be, explain its relevance through a narrator.

Right now, these openings are notoriously popular with Pakistani filmmakers. Take for example the one in WAAR, which introduces Shaan Shahid’s gung-ho character in a good-cop bad-cop scene (there was no good cop in that room, by the way). Or the one in Jawani Phir Nahin Aani where a pre-intermission suicide scene is used as a ploy to heighten the film’s tension. Or the one in Bachana, Wrong No. and Dance Kahani.

The list is finite, but only because we have a limited number of motion pictures to count off.

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DAWN ICON | The Chinese Connection

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Kamran Jawaid  |  The post is the unedited copy of the feature published in DAWN’s ICON on 16th April 2017, which can be read here with jpegs of the print copy at the end.


Studio logos that appear in movie titles may feel rudimentary, but they tell a story of their own. Take, for example, The Great Wall – a monster-movie starring Matt Damon set in the past when the world had yet to discover gun-powder.

Before the first frame fades-in we see four logos: Le Vision, Legendary East, Atlas Entertainment and the China Film Group. Three out of these four film companies are Chinese – and their partnership makes The Great Wall one of the most evident, big budget Hollywood-China co-productions in the last few years.

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Review | Angsty ‘Raasta’ of a Lonesome Hero

Raasta by Sahir Lodhi


By Kamran Jawaid  |  The post is the unedited and updated version of the review published in MAG the Weekly on 8th April 2017, which can be read here next week.


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In the first twenty minutes of Raasta, a mix-bag entertainer – though not in the way one imagines – we see a young (*ahem*) lad trying to find his way in the world. Sameer, who we see in every frame but never truly get to know, is “over-qualified”. He’s been looking for a job since graduation but, alas, parchi’s and sifarish’s beat him to the punch. People look at him, and then look the other way. But Sameer dreams like an adolescent, of becoming a film star and getting hitched to the right girl – Maya (Saima Azhar), who runs an NGO for poor, needy women.

Sameer has two buddies (actors Saleem Mairaj and Irfan Motiwala, mostly never in the same frame together; like most characters in the film, we never get to know much about them). He has a strict, uncorrupt, police officer brother (Aijaz Aslam), a compassionate sister-in-law (Sana) and a niece, who appears in two or three scenes (in one, I thought it was a nephew; my bad).

Sameer’s life is uncomplicated, lackluster and near about oblivious and inconsequential from what we see. He hangs out with his buddies, dances right into a film set with no visible cameras (and a bruise on the face that is never explained), and switches into an overzealous street-punk for no apparent reason. If he is the epitome of a lovable rascal, I don’t know what went wrong in this last generation of youngsters.

I suppose, Shah Rukh Khan is to blame. For the youth and Mr. Lodhi.

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Review | ‘SAYA-E-KHYDAYE ZULJALAL’…And It Was Such a Great Title for a Roaring, Epic, War Film

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By Kamran Jawaid  |  The post is the unedited version of the review published in MAG the Weekly on 20th January 2017, which can be read here.


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In one of cinema’s prime cringe-worthy moments, brought to you by Saya e Khuda e Zuljalal’s producers (SKZ for short), Nayyar Ejaz – who plays a sleazy Hindu bad guy (so obvious, isn’t it?) – gives a full-mouthed kiss to a champagne glass offered by a sultry female femme fatale (Jia Ali). The scene, if anything, was exuberant in such licentiousness that the female audience behind me shrieked in horror. (I was, at the same time, shielding my eyes).

It is a dire moment in a film full of dire moments, where one wonders just how a motion picture with scenes of such dissoluteness passed the censors. (In their defense, though, the censor board may have their memories of such a scene sledgehammered into a state of obliviousness; it is better to have forgotten the bad events of one’s life, after all).

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Dawn | The Life and Times of Video…for It Lived Well, till It Died

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By Kamran Jawaid  |  The feature was published in Dawn’s Karachi Notebook in the Metropolitan section, on 11th December 2016. That copy be read here.


Back in the 80’s, which is vaguely vivid in memory, one used to undergo a gush of adrenaline-rush when going out to rent movies.

These were simpler times, when people weren’t in a constant state of media overkill and movies still had a measure of fanciful allure to them – despite the level of intellectual and aesthetic merit.

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Review | In ‘3 Bahadur: The Revenge of Baba Balaam’, Forget the Children – the Makers Learn Aplenty…By the End


By Kamran Jawaid  |  The post is the unedited copy of the review published in Mag the Weekly, on December 24th, 2016. The print version will be uploaded below soon.


Stars - Mag 3.5In a startling shake-up, 3 Bahadur: The Revenge of Baba Balaam, creatively directed by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (I don’t understand what the term implies…seriously), grandly one-ups on the previous part…although very late by the climax. The animated film, unjustly misquoted as a 3D film in one self-congratulatory scene, (the right term should be CGI – computer generated imagery; 3D today ties in with stereoscopy), has a lot of false starts and monotony, until it revs up like one of those pull-back cars from your childhood and goes vroom.

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Review | Rogue One: ‘Just Another’ Star Wars Story

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By Kamran Jawaid  |  The post is the unedited copy of the review published in Mag the Weekly, on December 24th, 2016. The print version will be uploaded below soon.


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In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, or what I believe to be yet another in a string of factory-made expansions around the original Star Wars, the universe far, far away is a grim place. So grim in fact that the film wallows in its eventual near-depressive inevitability, and deliberately forgets to add emotional connections and a sense of humor.

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Review | Dobara Phir Se — Literally, In Some Cases

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By Kamran Jawaid  |  The post is the unedited copy of the review published in Mag the Weekly, on December 10th, 2016. The print version can be read here, and below.


Stars - Mag 3.5In Dobara Phir Se (DPS) – or as some would call it, ‘The Independence of bechari Zainab’ – a woman in red with a black chic overcoat (obviously Zainab, played by Hareem Farooq) catches the fancy of a man, (Hammad, Adeel Hashmi). The problem is, Zainab is married to a brusque self-centered bad-guy (as if the brusque and the self-centered didn’t give it away). Asim – her husband, played by Shaz Khan (of Moor) – is perhaps the only bad-guy in DPS; he’s just built that way for the screenplay by Bilal Sami. From the moment Zainab and Hammad meet again at a mutual friend’s party (we’ll get to them in a bit), and when Asim comes over searching for her, one can see that their marriage is in its last rites.

Asim and Zainab’s divorce, or how she and Hammad get together, aren’t big spoilers. Most of this is evident from the narrative’s outer frame, literally framed within the confines of a DSLR’s video recording graphical overlay, where Hammad and Zainab, individually, talk about ‘what went wrong’. The video-recording bit, which pops-up now and again, is but one of the elemental conventions employed in decorating the screenplay. It doesn’t help the film at all – not that the characters are helping the film themselves.

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Review: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back by Farheen Jawaid

The post is the unedited copy of the review published in Mag the Weekly on the 12th of November 2016. Copy of the published version is at the end of the post.

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Jack (Or Tom): Run Man Run, Just Not Alone This Time

By Farheen Jawaid

Stars - Mag 3.5Jack Reacher (2012), the prequel to Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, was one of those movies that was okay in most parts, rose to something better by the time the end credits rolled, and when it came on TV elevated to a solid four-star entertainer.

Why you ask? Jack Reacher has an old done-right Hollywood action-thriller feel to it. It is a creeping feeling that warms up with time. Its story was generic, but the actors and the execution made it intricate, maybe even sophisticated. Like an onion with its layers – even if there is nothing new at the core, it’s a delight to see something with depth (the film, not the onion).

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