September Issue 2015

By | Movies | Published 4 years ago

If Wes Anderson and Woody Allen somehow got lost in Pakistan, and in the process lost their ability to craft meaningful narratives (but didn’t lose their idiosyncratic charm), you would probably get Dekh Magar Pyar Se. The rom-com, starring Humaima Malick and debuting the effortlessly good-looking Sikander Rizvi (owner of Karachiites’ favourite eatery, Xander’s), is more a two-hour long Sprite and L’oreal ad than an actual film with a viable storyline.

Where the film fails in terms of a script and plot, however, it delivers with some superb cinematography, comprising especially exquisite shots of Lahore as Rizvi, the rickshaw driver, takes Malick, the con-woman, through various parts of Lahore. Some members of the audience seated behind could even be heard asking, “Is that in Pakistan? Where in Lahore is this place?”

Equally commendable visually are the drop-dead-gorgeous close-ups of both Rizvi and Malick. However, there are multiple scenes that add nothing to the plot, or the characters.

The film’s threadbare plot revolves around Siki (Rizvi), who dreams of becoming an actor, but is relegated to driving his uncle’s rickshaw just to make ends meet. Annie (Malick) is a con-woman, whose raison d’etre seems to be to con Siki (and his uncle) out of a few hundred thousand rupees, and thus shatter their small dreams. And that, is literally all there is. The film’s progress is entirely predictable, a story that could have been told in less than half the time it took on screen, and incongruous scenes, such as that of a marching band popping out of nowhere, apropos of nothing, presumably used as fillers to increase the duration of the movie.

While Sikander’s role has zero character, he does a good job as a first-timer, being, in most scenes, comfortable in his skin, and so, surprisingly natural. Certainly he is more convincing as an actor than Humaima. Her role is that of a hustler with a one-point agenda and all the wiles needed to get that job done. The problem is, she overacts.

The only thing Humaima does better than Sikander in the film is pout and dance. Cameo appearances by Humayun Saeed, Meera, and designer Hassan Shaheryar Yasin (HSY), and a small dance number by model Amna Ilyas, do little to help the film.

A more positive note though is Dekh Magar Pyar Se’s reasonably decent soundtrack — with the exception of a disappointing Urdu rendition of ABBA’s hit song ‘Mamma Mia.’ This was the debut directorial venture of Asadul Haq, who has previously made his mark directing advertisements (and perhaps that experience was called upon during the product placements in the film) but his movie-making skills leave much to be desired. Even a script by author Saba Imtiaz couldn’t save the film.

That aside, it is heartening to see that Pakistani films are being made, that they, at least, have caught up, on the technical level — to films in Bollywood and around the world. And if they stay the course, first-time filmmakers and filmstars alike may actually create a new and viable Pakistani film industry.

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

Raisa Vayani is an Editorial Assistant at Newsline