Kamran Jawaid | This review is the unedited copy of version published in Dawn Icon on Sunday, July 9 2017
From the moment we first meet Mehrunisa (Sana Javed), you know things aren’t going to get any better for her.
Jolting up from a nightmare where she runs from three badly-dressed ghouls (actually, three men in uncut black fabric), Mehru is your token gentle girl-next-door who lives with dear old dad (Arshad Mehmood) on a mountainside cabin somewhere in Northern Pakistan.
In the past, she may have innocently said “I Lub U” to a boy from Karachi.
That could be the reason for her bad dreams, because the sod, now grown up as Danish Taimoor, comes back to ask her hand in marriage. And his family will not take no for an answer.
Childhood promises have dire repercussions.
Mehru – who is turned on by Ali (Taimoor) – happily marries and moves to Karachi, and the city, with its howling horns, bustle and buildings, promptly flicks her on-switch to off.
Horrified by the urban population, she can’t get pregnant until Ali, with heroic-muster, decides to rinse out his family’s dusty, littered, lower-middle class neighborhood.
He cleans up the area, they have their first night together, and bam!, instant baby. By the end credits Yasir Nawaz, the film’s director, pops-up to instruct the audience to do the same (clean-up their areas, and maybe make babies?!?), rallying a Pakistan Zindabad! cry for good measure.
At that moment, one ponders about Mehru: Who is she, and what exactly has she done to get such a fervent response from the community?
Mehru, who opts to keep her thoughts to herself (the actress has about ten dialogues in the film), spends almost all of her post-marriage scenes alone in her bedroom. She hardly interacts with her family or the neighbors, and only comes out of the room when hubby takes her to wine and dine (or indulge in a song) – and even then she has zero communication with the outside world.
I repeat: Who is Mehru, other than the glib title Yasir Nawaz throws at us. Who Lub’s U, and why?
Forget the hard questions, screenwriter Saqib Sumeer and Nawaz have a tricky enough time explaining these simple ones.
I can sense a response bubbling up from Mehrunisa V Lub U’s (MVLU) makers: they have songs from Gulzar (with music by Simaab Sen), “lush” cinematography by Saleem Daad (of Jawani Phir Nahin Aani), and their film gives society something to “think about”.
For us Pakistani filmmakers these simple accomplishments evoke Nirvana-esque sighs, followed by the hollering of fake hurrahs.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen since the 1960’s.
Firstly: commercial films need good songs (I can’t recall one from MVLU). Framing vibrant images is a must – if, that is, you want your audience to see what you’ve shot (almost all of Daad’s long or wide shots are out of focus, by the way).
The message about mending up one’s community might have had some weight – if only the neighborhood didn’t transform from a burns-road like area into a Red-Blue-Yellow colored film set, whose denizens instantaneously let go of their shalwar kameezes’s and cigarettes for three piece suits and smoking pipes.
Suddenly arteests and violins maestros, these prim and proper people love Mehru to such a degree that they lie about Pakistan’s volatility by reinterpreting newspaper headlines and televising fake news broadcasts (not kidding), so that Mehru – a girl who says “Hi” to them for the first time after the film’s intermission – can get pregnant.
When not ludicrous and idiotic, Nawaz’s film and Sumeer’s script offers tons of vulgar, imprudent humor.
In one scene Qavi Khan, (who plays Bunty, Ali’s grand-dad), shouts “Tum Say Nahin Hoga”, and Ali, who was about to consummate his marriage loses his resolve…for good. A good enough time passes and Ali, who had not “done it”, takes her to the doctor for tests. (“Is there something wrong with us”, he asks – duh?!).
Nawaz’s film, slacking in narrative with an eventless trifling story, is full of bull.
Of the headlining cast, Sana Javed can’t dance and barely acts, and Danish Taimoor has two-and-a-half expressions (angry, happy and half-gruff). Qavi Khan is wasted with double-meaning dialogues while Javed Sheikh barely holds his own as the film’s most natural actor.
Lest I forget, there’s also a gay-friend (Sumeer), a local transsexual (Waqas Hussain; quite good actually), an evil politician (Faraz Nawaz), and a transsexual land-grabber villain (Nayyer Ejaz) – because, well, someone can’t get enough transsexuals to fit into the story, and saw Mahesh Bhatt’s Sadak and thought it was a good idea.
Actually, to be precise, someone (read: Nawaz), thought both Wrong No. and MVLU were good ideas.
Suddenly Mehru’s nightmare, which added nothing to the narrative before, makes sense. She wasn’t afraid of Ali, Karachi or the littered community; Her subconscious was afraid of how the film would turn out.
The published version looks like this