By Adnan Murad
Punjab Nahi Jaungi is not about love, but loss. It is a tale about coming to terms with losing someone you love. The relationship of Fawad (Humayun Saeed) and Amal (Mehwish Hayat) breaks fresh ground on two accounts: it uses tragic romance of Heer-Ranjha in the backdrop to craft a more contemporary love story, and it is unforgiving in the way it sees Amal independently making decisions of her life, even if she doesn’t know whether to run towards Fawad or away from him.
Punjab Nahi Jaungi breaks away from the hollow romantic films that Pakistani filmmakers have been making for the last four years.
Punjab Nahi Jaungi has Fawad and Amal at the centre of its narrative. It gives them enough elbow room to reach an agreement; in this process, it also allows them to chat, flirt and spar just like normal people do. Even though Fawad immediately falls in love with Amal, it takes a lot of time to convince her of his love, which I found a bit manufactured.
Love comes in all shapes and sizes. However, the idea of showing money as a guarantor of true love is truly bizarre. Perhaps, this is one of the points, where the film stumbles and takes a lot of time to justify this idea.
However, Punjab Nahi Jaungi breaks away from the hollow romantic films that Pakistani filmmakers have been making for the last four years. They have no provenance or originality. The fact that writer Khalilur Rehman Qamar uses Heer-Ranjha’s story to form the character arcs of his main protagonists is just so impressive. The writer knows where his characters are coming from and where he wants them to go.
The film’s strength lies in the fact that two people start their journey on a completely discordant note. In fact, we are all aware that they will end up walking side by side, but they make us smile as they walk through this path.
Even though Hayat and Saeed act well, the heavy lifting is done by the supporting actors.
Director Nadeem Baig has given his main protagonists enough space to find the right notes in their performances. Their performances uplift the mood of this film. Even though Hayat and Saeed act well, the heavy lifting is done by the supporting actors, including Urwa Hocane, Saba Hameed, Ahmad Ali Butt, Waseem Abbas, Sohail Ahmed and Naveed Shehzad.
Baig, in this film, challenges the idea of a tall, dark and handsome hero, who is singing, dancing and fighting for his heroine. He, with the help of Qamar, has shown Fawad as a hero, who is more vulnerable and emotionally fragile. The only blow comes in the form of physical abuse that Fawad resorts to in order to confront Amal. This was a major misstep by Fawad’s character, but it further strengthened my belief that men are really insecure.
Perhaps, Qamar also used this to portray how men fear confrontation with women. The entire family blames Fawad for taking this ignominious step. No one defends violence here or delivers monologues to lecture us on physical abuse. The writer keeps the tone quite subtle. He uses humour to put Fawad in an awkward position to slowly make him realise his mistake.
There is a sequence in the film when Fawad visits Mai Heer’s tomb, where we can clearly see him reaching the ascetic state of mind for a while. This is the most symphonically berserk and surreal moment in this empathetic love story.
In the primordial love legend of Heer-Ranjha, Ranjha accepted his fate and became a ‘jogi’, but Qamar slightly challenges the conventions here. Fawad goes all out to get his loved one and to fight for his love. In the original legend, it is Heer who challenges societal norms to fight for her love. Amal, in this film, is not stout-hearted like Heer. She is an incredibly strong woman, but her role in this film is not even remotely proactive like Heer, or Sohni.
The story, obviously, contradicts the original romance, but it has its heart at the right place. It is just the first step on a long road of cinematic excellence that Pakistani cinema is aiming to achieve in the years to come.
Baig combines apt story, sense of place and characters into a convincing whole, making it a striking achievement for Pakistani cinema.
The characters in this film are completely different from Mai Heer and Mian Ranjha, because the story is set in modern times. Nevertheless, the character arcs of Amal and Fawad have one thing in common: they are both confused individuals. However, this is solely my interpretation of the film. The writer’s interpretation could have been different, while penning the script of this film.
On the whole, Punjab Nahi Jaungi is a watchable film. Baig turns this love affair into a sweet, absorbing tale, which hits the right spots in enough places. Baig’s direction is unflinchingly clear-eyed. He combines apt story, sense of place and characters into a convincing whole, making it a striking achievement for Pakistani cinema.