We all know that a glass slipper changed the course of Cinderella’s life but never expected Mehwish Hayat’s broken heel to cost the media an hour and a half of waiting. The Dubai press con of Actor-In-Law was scheduled to be held at 6:30pm but the team arrived past 8pm. Thanks to excellent marketing activities planned by Vox Cinemas in the foyer, which kept media engaged for long. Generally, whenever the stars arrive late they make up for it with an apology. But it seems that besides the legend Om Puri, none of the Pakistani actors or director felt apologetic about the delay. Om Puri apologized and hinted: “inn khawateen ko thora waqt lag gaya tayyar honay mein. Maafi chahta hoon.’
One of the best things about living in Dubai is that you get to watch the films before rest of the world; as the films are premiered on Thursdays because of the (Fri-Sat) weekend. The premier of the much awaited courtroom drama Actor-in-Law was thus organized by the Vox Cinemas on Monday night. Pakistani film enthusiasts showed up in hoardes and almost went out of control when they saw the stars, especially Fahad Mustafa. (I later had to clarify that he is not going to give away any gifts today).
Let’s talk about the film. It is acknowledged that Nabeel Qureshi has tried to address the problems faced by Pakistanis in general, like load shedding, advertisement overload on the public walls, and child labour and he has tried to solve those in a court-room drama. He also explains that there is a legal clause that prohibits indecent acts like leching. But has he gone a tad too far in the name of cinematic liberty? A fired employee (who hams as if there is no tomorrow) mistakes Fahad as a lawyer just because he is wearing a black suit and asks him to fight his case as there is no lawyer available due to the heavy rain. He walks into the court, fights the case and also wins it just on the basis of his filmi monologues. The Judge applauds him by saying ‘tumhein toh actor hona chahiye’ which motivates him to put up a show in court. He continues winning one case after the other, from suing multinationals to challenging policies of political parties; overnight he becomes the voice of Pakistan. That is a bit too much for a multiplex audience that is in no mood naïve theatrics. A magnum opus like Mohenjo Daro falling flat on its face is a recent example that even one of the best directors of the industry cannot make a shallow plot shine.
The dialogues are witty and are written intelligently. Pay close attention to the scene when Humayun Saeed who plays himself in a cameo shouts ‘pack up’ and leaves the set in a rage; and someone from the crew murmurs, “Aray Sameena ko phone karo” so full marks to the writer on wit. There are many other similar laughing moments but at times the film does get over melodramatic.
Fahad is brilliant and is in his element. His comic timing stands in good stead once again after Na Maloom Afrad and he manages more than a few laughs. Apparently Sir Om Puri is in complete awe of him. “If this film releases in India, Fahad Mustafa will become a real threat to our actors. Those Khans that are glued to the top spot for the last 25 years need to make way for the fresher lot,” he said. Even today’s cover of Khaleej Times entertainment supplement City Times mentions ‘Watch Out Khans’ (with Fahad and Mehwish gracing it). It is Fahad’s film throughout so obviously Mahwish doesn’t get a lot of screen time. She plays a Parsi girl but her accent keeps on switching lanes. She particularly delivers well in a scene where she withdraws the case she registers against lechers. There you see a glimpse of the Mehwish we love from the serial Dillagi.
What disappointed me is the fact that a talent like Sir Om Puri who has innumerable Hollywood and Bollywood films to his credit, demanded a plot much bigger than what this film offered. Someone who could pull off a Naseeruddin Shah’s role in Khuda Ke Liye or a Manzar Sehbai’s role in Bol (both happen to be his favourite Pakistani films) was reduced to a typical nagging father who isn’t happy with the career path his son has chosen (no points for guessing, he wants to be an Actor). When I asked him what made him say yes to the script, he said, “the role has an emotional angle and I play a lawyer who has never won a single case in his life and is also a concerned father. I liked the overall script and the way Nabeel has handled it. Boht lalchi hai Nabeel, he is never happy with the shots, sometimes he would approve the shot after the sixth retake.” The point is, his debut in a Pakistani deserved something bigger and better and did not do justice to his stature.
The music is passable. Even Atif Aslam’s ‘dil yeh dancer ho gaya’ is mediocre and doesn’t impress much.
Cutting it short, to some intellectual and scholars of cinema this genre might not appeal especially because the story development is full of illogic but then there is a whole lot of audience for that cinema. Some films are often written off as low-IQ comedies but does the public in general really care as long as you are assured of sufficient laughter? Let’s not overlook the fact that a huge number of the movie going audience relishes these entertainers and to them a brainless plot rarely matters.
1. Watch it for Fahad Mustafa’s stellar performance.
2 Watch it to see Om Puri roaming I.I Chundrigar Road and Saddar.
3. And watch it, especially if you derive pleasure from films that defy logic.
Sadiq Saleem, is a Dubai based entertainment journalist. He is also an SH correspondent and can be contacted on his page fb/sidsaidso.