Manal Faheem Khan
One of the most anticipated films of the year has finally been released to theatres in Karachi and the opening night attracted the usual fanfare; film directors such as Nadeem Baig, Asim Raza, Asad-ul-Haq and Saqib Malik were seen in the audience along with film stars like Sanam Saeed, Aamina Sheikh and Adnan Malik (who have their own film, Cake releasing sometime next year). A happy contingent of the entertainment industry attended the premiere of Aamir Mohiuddin’s debut film, Rangreza, starring Gohar Rasheed, Bilal Ashraf and Urwa Hocane in lead roles.
To sum it up without giving much of the story away, Rangreza is about several musicians: Reshmi (played by Hocane) and Waseem (played by Rasheed) are both from a qawwal gharana. They are also first cousins (since their fathers are brothers), whose marriage was arranged by their grandfather in their childhood. Ali Zain (played by Ashraf) is a modern-day rock-star, who comes from a rich and influential family as his father is a politician. Reshmi and Waseem come from a conservative home that is drenched in familial traditions, which is something Ali isn’t able to understand. This makes him create problems for Reshmi, who he falls in love with and all hell breaks loose between both families.
There are several things that the film has tried to do. Firstly, it has made a socio-cultural commentary on class difference and how it controls people’s attitudes towards each other. Secondly, it tries to shed light on the traditions and practices of a qawwal gharana. However, the film doesn’t delve too deep in to the one element that makes the film unique. We don’t see any qawwalis, we don’t see how such a gharana earns their livelihood; these elements would have helped in creating a more believable world in the film.
That being said, the music is the strongest element. The score of the film, which has also been written by the writer of the film, Akhtar Qayyum, adds much-needed drama, especially in the pulse-racing climax of the film. The soundtrack, composed and produced by Qurram Hussain and Hamza Akram Qawwal, is sweet, melodious and appropriately placed. The title song, ‘Rangreza’, has two versions and both are extremely pleasant to the ears; Abida Parveen and Asrar’s ‘Phool Khil Jayein’ is easily the best track of the film.
The audio-visual departments of the film have been handled with utmost perfection. The locations are beautiful and all the songs have been shot really well. Yet still, the film appears to stumble.
Simply put, the story progression of Rangreza is weak. The film jumps from one scene to the next rapidly without much clarity. There are too many gaps in between that the audience has to fill out. These gaps are made prominent because of the lack of character development for nearly all the characters. Why are the characters behaving this way? For instance, we see Waseem as an almost maniacal man who can’t be tamed by anyone, but why is he like this? Saleem Mairaj’s character, who plays best friend to Waseem, is constantly trying to set fire in Waseem’s heart in all matters pertaining to Reshmi. But why does he keep doing this? Is he in love with Reshmi? Does he secretly hate Waseem? What does he aim to gain from creating problems for the family? These are the sort of questions that arise while watching the film.
There is no doubt that some moments are very powerful. Rasheed has given a compelling performance but even that becomes over-bearing as it seems that the film is riding on Rasheed’s acting prowess as its saviour. Why does Rasheed have to prove his acting skills in every scene? There should have been some instances where he’s simply adding to the narrative, not having to run the show.
Hocane is in her element as usual. She looks extremely stunning and has perhaps never looked this effortless in any role before. Hocane has proven after three films this year that she is one of the most experienced actors and doesn’t need much direction to know what she’s supposed to deliver on screen.
Ashraf has definitely improved since his Janaan days but is still one of the weakest links in the film. He doesn’t look believable in the role and that has to do with how the writer has written his character. But one feels that the director could have guided Ashraf a little more in terms of what to deliver but at this point, Ashraf wasn’t the biggest problem.
Rangreza had a lot of potential and could have been saved with better editing, but the film is jumpy and awkward sometimes. The climax of the film, however, is extremely strong and makes the entire film worth the watch.
Gohar Rasheed, Urwa Hocane and Bilal Ashraf at the Karachi premiere of the film.