August Issue 2015
Movie Review: Wrong No.
I was pleasantly surprised by YNH film’s maiden production, Wrong No. Pleasant surprises, in this case, do not as much connote a spectacular experience as they do a bittersweet one. Wrong No. perhaps felt a little sweeter because I anticipated the worst, judging from the trailer of Yasir Nawaz’s directorial film-debut.
The movie chronicles the comic episodes that ensue after the mutual exchange of the lives of look-alikes, whose breeding, relationships and fortunes are antithetical. Salman Haji, a.k.a ‘Sallu,’ (played by Danish Taimoor) is a kind-hearted simpleton, and the son of a butcher. He desires upward social mobility, rejects his family’s traditional source of livelihood, and sports the common, yet elusively-etched, South Asian aspiration to stardom.
Meanwhile, Shehryar Talmel (also played by Taimoor) is the orphaned grandson of an affluent Nawab-turned-business tycoon, who aches for the very familial bonds that Sallu finds stifling. His circumstances have, as suggested by his grandfather’s remarks, conditioned him to become detached and unemotional — a trait that was absent in Taimoor’s portrayal and, on account of flawed screenwriting, Shehryar’s character arc from the onset. While his inability to play the stone-cold businessman is apparent, Taimoor is not absolutely disastrous as the suave, well-bred scion of an influential family. Striking, however, is the comparative ease with which Taimoor fits into Sallu’s shoes. Here, he strikes the perfect balance between flamboyance and plausibility and thus stops short of turning Sallu into a caricature. His depiction of Sallu’s simple-minded gaucherie and the resulting irony of his frustration with his family, ensure that the audience remains both charmed and amused at all times.
The film’s plot is reminiscent of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and a myriad look-alike exchange scenarios that have featured in farcical comedies across generations. However, it is the film’s dialogue that really impresses. Although the screenplay contains several cringe-worthy moments such as a little child’s reaction to his own circumcision, almost all of Shafqat Cheema’s portrayal of the malicious Shera, and an awkward romance between Sallu and Shehryar’s office employee, Haya (played by Janita Asma), the writing is an overall skilful balance of wit, emotion and histrionics. It is what we can label ‘wholesome entertainment’ for the masses.
Javed Sheikh is absolutely endearing as Haji Abba, the doting, but disillusioned, father who cannot help but believe he knows precisely what is best for his son. Sohai Ali Abro takes on Leila, the bubbly girl-next-door, with confidence. Her screen presence is effortless and her dialogue delivery impeccable. Janita Asma, the other leading lady, does not, however, have the same impact. Her character was meant to be a poised, practical and ambitious city belle. Asma’s Haya, on the other hand, is more like a flighty damsel in distress. The rest of the cast, which includes Sallu’s family, Shehryar’s grandfather (the Nawab), two groups of kidnappers, and the Nawab’s office staff, all play their parts and amuse with adequate skill, though none impresses enough to merit independent treatment.
Moving on to the technical aspects of the film, special recognition must be reserved for the stylists who have done a stellar job in depicting the characteristic differences between the manner in which a well-heeled Sallu and Shehryar would dress. The production quality of the film is reasonably good; the vibrancy on screen makes up for the occasionally obvious flaws in the way certain scenes and the song, Kundi Darwazay Ki, have been shot. The songs in the film are not particularly memorable and the choreography in the dance numbers comes across as marginally amateur (the same choreography would probably garner much appreciation at a mehndi function).
Overall, Wrong No. is, in spite of several flaws, an entertaining film that deserves to be seen by Pakistani and other audiences based on its merits as a film, not its industry of origin. Although it is meant to be a farce, with a fair share of exaggeration and absurdity, it does hit home in its facetious, but nonetheless thoughtful, treatment of the dilemmas facing ambitious middle-income parents and their children in our country. And that is the greatest triumph of this recent production from Pakistan’s fledgling film industry.
This review was originally published in Newsline’s August 2015 issue.