Of the three Eid-ul-Azha releases, which also included Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 and Parwaz Hai Junoon, Load Wedding was perhaps the hardest to categorise. JPNA 2 was of course a sequel, and as discussed in this space last week, the primary fear on that front was whether or not it would turn out to be the same movie all over again – for good or bad. Similarly, it is pretty evident where PHJ was headed with the now much touted ‘Top Gun’ theme.
Load Wedding was clearly going to have a wedding. What was also evident that with Fahad Mustafa and Mehwish Hayat, there was going to be romance as well. With the name being a pun on load shedding – for years the butt of countless puns in the country owing to the power shortage – it appeared as though the wedding would be a setting for comical farce. That, however, is not what turns out to be – at least intentionally.
Much like those of us waiting in anticipation for Load Wedding, the filmmakers too, evidently, weren’t quite sure how to categorise the movie. So they decided to squeeze everything they wanted to say in a single product.
Load Wedding thus features marriage between comedy and drama, and while this would’ve been a great match for the local audience, where the film errs is in its execution. And hence, what the film sets out to achieve – or at least portrays as such – form the onset, is in stark contrast to how it has self-identified by the time the credits are rolling.
Raja (Fahad Mustafa) is heartbroken after his childhood sweetheart Meeru (Mehwish Hayat) is wedded off to someone else, as the film begins. With Meeru’s husband passing away on the wedding day, after tying the knot – owing to reasons never revealed in the movie – Raja feels he has a shot again. This is where the romance initially buds.
Meanwhile, Raja has an elder sister Baby Baji (Faiza Hasan) who still hasn’t got married, owing to the family’s failure to put the dowry together. This leaves their mother (Samina Ahmed) perpetually worried, and Raja’s chances of getting married to Meeru in jeopardy.
What ensues is the story of two weddings, one in which being widow is considered social taboo, another in which not falling into a particular body template is an issue, not to mention the question of dowry which dominates the second half of the movie.
What also not just dominates the second half, but takes it up in its entirety is a game show. Yes, at the heart of a movie that is challenging taboos surrounding weddings and brides in our beck of the woods, is a game show.
The use of a game show could’ve worked wonders if the film had been a dark comedy, but not only is the movie not that it takes it self so seriously in parts that the game show inadvertently takes jibes against the script itself. This is not to take away the satire of the game show business that the film expertly does – with a very familiar host being expertly spoofed – which provides some of the most entertaining bits in the film.
But that also is where a large chunk of the film’s problem lie: in balancing the entertainment coefficient with the message(s) it is trying to convey. This is why the dark comedy route, or playing the messenger bit with subtlety would’ve been well advised.
Even so, despite the film’s failure in driving home its narrative – primarily because it went into overdrive and wanted to say too much to too many people – Load Wedding has major strengths as well.
The film will definitely derive laughs pretty frequently. It will also enthrall you with its depiction of a small town in Punjab and the everyday life in it – even if the Punjabi accents, and spoken Urdu, provide a pretty evident downside.
Similarly, a clear highlight of the film are the performances – again, despite the slips in the choice of language and its delivery. This is true for the entire cast, including Samina Ahmed who lives up to the stereotypical Pakistani mother in personifying all the worries that she has with regards to her daughter’s future. Noor Ul Hassan as the bachelor maama of Raja and Baby also fits the role perfectly.
Perhaps the film’s most entertaining moment come through Faiza Hasan and renowned comedian Qaiser Piya, who plays Raja’s friend. The comic timing of both is spot on, and both indeed play critical roles in the movie, and aren’t just there for the humour fodder.
Mehwish Hayat’s role in the movie fluctuates depending on which version of Load Wedding is being traversed. But she does a decent enough job both when she is under the absolutely spotlight, in terms of the script, and when she isn’t.
Fahad Mustafa puts in another strong show and adds Load Wedding to a wide array of films where he has successfully portrayed a different role that he was tasked with. Whether or not he’s ‘Pakistan’s Salman Khan’ is indeed up for conjecture, but is true without a shadow of a doubt is that he is definitely a superstar of the local cinema.
Perhaps the burden for the film’s flaws should rest with Nabeel Qureshi, an otherwise top director who has already given the local cinema the likes of Actor-in-Law and the Na Maloom Afraad franchise. Nabeel Qureshi should’ve stepped in where needed to keep the film concise and balanced in term of its messaging.
However, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives with Load Shedding, and while it mightn’t be the best work of the director or the lead actors, it is definitely one of the better films of the year – primarily because of what has been churned out by the local film industry this year.