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January 2, 2022

Over-the-top, executed poorly, Kahay Dil Jidhar is a contrived effort that uses every cliche in the book.

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Kahay Dil Jidhar   ☆ 1/2

Staring: Mansha Pasha, Junaid Khan, Kamran Bari, Roma Michael, Atiqa Odho, Sajid Hasan and Dino Ali

Directed by: Jalal

After two years, as Pakistani audiences return to cinemas, you will certainly scratch your head in wonder and ask yourself: what are filmmakers offering in the name of cinema. With so many digital content offerings embraced widely in a time of an ever-evolving and threatening pandemic, is it even worth it to spend your money and risk watching a home-grown production? As fans of films, those of us who can afford to watch a film in the comfort of a multiplex are certainly trying to give local productions the benefit of the doubt. But it’s also something we’ve been practicing for the last decade. As actors, producers and directors appeal to the public to be more patient because the industry is still very young… you have to say that period passed as a decade was given to the film industry to rise.

Promising actors and films did emerge from that decade but post-pandemic creating a new normal, releases such as Khel Khel Mein and now Kahay Dil Jidhar remind us of a past where movies made little sense. But we’ll get to that later.

In Kahay Dil Jidhar, Junaid Khan essays an on-the-take (wink to corruption), extra-judicial practicing cop dating an equally (wink to mainstream media) ambitious but ultimately hollow journalist with her own broadcast show. One is the son of a corrupt politician (wink to politicians) and the other is the daughter of a business tycoon (also corrupt). There is plenty of corruption to go around. The two are also getting engaged soon. A third friend, essayed by Roma Michael, is a part of the gang but unlike her friends, she emerges at first with a conscience only to let it go to partake in the merriment of the engagement between the two leads.

A letter arrives. It is by the fourth member of this group, Kamran Bari. The four collectively share a friendship that goes back to their college days. But years have passed and the letter takes us to the collegial days of the four. Kamran Bari is an addict; his drug intake goes from cannabis to heroin and this is where the film begins to fall and never really recovers even though the subject is strong.

All the cliches in the book have been thrown on the wall and everything is unevenly put together. From Atiqa Odho to Sajid Hasan to Mansha Pasha and Junaid Khan, we know that these are good actors, capable of delivering solid performances. They don’t. The first half is like a tutorial in how not to act. In every other scene, it seems they are too self-aware and never truly lose a kind of nervous energy.

Atiqa Odho’s dutiful officer is bent at removing the menace of drugs from society but her busy schedule makes her a bad mom. A begrudging nod to working mothers (check). Kamran Bari, her drug-abusing son is surrounded by friends who see him taking the worst kind of drugs but never look at it as an addiction, and take his hallucinations as jokes of being too high. In fact there is no realisation that he is fighting some form of an illness until an out-of-the-blue doctor reveals it to them years later. The friends make reckless remarks on why he just doesn’t quit. They make an effort, sure, but no one notices a mental illness that is so very obvious. The group of friends who have left him behind are getting engaged, not knowing the state of the friend.

The dutiful officer, the change of hearts, at the eleventh hour feels like a last minute idea. A film dealing with the subject of drug mafia and crime is essentially the story about a bunch of hypocrites and liars. The leads realise their erroneous ways and eureka, do what needs to be done. As you sleepwalk through this film, it takes a toll.

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The first half needed thorough editing which it didn’t get. The voice of the narrator (Kamran Bari) also uses dialogues that remind you of no one. In other words: who talks like that? Taking down a politician who is at the height of power, this is a pro-establishment narrative where even the word ‘tabdeeli’ is used on at least two occasions (wink to PM maybe?). The background score is shrill and an assault on your senses. And, yes, giving away the film isn’t the point, a lot is simply senseless. Things do not operate in such manner in the real world or cinematic world. The self-discovery among friends arrives a little too late and when it does, it simply is reduced to the matter of will to do the right thing because it is just that easy. Writer-actor Kamran Bari fails in both departments. There are moments when he acts well but those appear and disappear far too quickly.

What saves the film?

The cinematography is better and does give a sense that you’re watching a film and not a Pakistani drama. Mansha Pasha is glamorous enough to emerge as a young star of cinema and her romance with Junaid Khan does have its moments. Junaid Khan in the second half is grittier as he remembers the lost friendship and captures a powerful someone. As he moves through the action sequences he showcases intensity as the hero and elevates the otherwise uneven performance. Laal Kabootar’s Mansha Pasha needs to be selective about scripts, even if she wants to explore commercial cinema. And yes, Dino Ali, the VJ from a time long gone also guest stars as a fifth friend who goes abroad after college for no apparent reason.

Fans of Junaid Khan should invest in this film. Otherwise, skip it.

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

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