Pakistan is beautiful and director Asim Raza must be commended for showing the best possible image of the country to the cinema going audience. He used the best locations instead of sets; he selected the most loveable actors and actresses to attract audience and painted a picture that featured all the colors present. He forgot a few ingredients which could have made his film even better.
The first ingredient he forgot to apply on his dish was that of narrative. The film moved at a snail’s pace in the first half and at a tortoise’s pace in the second. The more time the director used in establishing the characters, the more agitated the audience became and although the interval came at the appropriate junction in the film, it was way too late. It seemed that the script was overhauled by script doctors without thinking much about how it would look on screen.
The second forgotten ingredient was the proper casting; the story would have done well on TV but not in cinema, especially when Asim Raza had no proper film actor in the cast. Yes, Jamal Shah has done a Hollywood film but that was way back in early 90s. This was the third film for Mahira Khan, second for Arshad Mehmood, Nimra Bucha and Bushra Ansari and the first one for Sheheryar Munawar, his father Munawar Siddiqui and Adeel Husain. In fact, Sonya Jehan was the most experienced of actors in this flick; she has done 3 Bollywood films and had a special appearance in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. And then there was Ahmed Ali Akbar who was reduced to a guest appearance although he had played the lead role in Siyaah, second lead in Karachi Se Lahore, cameo in Tamanna besides countless Ufone commercials and TV serials. Even his screenplay collaborators were not from film world because had they been, they might have advised him and pointed him into the right direction.
Had the film not based itself on the ‘a boy and a girl can’t be friends’ notion; had the editor been sharp and sensible; had there been dialogues that would have stayed with the audience, Ho Mann Jahaan would have been the ideal start for 2016. It still gives the year a good beginning but when you have Asim Raza as the director, the expectations are sky high. Some of the commercials he has directed have been amongst the best in the last 20 years. He must be commended for giving his actors the free hand and nearly all of them have went onto say that they have never worked with a better person. Who else could have made Sheheryar Munawwar cry like a kid; make the audience sympathize with Adeel Husain when he had a showdown with his overprotective parents; make Sonya Jehan seem like someone from a better-looking planet and above all, chose Zeb Bangash as voice of Mahira Khan – they fitted each other perfectly.
Music was always going to be the highlight of the movie, since it had Asim at the helm. He has selected the best vocalists and the best musicians from the country who have combined their skills to bring out one of the best soundtracks of a Pakistani film this millennium. Zeb Bangash impresses with both her vocals and compositions as does Atif Aslam, Tina Sani, Asrar, Mai Dhai Band, qawwals Abu Muhammad and Farid Ayaz and Zoheb Hassan (that’s a surprise!). Jimmy Khan’s song Baarish was catchy and well-shot but the lyrics seemed to have been penned by a novice; someone better could have made it look world-class.
And then there were the necessary-but-incomplete cameos; not even Fawad Khan was able to tell the audience what ‘Rafael’ does for a living; he could have been a gangster, a painter, an actor, a director or even a musician. Hamza Ali Abbasi was unrecognizable in the tons of makeup and looked every inch the baba he was trying to portray. There were a few more but for that, buy a ticket, go to the cinema and spot the cameos as a couple of them might even surprise you!