Categories: Featured

Na script, na acting

Of the four films that came out this Eid-ul-Fitr, Na Band Na Baraati appeared to be the underdog among the lot in the lead up. Of course, this is before the films actually came out and hindsight had brought our worst fears to reality.

NBNB was aimed to be the archetypal “desi comedy”. Shot in Canada, the film was originally slated for release this weekend (July 6). The release was pulled in view of the government’s bid to “support” the local film industry by banning Bollywood releases for a week beginning with the Eid weekend.

That one week window didn’t do much for Mahmood Akhtar’s directorial debut as the film mustered a mediocre response during the Eid holidays. The negative word of mouth again doing damage to yet another Lollywood production, with the moviegoers getting an early whiff about the overall package.

The storyline depicts a Canada-based family in which two brothers, Zahid (Shayan Khan) and Shahid (Mikaal Zulfiqar), are the stereotypical eligible bachelors. Zahid, a quintessential brat, is in love with Ayesha (Anzhelika Rublevska Tahir); while Shahid, the elder brother, is providing all kinds of support – both in the story and to the actual film – in order to carry Zahid’s dead weight on his shoulders.

Both brothers are living happily with their girlfriends, but all this changes when, to save the day for Zahid, Shahid marries Ayesha. And thence, Shahid’s own relationship with Zoya (Nayab Khan) gets in jeopardy.

Abdul Qadir (Ali Kazmi) is a mechanic, who desperately wants to marry Ayesha despite her father’s (director Akhtar himself) refusal. Ali Kazmi’s negatively shaded character is designed to bring a certain brand of comic relief to the film, with mixed results at best.

Atiqa Odho and Qavi Khan also star in the movie as the parents of Shahid and Zahid. Possibly the wittiest bits come from them.

The film in a nutshell is the platform on which Shayan Khan has launched himself. The film only added Mikaal Zulfiqar as an afterthought to add some illustrious names to the picture.

Shayan’s role is not only unnecessarily dragged to allow him to hog the screen time, his evident lack of ability to perform the role makes it even more excruciating. The difficulties he quite evidently faced run the entire gamut from dialogue delivery to impression, style and well the act of acting itself.

Could he at least shake a leg properly? Nope, and the sheer struggle he personifies is painful to watch. Even Mikaal’s extended cameo couldn’t salvage Shayan’s shambles.

Mikaal and Kazmi have wasted themselves in being a part of a movie that lacks both humour in the entertainment coefficient and seriousness in overall execution.

The same, of course, is true for was the case for Atiqa Odho and Qavi Khan who only managed to add to the audience’s – and indeed their own – misery, while denting their own pedigrees. Perhaps the two veterans could’ve saved the movie if they’d had some tangible support from the writing.

Harish Kumar Patel struggles to keep the story intact. The script has clear desperation to generate laughter, and when you’re really trying to be funny, more often than not you fail to succeed.

Among the many problems with Anzhelika Rublevska Tahir, former Miss Pakistan, was that she couldn’t speak Urdu – the national language, and more importantly the language of the film. Her pronunciation was all over the place – possibly traversing the same zones as Nayab Khan’s.

Tellingly though, what remains unclear is if the struggles to speak Urdu were attempts at authenticity considering they were born and bred in Canada, which considering how everyone else spoke – and the overall competence on display everywhere else – would be a bit of a stretch.

Even as an attempt to cater to the expat audience, who might find certain depictions relatable, NBNB categorically fails in generating sufficient interest for just about anyone, including – as is evident throughout the film – those acting in it.

Sahir Ali Bagga’s music does sound decent, but the filming of the tracks often robs all inklings of melody. Bollywood-esque loud depiction of actors jumping around in the songs was a clear misfire. Some of the romantic tracks and dance numbers sound good, with the unparalleled vocals of Shafqat Amanat Ali and Rahat Fateh Ali often making up for the glitches in compositions.

Commercial films are designed to entertain, and rely on multiple ways to achieve this so that if certain aspects fail, others can be cashed in. NBNB struggles to achieve pretty much everything that it sets out for.

There’s no palpable script or anything remotely resembling acting. The death knell for Na Band Na Baraati is its continued inability to generate a sufficient number of laughs for it to self-identify as a veritable comedy, let alone any iota of meaningful romance that would suffix the rom before the com.

K K Shahid

The writer is a member of staff

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