The review is the unedited copy of the version published in MAG the Weekly on the 23rd of September 2016.
Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hay – A Question? A Statement? Definitely Something to Ponder About!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
There is an oft-said line in the beginning of Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hay (ZKHH), directed by Anjum Shahzad, where a producer played by Nayyar Ejaz – with his over-played tones – says that television directors shouldn’t direct motion pictures. I kept thinking what Mr. Shahzad meant – was he, with his considerable television experience, targeting himself, or was he indicating a superficial ego, labeling himself a notch above his contemporaries.
Mr. Shahzad’s “directorial touch” is visually prevalent, exhibiting message-strewn tendencies that distract from the film’s narrative core – which is, by ill-fated design, a third-generation re-hash of Kramer vs. Kramer. Kramer won five Oscars in ten nominations, winning Robert Benton best screenwriter and director, the movie best picture, Meryl Streep best supporting actress and Dustin Hoffman best actor. The wins are in creative categories, not technical. Kramer’s Indian version, Akaylay Hum, Akaylay Tum, secured seven nominations at Filmfare – their qualifying factor, though, is a matter of debate.
Mr. Shahzad’s film will, undoubtedly, also secure “some” nominations as part of the in-vogue ersatz-backslapping for being a Pakistani motion picture.
However, ZKHH ridicules the audiences’ sense of appreciation. Narratively, the flow, arguments and emotions function on a television-drama’s wave-length, except, with dramas, enough exposure to the characters through episodes can forge a semblance of relation to their predicaments. The kicking-screaming arguments Mahira Khan (or was it Maira Khan) and Zain Ahmed (played by Sajal Ali and Feroze Khan) flash-on and off without credence. He wants to be a “film director”, who won’t give into television; she wants him to concentrate on family – or get a job – from what I could surmise. They fight, she leaves, he gets her back. From the get-go, the loop seems excessive. By the time the arguments resurface ten or fifteen minutes later, one feels a certain annoying déjà vu.
The couple’s son, Dodo (Jabraiyl Ahmed), is their anchor, who seem to find daddy’s company better than mom’s; and he should – neither the screenplay, nor the direction, adds conviction to the mother-son angle.
Eventually, (given that one has seen Akaylay Hum, Akaylay Tum), the couple call it quits (the lead-through is visible in the trailers, so no spoilers here).
Mahira becomes a morning show hostess (Manisha Koirala became an actress in the Bollywood flick). Her job, according to the show’s producer, excellently played by in-role Aly Khan, is to raise ratings by exploiting women’s tears. Mahira, it seems, is a natural with her on-call ability for waterworks – as if she is a woman who has been through hell-and-back. (If she had been, the movie misses any scenes detailing such “horrific atrocities”). On her first day on set, she bullies a raped woman during a commercial break to cry when the show resumes.
One wonders at this point where the movie – and the characters are heading; it has been established that Mahira is: a) a through-professional – as an instant celebrity championing women’s causes, she is manipulating women to secure ratings; b) how did she exactly turn from a fashionable house-wife (judging from the costume design) to a woman of utter villainous-tendencies?
Meanwhile Zain, who we’ve been told has a 50-lakh bank-loan on his head for a film he didn’t make, struggles as a father, and an individual. He whines about perfection, but fails to deliver even when pushed to the wall. A story about triumph during adversary this ain’t.
The screenplay by Abdul Khaaliq Khan is a condensed 24-episode drama serial shuffled into film-form. The people on-screen are lifeless and unconvincing. Ms. Ali, is fine, though without persuasive grounds, and Mr. Khan is criminally flat (although, he does seem to be trying). Shafqat Cheema is wasted as the bank’s in-service hood.
Technically, ZKHH, is perhaps as facile as Mah-e-Mir – Mr. Shahzad’s last venture. The frames have a lack of depth, and the higher-number of prime lenses (anywhere above 50 mm onwards), don’t help with depth perception (it’s a pity anamorphic aspect-ratios are not in norm here). A film is much more than shooting out-of-focus backgrounds. Every shot has a reason, every cut creates an emotion; every scene blackmails the audience into a state of belief for the people on-screen. None of it should prompt one to face-palm more than once.
The music was nice, though. (And yes, this is an after-thought).
The jpeg of the print version will be updated by Monday.