By Adnan Murad
At a time when Pakistani cinema is reeling under a glut of comedies, Na Maloom Afraad 2 (NMA2) almost achieves what it targets, hanging in somewhere between comedies that are downright vulgar and comedies that are not funny at all.
In NMA2, writers Fizza Ali Meerza and Nabeel Qureshi use characters and themes from 2014’s Na Maloom Afraad to establish strong grounds for the sequel. As the film starts, Farhan (Fahad Mustafa) and Shakeel Bhai (Javed Sheikh) receive a threat call to pay extortion money. Obviously, they are more affluent now and running a successful pickle business. Soon after, their company is reduced to ashes for not complying and they lose all their wealth.
After few days, they get a call from Moon (Mohsin Abbas Haider), who is now living in Cape Town, South Africa, and is soon going to marry Parri (Hania Aamir). Moon invites them, along with Naina (Urwa Hocane), to attend his wedding ceremony.
NMA2 is a quite well-intentioned film, but it lacks depth and insight.
They reach Cape Town without wasting time. Initially, Farhan and Shakeel Bhai hide their financial situation from Moon to avoid embarrassment. However, soon things start to get complex and the narrative gets rolling. The first half moves at an accelerated pace, making way for the second half. Things get even more convoluted in the latter half, where the writers have to neatly bring the film to a satisfying end, without crossing the two-hour mark.
The thing is… NMA2 is a quite well-intentioned film. It tries to make a strong point during the second half regarding unfair wealth distribution in our society. It’s even shot in a fairly authentic setting. However, it lacks depth and insight. Also, the writers’ desire to make social commentary on deeply rooted inequalities in the society looks forced; it also comes too late and just doesn’t hit the right note.
Nevertheless, the writers raise pertinent questions in their film. Meerza and Qureshi serve up humour in variety, ranging from jokes on Pakistani politicians to dramatisation of extravagant lifestyle of Arab royals.
NMA2, visibly, is a film with a soul. But it is too hollow to make an impact even when it tries to address serious issues. Perhaps the writers are not even trying to make an impact on people’s lives and are just aiming to provide good entertainment.
It’s likely that Meerza and Qureshi have preferred to skip the painstaking job of making multiple re-drafts of their screenplay. This is the reason why everything is perfect for the first hour, but things start getting awry after the first hour.
Qureshi’s work reflects that he is assured of his craft and is worth looking out for in future.
And Mustafa gives a fairly good performance. He was his usual self in the film, but he has this likable screen presence that provides life to the film. There are scenes where he positively shines. However, Mohsin Abbas Haider is the strongest link of this film. He doesn’t hit a wrong note, delivering a standout performance.
Does it work?
Overall, NMA2 is a run-of-the-mill film, which is watchable due to its noble intentions, and interesting enough to be recommended for a one-time watch. Qureshi’s work reflects that he is assured of his craft and is worth looking out for in future.
Meerza and Qureshi deserve applause for showing good entertainment in the light that it deserves, with the exception of an unnecessary item number. They also need to be lauded for abandoning the conventional formula of throwing in a comedian to provide the laughs. Instead, they pack the film with humour that arises out of everyday characters and seemingly normal situations.
Still, I was not satisfied. I left the cinema thinking about the film. What if Moon had moved to Lahore instead of Cape Town? What if the writers had put local leaders under the spotlight instead of an Arab royal? These things hit me hard because cinemagoing is a sociocultural experience for me and the cinema where I watched the movie was also linked to a certain notion of that space.
When we watch films in cinema, we want local cities to be a part of them because perception about cities is shaped by people’s experiences and sociocultural processes. This is the reason why this film merely worked for providing entertainment. However, it failed to construct a symbolic and mental setting for me. In The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch argues that:
“At every instant, there is more than the eye can see, more than the ear can hear, a setting or a view waiting to be explored. Nothing is experienced by itself, but always in relation to its surroundings, the sequences of events leading up to it, the memory of past experiences… Every citizen has had long associations with some part of his city, and his image is soaked in memories and meanings.”
Even though I am partially happy with Qureshi’s film, I am still thinking how it could have been made differently.