Preview: Bachaana and Actor in Law

This post is the unedited copy of the Movie Preview, featured in MAG the Weekly (January 26, 2016). Published copy, below.

Bachaana and Actor In Law – Adding Bollywood (and Bollywood-ism) to the Mix

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

As the list of motion pictures continue to grow, regardless of definitive details like release dates, distribution and media partnerships, we, the audience find ourselves in a state of perplexed satisfaction – perplexed, because we are hearing of a number of movies (perhaps too many to count) in various stages of sundry development and shooting; we are satisfied because, finally, there’s diversity in content made specifically for the big screen.

Ana-2016-01-23-BachanaActorInLawFor now, the combination is jelling, irrespective of the befuddling, non-mixing nature of its two adjectives.

Two motion pictures, however, are separate from the lot: Actor In Law and Bachaana – the former, branded a “social comedy”; the latter a romantic-comedy, with action. What sets both of these movies apart is the definitiveness of their releases. Actor In Law, comes out in Eid-Ul-Adha; Bachaana, about a month from now.

Fizza Ali Meerza, the producer and one-half of the screenwriting duo of Actor In Law, divulged very little about the movie when we talked on the phone. Ms. Meerza kept the plot’s information secret until the movie comes out late this year, calling the movie “a relatable film for the masses”.

She did elaborate on actor Om Puri’s punctuality, who is making his Pakistani film debut. “He was very humble, nice. He was ready and waiting, even when his call time is 6 am in the morning”, she said.

Directed and co-written by Na Maloom Afraad’s Nabeel Quraishi, the principal cast is headlined by Fahad Mustafa – now a legitimate film actor, after Na Maloom, Mehwish Hayat – also a go to face in movies (after her “sensuous” cameo in Na Maloom, and her starring role in Jawani Phir Nahin Aani), Om Puri and Aly Khan.

The movie has an ensemble cast, says Ms. Meerza, who she’s grateful for, for their time and support. In non-chronological order, they are: Rehan Sheikh, Saleem Mairaj, Talat Hussain and Humayun Saeed.

“We started this movie off in December of 2015, and plan for a release by December 2016 (the film wraps up by April)”, she said. So far, according to Ms. Meerza, there is no other film set for release at that date.

BACHAANA-Official-Poster-F1

I estimate that this situation would change as the year rolls forward and competing distributors set other films for release on the same Eid date.

Actor In Law, without the details, sounds like a social satire in the gist of OMG! Oh My God, without the god-angle, of course. “The genre hasn’t been done in Pakistan before”, she clarified.

Seeing a social satire on the big-screen is a welcome addition to an already diversifying slate of releases from Pakistan. So far, though, I have little to no reservations about the movie; to my satisfaction, director Nabeel Quraishi has proved himself as a legitimate filmmaker – perhaps one of three proper ones Pakistan has produced in the last three years – who stands shoulder to shoulder with any international filmmaker as far as technicality and aesthetic of motion pictures are concerned.

I would guesstimate the film to be a success. Just how grand would depend on how it is presented in teasers and the following word-of-mouth on release.

The other motion picture in the line-up, Bachaana, looks as promising as any other glossy commercial motion picture (and I mean that in the best context possible). I believe this to be the first romantic, action, comedy of the lot – a fact that should help set its own uniqueness with the audience.

Unlike Actor In Law, Bachaana has more information to go forward with. The movie stars Sanam Saeed as Aalia, an India caught in harrowing circumstances on her trip to Mauritius. On her side is Mohib Mirza, playing Vicky, a Pakistani cabbie, who of course, falls for her eventually.

“He’s a happy go-lucky character, who we’ve tried to add some heroism to”, Bachaana’s director Nasir Khan tells me. “Sanam’s character’s is also lighthearted, which is a departure to her serious roles in television”, he elaborates on the two leading characters.

The movie also stars Adeel Hashi has a unique “mazydar” role in the movie.

“It’s a lighthearted romantic movie, that’s also an action comedy. Whenever you go outside Pakistan, we feel that Pakistanis very open-hearted people, so we’ve tried to capture that feeling” Mr. Khan tells me.

Was the Pakistan-India angle deliberate, I ask Mr. Khan. “Yes it was”, he replies, “Since the story is about “Bachaana” – a Pakistani would automatically help a Pakistani, but a Pakistani helping an Indian changes the dynamics; makes it more interesting”

Fahad-Mustafa-Cast-of-Actor-in-Law

Mr. Khan has done short films in Canada. In Pakistan he has done a sitcom, a drama serial, a documentary, and then graduated to commercial, with clients Master Paints, Unilever, Treet Corporation, Nurpur amongst others.

While talking about branding and marketing, I asked on Bachaana’s deliberate lack of branding support as far as marketing and publicity goes.

“When you watch the movie, you’ll feel like branding and product placements would not fit with our movie”, he tells me.

Shot on Red Epic, Bachaana will be mastered in 7.1 Surround Sound, and is in its last stages of post-production.

The trailer, to tell you the truth, took a second look to grow on me. Sanam Saeed is a fine actress, and seeing her as your typical heroine in distress, has a strange appeal to it. I have my reservations on Mohib Mirza – especially his turn as an action hero; He would do comedy well, but a romantic action hero…well, I am open to changing my mind when the movie opens up February 26.

Overall, though, Bachaana has a familiar Bollywood-ish appeal to it. An action comedy with two leads on the run is old-school formula, and it works for a reason – with limited characters (which Bachaana has), we find more scenes to attune ourselves to the cast. Just how good they are written, of course, depend on screenwriter Saad Azhar’s spin on events.

Box Office-wise, I expect Bachaana to pull in good numbers. One primary reason for this is the low competition on its week of release. And in any case, commercial Pakistani motion pictures are guaranteed two good weeks – at least for the next two years.

Bachaana has a certain sleekness to it. It looks like a Pakistani motion picture, made in Bollywood’s mold. It’s an aspiration we’ve seen fail twice now – once with Wrong No. and then with Jawani Phir Nahin Aani; while these two failed, the former slightly, the latter miserably, in the story and structure department, Bachaana, may in fact turn out to be better entry in our quest to emulate Bollywood.

This conclusion is partially based on my conversation with Mr. Khan. (Sometimes a conversation with the director can give one a clear indication on how the movie is going to turn out). On the phone, Mr. Khan seems sincere, easy to talk to, and relatable, who seems to know what he’s doing – and for once, I am hopeful, that his persona slips into the movie.

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