I found Janaan’s trailer quite disappointing. Everything looked pretty and colourful but there was nothing new; two boys fighting over the same girl during a wedding – it looked like a typical Bollywood movie. But then, thankfully, I had the opportunity of speaking to Azfar Jafri (director), Imran Kazi (producer) and Hareem Farooq (also producer.) We sat and spoke for over an hour about the rising wave of Pakistani cinema and whether we were headed in the right direction. While later the gang confessed to me that out of all the bloggers and journalists they had met, I had asked them the toughest questions, I too confess today that the reason I decided to go to watch the movie was because of my conversation with the Janaan gang. I had asked tough questions but their answers had intrigued me.
I think I made it clear to them that I wasn’t impressed by the trailer, complaining about how they had just given away the whole plot of the movie amongst other issues. Kazi was adamant I go watch the movie. “You’re in for a surprise. We haven’t given away anything in the trailer actually,” to which Hareem added, “It’s a uniquely Pakistani story.” I wondered whether this was a tactic to get me to watch the movie or would I be missing out on something special?
It worked because there I was, at the premiere of Janaan, where the funny and down to earth cast seemed happy and excited about their film’s release. “The response has been great so far!” is what Kazi said before I went inside to watch the movie. At this point, I was still unsure. I could see nervousness hiding at the corners of the smiles the gang had plastered on their faces and that made me nervous for them as well.
The film started, albeit a little late. A couple sitting behind me kept narrating their thoughts and concerns with the plot as the movie went along and it was refreshing to see that they had the same questions and realizations as myself – BUT Janaan was not the average Bollywood copy I thought it would be. It turned out to be a very well thought out and intelligent film.
Janaan tackles various issues but does it in a cinematic style, choosing to show people their message rather then preach it in a long monologue. It realizes the intelligence of it’s viewers and therefore feeds information in a systematic way, one scene at a time. The big reveal of the movie comes slowly and rather unexpectedly, which is what takes you by surprise because after looking at the beautiful locations and colourful art design and good looking people dancing around on your screen, you are suddenly confronted with the darkness of evil that lurks around at every corner in your life. It shows us how ordinary people can be heroes too.
Technically the film is not so sound. The editing could have been much tighter, the direction of the actors could have been smoother. The film felt like it was too long – this was generally the criticism I heard from other people as well. But that can be forgiven, because Janaan has a lot of things going for it.
The comedy is perfect – it’s subtle and intelligent. Ali Rehman really commands all the attention and you can see his years of acting experience behind him whenever he graces the screen. Bilal Ashraf appears stiff in some places but he is also able to emote very well on other occasions, which means he will only improve with time and experience. Armeena Khan plays her part in being the pretty Barbie doll that she’s supposed to be. The two supporting actors, Haniya Amir and Osman Mukhtar, also do a fantastic job. Haniya is a terrific actor and Osman also had people laughing with his acting, even though he had a very small role and we wish we could have seen more of him.
A special mention needs to go to Nayyar Ejaz, the villain of the film, who proved to be the real king of talent in this film. Every expression and dialogue is so convincing that you felt uncomfortable every time he came on screen.
The movie ended after 2 hours and 10 minutes, and I caught up with Humayun Saeed and asked him what he thought of it. “It”s a very cute movie. Everything is very cute. Also, best art direction I’ve ever seen in a Pakistani film.”
I didn’t get a chance to speak to Osman Khalid Butt, which is the only piece in this puzzle left, but he has done his work well. The story is uniquely Pakistani, just as the producers had promised. And there is a twist that you need to see for yourself.