Something Haute rating: 3 out of 5 stars
They say that all that glitters is not gold and to a very large extent that serves true. However, often times the glitter may still shine on the veneer, but it remains of no value. Such was the example yesterday when the much-awaited Balu Mahi premiered in Karachi with all of its glitz and glamour, but with no soul.
Narrating the lives of the eponymous Balu (Osman Khalid Butt) and Mahi (Ainy Jaffri), the film directed by Haissam Hassan, takes us on a 360-degree journey of accidental meet-ups, a love-hate relationship, family drama, a proclamation of love, and a slow return to reality, all packed with some beautiful shots of Hunza and Shandur. However, the 3-hour long film ends up regurgitating a lot of clichéd moments one after another.
That being said, both Jaffri and Butt manage to hold their own with impeccable chemistry as the film goes on. However, the same cannot be said about their individual acting skills, which remained weak in the first half, and only grew a few points post-intermission. Although unfortunate, it became slightly obvious that while Butt has tried his best in the past to get out of the chocolate hero archetype, the film put the final nail in the coffin for anything but such roles for him. Nonetheless, the actor still manages to turn on his charismatic charm, much to his credit.
Apart from the pairing of Jaffri and Butt, the inclusion of model-turned-actress Sadaf Kanwal in her debut was also something that didn’t go unnoticed. Although her role as Sharmeen was no short of being just a sexy siren in the narrative added to create sexual overtones in the film, Kanwal does justice to what she has been offered, for which she definitely deserves applause.
In all of its true sense, the film ends up confused between what it wants in a lot of places, where forced drama, equally confusing moments of conflict, and dance sequences come in (we were already done when we saw Jaffri in a Snow White inspired garb). In what started off so promising, quickly ended up becoming a rehash of (and we hate to say this) Bollywood. That being said, the glitz is what kept the audience entertained despite the narrative’s lack of connectivity.
Despite all that seems wrong with the film, Balu Mahi will work well due to two factors: a) The fact that no one can resist the charm OKB has on his fans and haters alike, and b) the film is a welcome respite from the previous slump of Pakistani films, which made people stop going to the cinemas. However, one still has to wonder if the film will actually manage to stay afloat with some tough Bollywood competition in the cinemas.
All in all, the film may have its ups and downs, but it seems the fault does not lie within the actors, but the narrative, which could have been so much more than the glitzy kitsch it ended up being. Will we sit and watch the really long film once again? Probably not. Are we happy we saw it once? Definitely.