By Adnan Murad
The most common problem with Pakistani romantic films is that they do not focus on fleshing out characters. Instead, filmmakers tend to adopt a generic approach. This is the reason why we end up watching films about cute people dancing around trees over several montages, showing that they are deeply and madly in love with each other.
It is just middling entertainment that may please an average cinemagoer but not a cinephile.
Well, let’s talk about Balu Mahi now. To begin with, the trailer was not really satisfactory. It left me cold. To be frank, I was not even planning to watch the film but ended up doing so on a fine Sunday evening.
To my surprise, the film left me feeling excited and hopeful.
Yes, Balu Mahi is ultimately a cutesy confection and director Haissam Hussain’s attempt at harmless and utterly effervescent cinema.
Getting into the details
Is there such a thing like too sweet? If there is, Balu Mahi fits the bill. Credit goes to the pre-interval moments between Ainy Jaffri and Osman Khalid Butt, hilarious confrontations of Durdana Butt and Shafqat Cheema and the entry of utterly sensational Sadaf Kanwal. Her screen confidence and presence is completely satisfying. She is a talent to look forward to.
If the readers are aware of director Hussain’s career graph, they must be knowledgeable of the projects he has worked on. He is the person who made Durr-e-Shehwar, which is one of the best Pakistani drama serials. Keeping this in mind, I was yearning for more from him; he is someone who I truly revere for transfusing exuberance in love through his magical work, and that does not quite come through here.
Yet, there are high points.
Ainy Jaffri is perfectly cast here as Mahi, creating a character with both pluck and pout. Jaffri’s enthusiasm is infectious. Osman Khalid Butt is initially uncomfortable but gets better with time. His charm is infectious. Together, they are terrific protagonists, and while each gets equal screen time, Jaffri is at an advantage here because of the film’s theme.
Due credit must also be given to Khurram Patras, Zeeshan Ali and Muhammad Jamal for their well-played appearances.
Writer Saad Azhar adds all the usual ingredients of a rom-com here, but with precision. Azhar and Hussain make these characters look authentic, and grow on you slowly and gradually.
Balu Mahi is a film that unfolds mainly through extended conversations, and the best moments come at you as the protagonists get to know each other. The humour hits the mark many times and falls flat sometimes, but the movie does not jar (minus sexual innuendos) because the characters are not trying too hard to prove anything.
This is why it is refreshing to see a film like Hussain’s Balu Mahi, a simple romance that stands out because of its treatment.
It is a refreshing Pakistani entertainer. It may have more heart than smarts, but it accomplishes what it sets out to.
Rom-coms proliferate in Bollywood, Hollywood or European cinema. What distinguishes them from each other is how they play out in terms of chemistry, imagination, soul, treatment and voices.
Haissam Hussain and Saad Azhar’s Balu Mahi gets that right. They pair Ainy Jaffri with Osman Khalid Butt and throw in Sadaf Kanwal in the second half to uplift the film. The three are effortlessly attractive and relentlessly charming. He is sweet and they are lively. Together, the protagonists share a fine camaraderie that is enough for the film to keep going.
Balu Mahi is not crackling entertainment but it succeeds as a pleasant diversion.
Originally published in the Huffington Post, India.