When you see Narendra Modi in the opening scene of a film, you know you’re in for a ride and ride it was. Khalil ur Rehman Qamar’s Kaaf Kangana isn’t everyone’s brand of cinema, but there is no denying the fact that it delivers on all possible storytelling grounds from melodrama, masala dialogues to filminess, hit punch lines, truck loads of patriotism and an evident love for the Walled City of Lahore.
At the onset, the writer establishes few things: Lahore is sacred as angels will ask God to spare Lahore on Dooms Day as pehle jannat ma koi Lahore tou banay, many untold stories fall between the cracks of Partition, you can only call Sami Khan Ali Mustafa (because addressing someone you know by their first name is so last year), Indians are obsessed with heavy jewellery and makeup (like saas bahu sazish serials), Sunny Deol is an integral part of Indo-Pak tensions and a Pakistani can only fall in love with an Indian if she accepts defeat.
In Khalil ur Rehman Qamar’s universe, a Pakistani Muslim guy Ali Mustafa (Sami Khan), meets an Indian Hindu girl Kangana Rathore (Eshal Fayyaz) at the finale of SAARC quiz competition where Ali loses to Kangana as he doesn’t respond to a disputable question (when did the state of Jammu and Kashmir opt to unite with India?) She ‘correctly answers’ and wins the trophy along with a 7-day trip to Lahore meanwhile they chat about Sunny Deol’s dialogues about Kashmir.
Without revealing the storyline (a major twist which is in fact inspired by a true story), the crux is that Ali Mustafa and Kangana share a baffling past. Hence, the Indian girl challenges this Pakistani lad to come to India and finish an incomplete story. By now the readers will start wondering but how do they fall in love? I suggest keep guessing like I am because it can’t be as simple as Kangana replying to a TV show host ‘I feel like I lost to Pakistan after winning the quiz’. That’s like love at first fight and reincarnation seems more probable.
The film is overdramatic, which is a lesser evil in comparison to seeing Sami play a soft-spoken guy in one frame and then a sensationalized exaggerated version of himself in the next. Eshal has a long way to go and she definitely should stay away from her fake laughter that she casually breaks into (zabardasti ki hansi as one viewer called it) and her sprints towards Sami. Aabi Khan (KRQ’s son playing a local goon Tony) makes travelling to India a cake walk as he appears mysteriously in India and then goes back home. However, Ayesha Omar as Gulnaaz is a screen stealer. Tony loves her and she loves Ali Mustafa but amidst this confusion, Gulnaaz comes as a respite with her witty dialogues. A special mention to Fiza Ali for delivering such complex Indian soap-esque dialogues with ease and conviction.
The film is 2 hour 37 minutes long with at least two unnecessary songs that contributed close to nothing. One song is single-mindedly dedicated to losing from India — Mukka Maar — which may come in handy the next time we lose a cricket match against our arch-rivals. The item song that apparently Neelam Muneer did for the sheer love of her country is harmless (barring the lyrics which make no sense). With limited dance moves, she plays mostly with her expressions that are on-point where as Eshal’s dance comprises lots of twirls with her chunri.
Kaaf Kangana opens countless chapters and wraps up only a few. There are too many questions that are left unanswered: Sajid Hasan’s profession remains a mystery, most censored words are obvious and every Indian knows Urdu script. The film shifts from comedy scenes to serious discourse in seconds and then we hear one Sunny Deol dialogue reference and the build-up goes down the drain. Nevertheless, the film didn’t fall short of rhythmic dialogues like “Ankhon mein koi aur hai ya phir Lahore hai”, “Paraya hai ya apna hai, Paraya hai tou sapna hai”, “Ye badla purkhon ke waqar se hai ya Modi ki sarkar se”… literally!
The nation is currently obsessed with KRQ (all thanks to Meray Paas Tum Ho). One thing is for sure that the writer-director and an occasional actor (he plays a TV host in Kaaf Kangana as well) knows his audiences’ pulse. In my recent interaction with him, he told me how a film cannot exist without mukalma (dialogue) and how that appreciation clap can only be achieved through dialogues. Sitting at the top most row of a marginally occupied theater, I had a vantage point to audiences’ reaction and my God they laughed and clapped (though not necessarily on comic scenes). KRQ surely knows what makes the viewers tick; either by naming a corrupt Indian soldier Bajrangi, giving references of surgical strikes, UNO or introducing a Lahore-loving Sardar jee. People will take home his quirky one-liners, if not for their recall value then for their transparent teasing.
At least you can trust Kaaf Kangana to have a story which is also scarce in today’s day and age. It is indeed a pro-peace film with an oversimplified ending but as the writer puts it: “Yeh kisi ki haar samajh na tu… Tu samajh ye pyaar ki jeet hai!”