They say hope is a cruel master and that may explain why I found JPNA 2 a little disappointing. All the films releasing this Eid have had a strong positive buzz on social media showing us how adept the makers have become at managing the public conversation. There used to be such a stream of negativity at the release of almost any and every Pakistani movie that at times I had to steal myself with a long cool drink of positivity and the kind of “support Pakistani cinema attitude” that so many of our critics sneer at to motivate myself into taking the drive down to the movie theater and spend that cash on tickets.
So this weekend’s first Eid treat for me was JPNA2, because the original JPNA had been absolutely brilliant , as in I nearly fell out of my seat laughing ,with a fresh , modern story that despite the heavy inspiration from the American Hangover movies , had some heart and a uniquely Pakistani flavour to it . Well JPNA2 was laugh out loud , ludicrously funny too .The film didn’t begin with the bang a snappy smart comedy should and for the first ten or so minutes it looked as if we had wasted our money . Then came Fawad Khan’s brilliant cameo that had us literally rolling about in hysterics. Fawad’s lisping, completely unselfaware rocker was comedy gold (is there anything that man can’t do well?) and one of the highlights of the movie bringing some much needed energy to a lack luster start.
Vasey Chaudhry is a genius at writing comedy sketches; his set pieces and one liner were rip-roaringly hilarious. Vasey knows his actors and wrote scenes that fully utilized their skills to great effect. While Vasey himself remained singularly unfunny, Ahmed Ali butt was a riot as a fake wedding planner, but if there is a prize it should go to Humayun Saeed, whose completely deadpan suicide attempts stole the show from all the wise cracking one liners. I must also give a special shout out to the always amazing Sohail Ahmed and to the rest of the supporting cast who managed to make each line they were given work.
Where this film came up short was the lack of a coherent story. I have a feeling Fahad Mustafa was added to give some kind of depth or gravitas to the film but although he is a good actor he seemed out of place in all the slapstick. I am not a huge Fahad Mustafa fan but he is an excellent actor and for the life of me I can’t see why he agreed to this role, when he is making really good, meaningful films himself. I missed Hamza Ali Abbasi’s presence in this movie, ,
There was very little any of the actors could do in the face of such a fragmented script. Comedy doesn’t always have to be meaningful but quite honestly we can turn on the TV for nonstop comedy sketches. Still , all of this might have worked out if they had kept it on the same ,clever, self-aware, satirical level of the original JPNA but this film’s tiresome “India v Pakistan “ angle for the second half was simply mind numbingly boring. It’s quite obvious the team wanted to say something nice about peace, love and goodwill without offending anyone, but they just couldn’t get beyond the usual irritating clichés. One of the worst excesses was the ridiculous sword fight between Omer Shehzad and Humayun. I wanted to scream hey guys the its 2018 and the 1980s when you could get away with that kind of nonsensical rubbish are long gone. Then there was Omer Shehzad, and his unattractive naked torso, which an unsuspecting audience was forced to watch in the cruelest manner. My advice to Omer is keep the shirt on, concentrate on the acting , you’re actually not bad at it.
The saving grace was of course the comedy and the Kubra Khan’s spot on performance. While Mawra was relegated to a piece of fluff, Kubra brought the acting skills, looking and sounding every inch the heroine. Mawra was cute but surely she must aspire to something more than just being called adorable? Kubra on the other hand had the more fully fleshed out character and gave the flimsy romance between her and Humayun’s character some actual depth. Kubra still looked too young for Humayun; he really needs to find someone to match his presence like Mehwish Hayat and Mahira Khan.
Normally I am a huge fan of director Nadeem Baig but this movie has been a disappointingly free of his signature touch. The heart and soul that Nadeem Baig put into films like the original JPNA and the fabulous Punjab Nahi Jaungi are nowhere in sight , just a frothy mess of a story not fully conceptualized .
Having said that JPNA2 is worth watching for the comedy but I would wait till the tickets are half pried because it’s really only half of a movie