Nothing in Pakistani cinema works as well as comedy and that’s the reason why Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2, a continuation of the 2015 original, is destined to be a blockbuster. It feeds off topical comedy, from digs at Ali Zafar’s ‘Rockstar’ to game shows, recent movies, political mantras like ‘Mujhe Kyun Nikala?’ to our obsession with ‘Naya Pakistan,’ Indo Pakistan relations, cricket and for most of its 2 hour 45 minute length, it works. Some more shots of Imran Khan, circa the 80s, pacing like a tiger on a cricket field? Yes, please.
Over and beyond the appeal and attraction of the ensemble cast – I’ll get to that later – it’s the brilliance of Vasay Chaudhry’s script that holds JPNA2 together. The first half is especially hilarious and will have you in fits of laughter. I did feel the writer overdoes the fat jokes and constant references to Parvez, aka PeePee’s weight but then comedy cannot always be expected to toe a politically correct line. Barring the very few inappropriate jests – like a jibe at the serious #metoo becoming #hetoo – the humour does not fall into the ribald or crass range, which is a relief.
JPNA2 begins, just like the first film, with a jump and a flashback. Sherry (Humayun Saeed) has lost his wife Marina (Mehwish Hayat) to a paragliding accident and has been suicidal and committed to a mental asylum in Turkey for years. His two best friends – PeePee and Sheikh (played brilliantly by Ahmad Ali Butt and Vasay Chaudhry) are visiting PeePee’s patronizing brother in law Rahat (enter Fahad Mustafa) in Turkey when they discover Sherry’s whereabouts. They are all in Turkey to win over the flamboyant father (Sohail Ahmad) of Rahat’s love-interest, a very pretty Zoe (Mawra Hocane). The story flips to a second chance for Sherry and a trip to Dubai to win over his lady love, Selina, played by a refreshing Kubra Khan. As evident in the trailer, it’s a cross-border situation and one that (unfortunately) leads to the typical, preachy rhetoric. The plot plummets in the second half of the film.
About the characters: the cast has very good comic timing, which amplifies the humour. Ahmad and Vasay are naturals, especially when they adapt an Indian-Brit avatar innit, and even Humayun Saeed, though evidently aging (which is also the case with the rest of the troupe), is endearingly self deprecating. His take on ‘Channa’ will have you in stitches. JPNA2 is the male version of a chick flick – call it what you may – and has very little scope for female actors but they deliver beyond their designated roles. Mawra is delightfully fresh and the camera loves her. Kubra shows potential; Uzma Khan reprises her role as Lubna, with a little more screen time than she was given in the first film. The brilliance of Sarwat Gillani as an artiste is restricted to a small yet effective role. Back to the gentlemen’s club, an unbelievably lean Fahad Mustafa, the piece de resistance or ‘tight piece’ in this film, is brilliant in the first half albeit wasted in the second half, which is lost to the unnecessary social message.
The message of Indo-Pak peace, ironically, is JPNA2’s Achilles Heel. There was no need, for a film that feeds off slapstick, to drive a cause. The plot slows down post interval and drops so many unnecessary sequences that you wonder why. Simply why. Omar Shehzad, for example, is a solid newcomer but his sword fights, that shirtless drama (again, why?) and general disposition as angst-ridden Indian nawab drags. The dialogues between Sherry and Selina’s father – played by Indian actor Kanwaljit – are also excessive.
Director Nadeem Baig, today one of the most coveted names in Pakistani cinema, has built his appeal on a fun, situational brand of comedy. One would urge him to stick to it and not be swayed by the pull of social messaging. And if he must, then maybe take his female leads and giving them better scope, which would be a bigger cause.