The year 2016 has been a bit of a downer for Pakistani cinema. It began on a high note with Ho Mann Jahan, whose music we still hum, and I would say ended (though we have a month left and do anticipate 3 Bahadur) on another high note with Mehreen Jabbar’s Dobara Phir Se. However, all those films in between and even these two have not been able to rake up the cinema landscape as Jawani Phir Nahin Aani, Moor and Manto did last year. There has been no Khuda Kay Liye, Waar or Bol. But despite suffering a spate of insufferable movies this year I am delighted to see the number of brilliant sparks that have been ignited.
Right from the get-go, Ho Mann Jahan was on fire when it released on January 1 this year. We already knew Mahira Khan had what it takes (and we haven’t been proven wrong so far) but Adeel Husain and Sheheryar Munawar especially, rose to the forefront as extremely promising actors. Adeel had the brooding angst that he then also channeled in Jackson Heights and now in Dobara Phir Se, whereas Sheheryar Munawar was delightful in his portrayal of a rebellious youth.
Along came Bachaana, bringing us the hugely talented Mohib Mirza and Sanam Saeed, somewhat wasted in their roles, but not without leaving hints of what all they could achieve. More sparks on the horizon.
Mah e Mir tanked at the box office but it delivered Fahad Mustafa to our doorstep and established him as a star who could give us romance as well as serious drama. Debuting in the delightful Na Maloom Afraad (2013), Fahad went on to amplify his popularity on Jeeto Pakistan but he then further established his position as an actor just as capable and popular in the equally entertaining Actor in Law, which simply reasserted the obvious; the camera loved Fahad Mustafa. He had flair for drama and he had comic timing and he showed us that he could dance too. All he has to do now, I feel, is try getting his Harpic ad off air. It does him no favours.
Actor in Law also brought Mehwish Hayat back on the big screen, this time in a lead role opposite Fahad and one that allowed her more depth than a Billi or Marina.
Summer 2016 saw a slump in the celestial sky but Janaan, in September, brought a breath of fresh air. Armeena Rana Khan and Bilal Ashraf brought oomph to the screen though one is still not entirely convinced by their acting skills (not yet). Moreover, it was the one Ali Rehman Khan who emerged star of this love triangle. He was the talk of the ‘time’, the breakthrough artist who entertained throughout the film. More of him, please.
While people have been singing praises for Sajal Aly (and she is a good actress) it was Feroze Khan who caught our eye in Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai. This youngster, who also happens to be Humaima Malick’s younger brother, had the spark to light up the screen. In a better film he would have shone.
Similarly, in Lahore Se Aagey and with Saba Qamar as the bigger star, it was Yasir Hussain – in my opinion – who carried the film to finish line. He was the one irreplaceable factor.
Mehreen Jabbar’s Dobara Phir Se, the last of the big films of 2016, was far from perfect but it delivered five very impressive actors – potentially huge stars – to our doorstep. Adeel Husain reinforced his brooding hero, Hareem Farooq slid into Zainab’s character comfortably and Ali Kazmi and Sanam Saeed were delightfully natural in their urban setting. We need to see more of Sanam in a role that allows her dance and comedy, as that’s what comes to her most naturally. The highlight of DPS, however, was Shaz Khan. Introduced to us in Moor last year, Shaz Khan portrayed the hateful Asim and the fact that people left with an immense dislike for Asim just proved how effective he was.
Moral of the story: we have stars, very bright and beaming stars who now need the space to shine brighter. I hope filmmakers will continue making films, better films, that will allow them to rise higher. With Bollywood off the charts, we only have ourselves to rely on.