August Issue 2015

By | Movies | Published 5 years ago

According to Plato, “Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” However, in some South Asian value systems, desire is touted as a grave evil that stands at the root of other great sins. Bin Roye, a film packed with such values, does not necessarily go that far, but it does explore the darker shades of desire. Producer-director, Momina Duraid, and writer Farhat Ishtiaq’s first foray into filmmaking, tells the story of an innocent affection that slowly transforms into a passion so deep that it becomes a girl’s darkest desire.

Saba (Mahira Khan) has loved her paternal cousin, Irtaza (Humayun Saeed), since childhood. She presumes an absolute and indisputable right over him. However, while her love is not unrequited, it certainly is unrecognised. Before Saba’s early fondness can mature into a more profound devotion, she finds herself competing for Irtaza’s affection with Saman (Armeena Rana Khan), who is revealed to be Saba’s biological sister — given away, at birth, to a couple who were unable to conceive a child of their own. Driven by envy, Saba begins to detest her sister who she has only just learnt to love as her own. And when Saba’s feelings for Irtaza are finally reciprocated, they come 16in a package too painful for her to accept. Everything she had ached for becomes hers, but in circumstances so dramatically twisted that she can only see it as destiny’s grand retribution.

Mahira Khan, who has mastered portraying innocence effortlessly, brings Saba’s delightful free-spiritedness to life. And although Saba’s naivety may frustrate the audience, it is a crucial ingredient to the fairytale charm of the universe in which Bin Roye is set. There is, for example, a scene in which Saba sends to flight a pigeon carrying a love letter for her beloved — 12,000 kilometres away in the United States! While the filmmakers might withhold apologies for this aspect of the character — the story of the film does reflect on the consequences of living and feeling so ingenuously — Saba’s dialogues often sound so affected that the audience might struggle to find her relatable. Although Khan handles Saba’s youthful charm, and vacillations between resignation and jealousy, with excellence, her performance caves under the pressure of her character’s climactic breakdown (on the occasion of her sister and cousin and beloved’s Nikah ceremony), and is irredeemable thereafter. Khan’s moans and shrieks are jarring, and her misery seems far too contrived to evoke the audience’s empathy.

There is little doubt about Humayun Saeed’s great skill and experience as an actor, especially in the capacity of a romantic hero. However, the fact that he is a misfit in the role of the urbane, but strongly-grounded, love-interest of both gorgeous female leads is difficult to overlook. Although the script attempts to justify the evident age difference between Saeed and his younger co-actors by specifying that Irtaza is over the age of 30, one cannot help but find him far more endearing, even sincere, as the doting older brother than the affectionate husband.

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Armeena Rana Khan, who is relatively unknown to Pakistan’s film and television audiences, is an appropriate choice for Saman, whose personality exudes a distinctively traditional flavour in spite of her foreign upbringing. Although Khan’s Saman is likeable as the poised counterpart to the feisty Saba, the writer could have brought greater depth to this character whose extreme intelligence and maturity are the alleged causes of her bond with her older cousin.

Javed Sheikh and Zeba Bakhtiar make an elegant pair as the loving parents of the film’s leads, although some may criticise the filmmakers for underwriting the roles of such esteemed veterans of our film industry. Azra Mansoor may rekindle fond memories of your own elders with her charming rendition of the Dadi who embodies all values that are dear to Pakistani society, and dutifully urges her family to do the same when she finds appropriate. Finally, there is Adeel Hussain, whose short, but surely ‘special,’ appearance in the wedding song, ‘Balle Balle,’ leaves you wishing he was there for longer — perhaps, as a cause of Saba’s happy reconciliation with her sister’s betrothal. Alas, this is a fairytale drama where the possibility of reconciling with one’s circumstances is absurd, and the only way forward is to patiently await that obscure dream of a ‘happily ever after.’

Bin Roye could have served as an excellent opportunity for Humsafar fame, Farhat Ishtiaq, to showcase some unexplored dimensions of her writing talent. However, by choosing to write about heartbreak, obsessive female lovers, and familial romances in opulent settings that have become her trademark premises, Ishtiaq is potentially the greatest disappointment from the ace-team that worked on Bin Roye.

In spite of some misplaced styling choices (you will see Saba experience the sights and sounds of America, including the beach, in a kitschy red saree), Bin Roye’s production quality arguably makes it one of Pakistan’s biggest cinematic triumphs to date. Although some restraint on the part of the directors could have made the drama feel more authentic, they deserve recognition for flawlessly shot scenes. Meanwhile, the director of photography and art directors impress with vibrancy and grandeur in every frame.  A clever use of the film’s exquisite soundtrack makes up for the sloppy pacing and helps keep the audience captivated. Abida Parveen and Zeb Bangash’s, ‘Maula Maula’ is hauntingly melodic, and tracks such as ‘Balle Balle’ and ‘Teray Bina Jeena’ will be likely additions to our much loved wedding festivities.

Any creative pursuit that is meant for public consumption deserves a fair assessment, highlighting both its faults and its accomplishments. This is especially imperative in the case of Pakistani filmmaking which is currently undergoing a crucial revitalisation. Notwithstanding certain limitations that are prevalent in most popular films, from even the world’s most flourishing industries, Bin Roye stands as a testament to the imminent success of Pakistan’s current cinematic renaissance.

This review was originally published in Newsline’s August 2015 issue.