Janaan Film review
Out of the three films released this Eid, I chose to watch Janaan because it was easily the one that created the most media buzz and boasted the best teasers and trailers. When this film was first announced , the then producers ,IRK films, said it was an attempt to show another side of pushtoon culture , far removed from the usual “Talebanisation“ and “fundamentalist” labels too often associated with it. Suffice to say they have succeeded. This is a rather sweet family movie with some great music and plenty of jokes to make the more serious issue raised in the second half more palatable.
The standouts in this movie were Ali Rehman as Danyal and the fresh, clever humour that is the USP of this script. Ali Rehman did not just “steal the show”, he was the show; propping it up in several places when the story threatened to drag a bit. His magnetic screen presence, nonstop energy and ability to carry off any scene or dialogue with complete conviction made him the absolute star of the show. One of the great things about Janaan is the way it turns the usual south Asian stereotype of a man returning to his homeland after many years on its head, by making the main protagonist a female. Meena ( Armeena Rana Khan ) returns to her family home in Swat , no one questions her “modern ways “ , and thankfully she isn’t the usual clichéd batamees, fish out of water, ABCD ( American Born Confused desi ) who wants to sunbathe in the fields .Best of all, no one is trying to put her into the shuttlecock burqa as her Canadian friends predict, nor is anyone shocked when she talks to her white, male friend on the phone. Most refreshingly, none of the women are being forced to marry people and their family treats them as individuals to love and cherish.
Armeena Rana Khan is has really improved since Bin Roye, and carries her role. I just wish someone would introduce the admittedly gorgeous ladies of Janaan to bronzer and had slapped the Becca highlighters out of their hands . Bilal Ashraf is also competent in a difficult role, which requires him to emote a lot without the usual prop of dialogues. His role as the sweet, kind but incredibly shy Asfandyaar is tailor made to make him the audience’s darling .To a certain extent he succeeds but seeing him give the same Main Beychara look in every scene did get wearing. Ashraf is definitely at home on screen but he really needs to hone his acting skills to reach the next level His character was one of the backbones of the story and he fell flat now and then. The other stand outs were Usman Mukhtar as Sameer and Haniya Amir as Palwasha, who show a lot of promise. Despite her novice status Haniya really made an impression, bringing on the required mischief and depth as need. The rest of the cast was rounded out by the always great Ajab Gul and Mishi Khan as Shireen Gul, the kind of fun aunty we all wish we had.
Osman Khalid Butt has written a simple but effective story; full of witty retorts, laugh out loud scenes and all the genuine warmth of our culture and family life. Some of the jokes maybe a little too clever for the masses but it will keep international audiences more than happy. Even keeping in mind the limited resources of Pakistan’s fledgling film industry it was a little disappointing that the production values could not keep up with the script. The first twenty minutes could easily be mistaken for a drama and the overhead shots of a Hania’s Nikkah only emphasized the lack of necessary extras. This is where the director’s creativity should have come into play.
Director Azfer Jaffri’s biggest success is that he manages to keep the films momentum going so well, that viewers are able to ignore those little shortcomings. Overall he has managed to package a couple of hours of great entertainment for the multiplexes and handled the music sequences well. However he has yet to bring that creative vision that is required to be a brand name. Great directors are artists by nature, they don’t just film a story scene by scene; they must have an aesthetic sense that allows them to conceptualize the entire story in their heads, just as a writer does. Both “proposal “ scenes worked out fabulously because that imagery and depth were there, but elsewhere there were definitely some wasted opportunities.
The costumes and sets were not maximized for visual impact, and the drama like effect in the beginning could easily have been avoided by playing with the lighting and framing of many of the scenes. In fact the wonderfully original last scene was almost ruined by the clumsy framing of Bilal and Armeena’s characters. Similarly the pre interval climax is usually one of the biggest make or break moments in a movie but here it seemed completely out of the blue, perhaps because the chemistry between the romantic leads seemed flimsy at best. However what worked was the sharp, witty script, the good acting and absolutely authentic way it portrayed a more normal side of Pakistani culture so often drowned out by geopolitical realities.
I think the Pakistani public deserve way more than the slogan of “support Pakistani cinema” when the reach the movie theater. They need well made movies that they can go home, declaring they had a great “full paisa Vasool “time watching. If Pakistani film makers don’t have the budget then they should play to their other strengths like great writing, imagination and creativity. Despite a few flaws this is exactly what Janaan has done. So go watch and enjoy!
Janaan : 3 stars ***
Directed By : Azfer Jaffri
Written By : Osman Khalid Butt
Starring , Ali Rehman Khan ,Armeena Rana , Bilaal Ashraf ,Hania Amir ,Usman Mukhtar, Ajab Gul, Mishi Khan, Nayyaer Ejaz
Produced by : IRK ( imran Raza Kazmi , Hareem Farooq and Munir Hussain