Shaan’s latest cinematic venture can only succeed in Pakistan. Instep explains why.
It has been 10 years since Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye was released, igniting a fire in the hearts of many people who were starving to create, and watch, local films. Fast forward to 2017, which is also nearly over, over a hundred films have come and gone, and after nearly a decade of the revival of cinema, one must ask: which direction are we headed in now?
Several films, like Balu Mahi, Chalay Thay Saath, Yalghaar, Mehrunisa V Lub U and Verna were merely mediocre while only two films, Punjab Nai Jaungi and Na Maloom Afraad 2 were good (not great) and they managed to make money as well. There were countless terrible films, like Raasta, Thora Jee Lay and Project Ghazi that aren’t even worth remembering. If one is to count the number of hours, and the amount of money spent making all these films, and compare it to the returns, one will realize that currently, the industry is in a very dangerous and sensitive position.
This month, Rangreza hit the big screen and left many fans and industry experts disappointed, as expectations were very high from the Urwa Hocane, Gohar Rasheed and Bilal Ashraf starrer. Shaan’s comeback film, Arth 2, also premiered this week and received mostly positive feedback despite the film being extremely flawed.
The pattern that is emerging thus is this: we as an industry have set our standards so low that even bad to average films are being called ‘good’ simply because - despite what filmmakers believe - the fans and critics really do want Pakistani films to succeed. At this point, we truly are trying really hard to like the films, and we hide our mistakes and flaws with the same clichéd explanation: “We are still in the process of learning”.
That’s why a film like Arth 2 isn’t so terrible, and that is saying something. The film, which is a remake of the classic Mahesh Bhatt original, starred Shaan, Humaima Malik, Mohib Mirza and Uzma Hassan in pivotal roles. Much credit can’t be given to Shaan, who wrote, directed and acted in the film, for coming up with a novel idea because the film is a remake (nor is the tragic romance in the film particularly innovative). Yet still, Shaan managed to make some moments feel really believable, with the help of some very talented actors, such as Uzma Hassan, who particularly shines in this film, and Humaima Malik, who convinced us of her character, even though it appeared a little one-dimensional.
However, the film is extremely flawed. The camera work is almost unbearable. Some shots (not scenes) are repeated in the entirety of the film, which shows how badly edited the film is. There are several jarring jump cuts, breaks in the 180 degree rule, incoherent sound design, lack of clarity in the narrative, lack of character development for the likes of Fuzon guitarist Emu, who plays Shaan’s best friend in the film, and even Mohib Mirza, who is simply not utilized effectively.
At this point, is it fair for our industry to churn out films with these many mistakes? Is it fair to expect people to spend the same amount of money on a seemingly incomplete film when our audience could spend the same amount of money on a more superior film at the same venue? It isn’t, and people aren’t doing it either. That’s why so many of our films, despite their impressive star casts, tend to flop at the box office, or are barely able to break even.
Basically, critics have started a system of relative grading for our films, the way it’s done in colleges. According to this system, grades are given based on the student’s score compared to what others have gotten in the class. In that sense, Arth 2 isn’t so bad. It’s dramatic, has an urban flavour, an impressive star cast, is engaging and moves fast. But it’s still a badly made film.
Shaan Shahid, Mohib Mirza, Humaima Malick and Uzma Hassan at the Lahore premiere of Arth 2.