By Adnan Murad
Films matter because they show who we are.
In films, we use stories to record everyday human concerns, connections and experiences to shape a narrative for our society.
Films offer us a language to communicate with each other across borders and nations; therefore, it will not be inaccurate to state that film is a phenomenon that allows us to appreciate different cultures and people.
In all its manifestations, films are still absolutely important. The Pakistani film industry, in its nascent stage, seems to have run out of compelling or inspiring stories; this is the reason why the television productions have increasingly started to take up the responsibility for bringing Pakistan’s real issues to the forefront. From Sang-e-Marmar to Sammi, the television industry has delivered some really thought-provoking drama serials this year, highlighting national issues that require—or demand—urgent and immediate attention.
However, the role of film-makers is quite questionable in this regard.
This is also the point where Aamir Mohiuddin’s Rangreza falters. The hackneyed representation of the lifestyle of qawwals is unacceptable in this film and even nauseating.
Even though the film-maker gets the setting right, the writing makes this film an exhausting watch, indicating that Mohiuddin and writer Akhtar Qayyum are more interested in creating a burlesque of a romance rather than orchestrating a real love story.
Sadly, Rangreza exactly follows the usual drama template being used in films for over decades. Ali (Bilal Ashraf) falls in love with Reshmi (Urwa Hocane) in just one meeting. Reshmi, on the other hand, is engaged to her cousin Waseem (Gohar Rasheed), who lovingly likes to address himself as ‘Waseem Waalay’.
As the foundation for the film is set, the narrative gets rolling. Ali, through his cousin, tries to be closer to Reshmi. This makes Waseem uncomfortable and he soon starts following his fiancée. Even after knowing that Reshmi is engaged to her cousin, Ali dreams of living his life with her, thinking that he is a better fit for her.
Further, the story revolves around these characters, including their parents, who are merely reduced to caricatures—except Saba Faisal, who plays the role of Reshmi’s mother.
Waseem’s initial quirks come across as gently amusing; however, in less than thirty minutes, all these eccentricities look daft and vacuous. Perhaps the problem is not with writing here; the role is poorly conceived by Rasheed himself, who is constantly brimming with palpable anguish throughout the film.
Rasheed even undoes the little impact made by Ashraf, Faisal and Hocane in their respective roles.
I feel bad because I really wanted Rasheed to perform and give Pakistan its own peculiar, menacing villain. However, his character fails to leave any impression; it happens, primarily, because the character brief given to the actor was fallacious and flawed.
Had this role been portrayed with a little more calm and restraint, it could have been impactful.
Apart from these shortcomings, the film claims to be a musical, while the six odd songs are mostly misplaced—especially the one with transgendered persons, which comes out of nowhere in the film. It seems as if the film-maker just wanted to keep that song in the film; its existence in the film remains unjustified.
Unfortunately, Rangreza’s narrative loses steam in the first 20 minutes; to make things worse, its misplaced vignettes come together lazily—stumbling over their own feet continuously. Also, somewhere around the first half into Rangreza, everyone appears to have lost interest in performing—from lead actors to character artists.
The mediocre dialogue and poor characterisations do not help either. Even though Mohiuddin has assembled an impressive cast, he does not give them enough elbow room to shine or prove their mettle. The most memorable is Saba Faisal; she is smart, empathetic and relatable.
Rangreza gathers emotional momentum in its latter half for some time. However, it dies down soon, owing to the pretentious writing. The problem is that Mohiuddin and Qayyum are unable to mould the larger-than-life persona of this genre into their own more caricaturised brand of love and passion.
This is the reason why Rangreza turns out to be one of the weakest films of this year, standing in the league of duds like Thora Jee Le, Whistle, Raasta, Mehrunisa V Lub U, Yalghaar, Chain Aye Na and Arth: The Destination.
It simply fails to touch you because it is not honest enough, which just broke my heart.