This post is the unedited copy of the review published in Mag the Weekly on Friday, 18th November, 2016. The published version’s jpeg will be updated by Tuesday.
Wholesale ‘Be Fiqriyan’
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
In Lahore Se Aagey, the sequel to last years’ hit Karachi Se Lahore, time, space and relevance are dispensable assets that may have everything – and yet nothing – to do with the film. Regardless of their utter disregard, Lahore Se Aagey is a quick-release enterprise – a revved-up ride that factors fun above everything else. Fun, of course being the film’s imperative impulse, which greatly – and at instances, roaringly – resonated with the audience.
When the sound of laughter drowns senses, sensibilities are politely escorted out of the cinema hall.
At this moment, when Bollywood is still locked-out by unwilling, yet forced notions of patriotism, (or make it any moment in cinema, actually), the people want entertainment, darn it – common sense, pace, rhythm, and screenplay re-writes be darned. Director Wajahat Rauf, who seems to have gotten a marginally better grip on his directorial skills, seems to know this mantra well enough, pumping up the comedy by a factor of ten and leaving out most everything else.
I’d expect a business of fifteen crores and above, from what I’ve seen at the 11:30 pm show, so, for the distributor (a new studio this time around, also the producers of the film) and Mr. Rauf: good job.
As the movie opens, Moti (Yasir Hussain, also the screenwriter of the film) promptly shifts the focus on himself, telling the audience that his co-actors are off-and-away on better endeavors. At this exact moment Mr. Hussain, the writer, blurs the line between the actuality of the world his characters inhabit and the notion that all of them were in fact actors playing a part. Javed Sheikh, who does not return, will find work in India, says Moti to a Lahori barber played by Iftikhar Thakur.
Because passage of time and relevance (as I’ve noted in the last sentence) are immaterial, Lahore Se Aagey takes place weeks after Karachi Se Lahore. Moti gets called by a literally “blood-relative” uncle (played by Behroze Sabzwari), who lives somewhere in Swat. The uncle is childless and uber-rich, owning at least ten mountains, most of which will be inherited by Moti, to the utter fury of his wife (Rubina Ashraf). Ms. Ashraf’s character sends two bumbling buffoons (conceived as such, but badly written) to whack Moti (they are the uber-bad Abdullah Farhatullah, and the far better Omar Sultan, doing an unwarranted Amitabh Bachchan). Moti then stumbles upon an aspiring singer Tara (Saba Qamar), who is recoiling from a crackle with her boyfriend.
Tara, with her sputtering car, and Moti, go off on a road-trip, and like the last part, nothing significantly better happens.
In a recent interview in Mag the Weekly, Mr. Rauf said that he has “learnt a lot from the mistakes made in the last film” – and he did (somewhat), while making new ones in the process. (Who says that filmmaking isn’t always a work-in-progress, right?). Emotional conflict gets a unique definition (at least for us) as tones swings like a pendulum from comedy to drama, (seen especially in the confrontation between Tara and her boyfriend). While most scenes are compact enough, they merely stand together as a collection of skits with one-liners and little character progress. Moti at one moment tells Tara that “zehar lagti hain jugatbaaz ladkiyan” – which is, in its own way, summarizing the script.
The skits include: a bus-ride where Moti meets his Angelina Jolie and an Angraiz, a stop-over at a local bordello run by Atiqa Odho and her house-pimp played by Noor-ul-Hassan – aka Balla (quite PG, so nothing vulgar to get angry about, except Ms. Qamar’s unwarranted cleavage-shot), and lastly a sequence I’d have shredded to teensy-bits in the edit room – a late-night jamboree with a tribe of pseudo cannibals.
The cannibal bit flat-lined an otherwise adequate set of sketches and product placements, mostly handled by Mr. Hussain’s stuttering Moti. Ms. Qamar looks stunning on-screen, and I’ve finally placed her brand of overacting from television: she acts like a man – and I mean that in the best way possible. Her mannerisms, the slight wobbles in her tone and of her head, the emotional response in scenes of drama or “juggat” – that is how a leading man would respond. Again, this is meant as a complement (and maybe a point for personal reference).
Shiraz Uppal tops Karachi Se Lahore’s biggest winning factor: the soundtrack. With slight exception to Ehle Dil (sung by Aima Baig), and the brilliant, but stuffed-in concert piece from Aashir Wajahat, the soundtrack ups the beat and then drop the mic on a bona fide audience hit. Everything else – including the irrelevance of time of the long road-trip, which was actually a two-night stop-over – doesn’t matter. Well, perhaps they do, but who cares…right?