Something Haute Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
With the Pakistani film industry in its tenth year of ‘revival’, the new wave of cinema has yet to see smooth sailing. While some films have done major business, others have stuck to mediocrity. However, more problematic than this discussion of the black and white or the box-office successes and flops, are those stuck in the middle; those stuck in a limbo of sorts. Arth: The Destination is one such example.
Starring an ensemble cast of Shaan Shahid, Humaima Malik, Mohib Mirza, and Uzma Hassan, the film is loosely based on Mahesh Bhatt’s original of the same name. However, apart from some inspirations from the original, the stylization of the film is completely different and moves towards the cosmopolitan.
Meandering through four lives, Ali – a forgotten musician, Uzma and Umar – a married couple as well a writer and director, respectively, and Umaimah – a glamourous actress, Arth narrates human condition, which coincidentally also becomes the reason for all the characters meeting each other in some way.
Documenting life through a fly-on-the-wall narrative, the story focuses on duplicitous relations in marriage and the subsequent heartbreaks, as well as showing us that there’s always a silver lining in the worst of things. Taking this as the central theme, we see Arth moving forward as all characters go from failures to successes or vice versa, and find their destinations in the shape of love or regret.
However, nothing in the two-and-a-half-hour-long narrative is that simple. In the midst of focusing excessively on glamour within the film, the story loses its grip. Despite strong acting by all four – with Uzma, Shaan, and Humaima being dominant as Mohib is given very little screen time – the film weakens due to inconsistent direction and editing.
Arth undoubtedly is better than Rangreza (the two have released at the same time so comparisons are inevitable), however it was expected to be even better. The sloppy approach to editing the film, along with the production aesthetics damage Arth’s potential. Truth be told, the number of panning shots mixed with the repetition of many scenes, destroy the sensory experience one desires.
Apart from the flaws in production, the film’s music and the lack of a proper musical score too, is a disappointment. Barring ‘Murshed Ji,’ where one must give major props to Shaan for properly essaying what a rock star feels like (again, compared to Bilal Ashraf in Rangreza), Sahir Ali Bagga is known for more memorable tunes.
That being said, Arth isn’t necessarily a flawed film. Despite its shortcomings, the film’s strong cast manages to hold onto the film and veer it towards success. In a number of scenes, all four actors create magic. Whether it’s Humaima’s adoption of a passionately psychotic lover and Uzma as the scorned wife or Shaan as the struggling and vulnerable but highly loveable singer and Mohib as the disloyal husband, there are particular strong moments within the film which make it appealing. However, one still feels if those same scenes were shot and edited more tightly, it would have been magic.
In reality, Arth is far from a failure, but also far from perfection. It truly gets stuck somewhere in the middle, which is the problem with many narratives within the industry.
In the end, however, a simple question must be factored in: can Arth be compared to the original classic? The answer is unfortunately not. However, can it create its own cult following and usher in a cinema that is growing gradually but strongly? The answer has to be yes.
If you’re looking for a film which has potential, is raw and doesn’t leave you bored, then Arth may be something you can find yourself watching over the weekend.