In the picture

August 15, 2021

Pretty, poetic, poignant.

In the picture

Prince Charming ☆☆☆☆

Staring: Mahira Khan, Zahid Ahmed

Directed by Sheheryar Munawar

Prince Charming is a gorgeous piece of cinematography. The ordinary becomes extraordinary as we look at it through Sheheryar Munawar’s eye. Whether it is the ancient, whirring fan or the delicate dabbing of attar, what you see within the 11-something minutes of Prince Charming keeps you visually engaged for its entirety.

We wake up when Mahira Khan’s Sheherzade does and follow her through her morning. She bathes and dresses. She makes her way around the kitchen for morning tea. She gets pulled into a dark room by a poetry-reciting mystery man who is definitely not her husband, who is asleep in their bed at the time.

So is Sheherzade having an affair? Yes, and no.

We realize that her husband Akbar is short with her. Their conversation revolves around what he needs from her, and information he has to share with her. When Sheherzade suggests an evening out to her husband, he doesn’t shoot down her idea, but lays out a more practical plan which leaves her feeling cold.

Their marriage is possibly what your mom tells you is, “everybody’s marriage”. Sub shaadian eik si hoti hain. And women who ask for more beyond the basics of food, shelter and possibly vacations and affection and presents on special occasions are looked upon as greedy. As her daughter informs her, Sheherzade is “sick in the head” according to one of the other school moms.

In Pakistan specifically, if you’ve got the items listed above in your marriage package, plus zero abuse and no cheating, your marriage is gold, baby. Other women may shake their heads and tell you you’re crazy if you feel there is something missing. Simply sick in the head.

So in that way, Munawar, in his directorial debut has succinctly summed up marriage and its nuances, but somehow still in great detail.

What Sheherzade misses is not romance¸ but perhaps a sense of presence and partnership. Maybe just Akbar, her husband hanging out in the kitchen with her while she works? Something that would keep her from filling empty hours with pleasant but ultimately disastrous distractions.

The actors, Zahid Ahmed and Mahira Khan are glorious in their characters. Zahid Ahmed has twice the opportunity in Prince Charming to showcase his talents and quietly builds the structure that supports Mahira Khan’s skill.

Mahira Khan is of course, great as Sheherzade. She plays the innocent, just-wants-some-love wife to perfection. Her adoring public will agree with us: no one plays characters that force empathy from the audience better than Mahira Khan.

What would be great – ultimately – one day, someday, is when we see Mahira Khan playing something other than what comes most naturally to her. We’re not even talking about all-out villainy. But going against the grain of her usual characters simply to diversify. For once, we’d like her to come up with the scheme instead of being the victim of one.

So should you give Prince Charming a watch? Yes. Even if you absolutely hate it, all you’ve lost is 12 minutes of your life.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

In the picture