This blog post is the unedited version of the review published in Mag – The Weekly, 22nd August 2015.
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
In Karachi Se Lahore, touted by the producers as Pakistan’s “first” road trip movie (there are going to be a lot of “firsts” for the next few years), Shehzad Sheikh plays Zaheem, our leading man who puts a unique spin on any hero headlining a movie: he’s a spineless, awkward, laid-back mess, with long-term life goals and a forty thousand salary at a reputed bank (cue in, the movie’s first product placement).
While most women would at least find some comfort in a forty thousand salary, Zaheem’s long-time girlfriend Ayesha (going by her cute-poo name ‘Aashi’, played by Eshita Syed) finds the idea ho-hum. In a moment that re-classifies her from being unsympathetic to plain self-centered evil, she dumps him in favor of her Canadian-settled cousin who’s visiting Lahore for a wedding (she, of course a Karachite, is travelling to Lahore). Zaheem, despite the insistence of his friends Sam and Moti (Ahmed Ali and Yasir Hussain), has no idea he’s being hoodwinked. When the news ultimately hits him, he makes a decision to travel to Lahore to stop the wedding.
Clichéd, right. That’s what Sam and Moti’s expression – overly dramatic as they are – are saying as well. But it’s all in good, if somewhat long-winded, fun.
The feature film debut of television director Wajahat Rauf, (we’ll be seeing a lot of debuts too in the next few years), is a carefree escapade that starts off well enough, but fails to hold interest post intermission. The screenplay, written by Hussain, is basically a collection of flatfooted jokes aimed for the mass guffaws but have little credence on pushing the narrative moment. The same goes for the songs, with the exception of Aja Re (Shiraz Uppal, Ali Hamza, Ali Noor), are either generically bland or stuffed in as a divergence to the plot and character’s lack of depth.
If there’s one thing I’m constantly being reminded of with every Pakistani film, is that my expectation for a clear narrative flow – or even a basic three act structure – is my own short-coming, not the producers. This consistent inconsistency happens so often in our movies that it’s now on the verge of graduating from a lingering threat to a near industry-identification status.
Stories are tossed around, like a salad, with little emphasis on motivations, actions and story direction. Whatever happens, happens without reason, or for the sake of superficiality. Like, in Karachi Se Lahore’s case, the love-angle between Maryam (Ayesha Omer) and Zaheem. It starts building awkwardly from Maryam’s end, with a lack of traction or symmetry. One feels that its placement is just for the sake of incorporating a romantic conclusion to Zaheem’s character, or using a lead actress for something other than being a ‘hot’ commodity on-screen. (Ms. Omer morphs from being a mild-mannered, bespectacled girl to a tank-top, skimpy jeans wearing hottie in a flash – if that makes sense).
Maryam and her little brother Zeezo (Aashir Wajahat, a gem) is the one accommodating Zaheem and co’s road-trip on her father’s Jeep. The father (Javed Sheikh, good in his first few scenes), a widower, often secrets off to his ‘Khushi’ (Mantaha Tareen Maqsood) away from Karachi. Even that bit is inconclusive.
Despite the wayward happenings, Karachi Se Lahore is held together by the glue that is Sam and Moti. Ahmed Ali and Yasir Hussain are top-notch as a pair of relatively harmless good-bad-boys. Sam is a womanizing ‘kamina’ while Moti, although interested in the ladies, is mostly there to bat or launch jabs. One gets a feeling that their backstories weren’t designed at all, not that it hampers what Ali and Hussain deliver. (Shahzad Sheikh and Ayesha Omer are about okay).
Karachi Se Lahore could have been better. But I think it’s time I learned to stop expecting miracles to happen – especially when there’s a cinema full of audience at eleven in the morning on a Thursday, three weeks after the film’s release.
The published copy of the review is this: