Something Haute Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
A world older than time itself, where the narratives of fairies and demons that slumber in their eternal sleep a common tale, the crystal blue rivers cut through lush green valleys and the natural beauty of Hunza. And, in between all of this, six people whose lives are going to be changed forever. No, this isn’t a documentary about the beauty of Gilgit-Baltistan or some thriller about a mountain expedition – which it may as well be, but the scenic setting of Chalay Thay Saath, which finally premiered in Karachi this weekend.
Narrating the life of the mountains and the age-old traditions of Hunza, we find Karachi-based Doctor, Resham (Syra Shahroz), moving back to her mountainous homeland, as her best friend Tania (Mansha Pasha), her husband Zain, (Osama Tahir) and his best friend Faraz (Faris Khalid) plan to go with her as a farewell excursion. However, this group of friends finds a new turn in their trip, when a chance meet-up with the truly strange Adam (Kent S. Leung) –a Chinese traveler –who quickly befriends Resham, but becomes an impediment for the boys, changes their whole trip altogether.
Meandering with twists and turns like the icy blue rivers of Hunza, the film directed by Umer Adil unarguably takes the concept of a life unlived, and brings it to center stage, all while reminding us that nothing is permanent –not even mountains, without going into too many ‘isms’ of life by the end of the film.
However, it isn’t just the direction that makes CTS brim with life and making one want to take a trip up north ASAP, but the stellar performances by the whole cast that truly makes one believe that the casting was done with utmost perfection. Whether it’s Syra’s integration into the demure Resham, who like her name, weaves smoothness into her role, or Mansha and Zhalay as strong women, who hold their own throughout the film, the performances remained unmatched.
That being said, the true stars of the film undoubtedly remained the relatively fresher faces, Osama Tahir and Faris Khalid –who in their own right were the true stars of Chalay Thay Saath. So much so, that it wouldn’t be wrong to make the claim that the actors provided us with a glimmer of hope that good actors exist in the country. However, one actor who we wanted to see more of but couldn’t was the charming Kent, who we wish was given more dialogues than the Siri-style translations he was hiding under so that one could’ve at least gotten to know the actor more. Nonetheless, the actor manages to carve his strong space in the film.
One must also mention support roles by both Shamim Hilaly and Behroze Sabzwari, who ground the story in an otherwise youth based narrative, soaring high in the mountains. Whether it’s Hilaly’s powerful representation of a woman tired of her children’s family politics who decides to take a trip on her own or Sabzwari’s warm-hearted yet stern role as Resham’s father, both actors prove why their names are so important to the Pakistani entertainment industry.
In the truest sense of the word, Chalay Thay Saath gives meaning to cinematography and music in Pakistan. However, can the same be said about its script? Not really. In an otherwise smartly constructed film, the weakest link has to be the script itself, which at many places flat-lines without any in-depth conflict or inciting incident to bear the weight of the story. Nonetheless, writer Attiya Zaidi manages to create visual metaphors through her writing in between the mountains and the lush greens post-intermission, as the film picks up the pace and smartly wraps up the whole narrative.
With all of its ups, and really only a few downs, one must go watch Chalay Thay Saath and judge through their own interpretation. Plus, if this film doesn’t evoke your wanderlust, make you pack your bags and take the next flight to Gilgit, nothing ever will!