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Will you be my pick?

LAHORE: A lot of the critique that we do here is born of frustration - not because we extract any masochistic joy out of self-hatred, but because we expect a lot more from our own industry. Also, each individual case is gauged in accordance with the disparity between expectation and reality.

Hence, we root for an absolute underdog like Ready Steady No, which was made on the tightest of purse strings and yet offered something unique and intelligent, while we are more outraged by a project like Superstar with all its budget and billing not even bothering to make an effort to make the experience worth any while.

The Eid week, of course, brims with films that self-identify as the pick of the lot. That's the hottest time to release your offering, because that's when most of the cinema-goers will be most willing to take a punt on you.

In addition to Superstar, the films Parey Hut Love and Heer Maan Ja were the Eid releases this month. The latter two were supposed to be the challengers in this little Lollywood heavyweight contest. Heer Maan Ja, perhaps, was the least fancied.

And yet, there is a case to be made for Heer Maan Ja, to actually be the pick of the Eid releases. Of course, that opinion is neither based on the filmmaking skillset on display, nor reflective of how good the movie is.

We're speaking completely on relative terms, and if you contrast the trio of releases, HMJ might just offer the most value for money - even if that might not be enough for you in absolute terms!

HMJ deploys the tried and tested formula of blending comedy and sentimentality, neither of which has to have any originality for the filmmakers to recover sufficient money to justify their next project. As a result, if entertainment quotient is what you're looking for, HMJ is your pick.

Ali Rehman and Hareem Farooq, who last worked together in Parchi, are back again in what is yet another masala project. The focus indeed is on the comic elements, with the storyline kept straightforward as a whole, even if the screenplay is jumbled in many places, before coming together in the end.

Kabeer (Ali Rehman) thinks he is leading a smooth life with a top-drawer job, until he meets Heer (Hareem Farooq) again. They were classmates whose friendship bloomed into love, but circumstances drew them apart. Kabeer becomes an architect, while Heer falls prey to a conservative family.

Gradually you find out that Kabeer had messed up in the past, and wants to seek Heer's forgiveness. However, when he decides to do it, Heer is actually mulling an adventurous escape from her own family. All hell breaks loose, and does so in a rabbit hole.

Ali Rehman isn't the greatest actor in the world, but does enough in the role that has been written for him. Hareem too might have done enough here, but can do a lot better. Faizan Sheikh, whose character can be described as an angry groom without giving too much away, is the pick of the lot.

If we're talking about acting, few come better than Amina Sheikh in the entire industry. However, her role is criminally limited. Mojiz Hassan and Shamayale Khattak do okay given their capacities and characters, even though the latter's participation in the designed comic relief falls flat more often than not.

The film is visually strong, as epitomized by the costumes and the cinematography - even if the screenplay didn't require anything particularly challenging on the technical front. The camerawork is solid, and there is sufficient colour on screen to make it pleasing on the eye.

HMJ doesn't rely much on its soundtrack in terms of quantity, given that there are only four tracks on offer. However, they're largely passable, with Addi Maar - which is likely to star heavily in the upcoming wedding season in Pakistan, especially amidst the standoff with India - being the obvious highlight.

Azfar Jafri's direction is decent as well. What works for him, and the film, is that he knows what he is doing and what he wants from the film. That is to provide sufficient entertainment instead of promising anything larger than life - for, those vows are breaking left, right and centre in Lollywood.
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Publication:Friday Times of Pakistan (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:Aug 31, 2019
Words:712
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