By Adnan Murad
There is no one, in my knowledge, who understands the middle class of Karachi better than Faseeh Bari Khan. Be it Mohabbat Jaye Bhar Mein or Mitthu Aur Aapa, Khan has captivated us with his oeuvre on television for almost two decades.
In 2016, he wrote Jeewan Hathi, which was directed by Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi. The movie was a true representation of the “societal arrangement we have grown apathetic to.” This was a big achievement because Gaur and Nabi managed to handle and portray the complexity of Khan’s script on the silver screen in less than 60 minutes.
Two years later, they have collaborated once again to bring an eclectic tale of love and loss to life, casting some of the best actors in the country.
Love in contemporary cinema
In present-day Pakistani cinema, love stories have mostly tiptoed around one concept: lovers waging a war against their inner demons. This, my friends, is a far-reaching transformation because films in 80s and 90s mostly focused on lovers fighting the cruel world and their families.
7 Din Mohabbat In, Gaur and Nabi’s latest film, goes a step ahead, leaving these tropes behind to dwell on something even more significant: finding your true self and embracing it.
Sheheryar Munawar Siddiqui is our geeky hero Tipu, a 29-year-old who works in a jewellery shop. He lives with his mother (Hina Dilpazeer) and his cousin Neeli (Mahira Khan). Through a turn of events, he confronts a djinn (Javed Sheikh), Dwarka Prasad, who is from Delhi; Prasad makes a deal with Tipu: if a girl would propose him within seven days then he would become a heart-throb.
The whimsy of this plot has ‘Faseeh Bari Khan’ written all over it. It also unspools in a fashion one expects it to and there is something winsome in the flavour of 7 Din Mohabbat In: it is funny, flamboyant and full of vim.
Dissecting the film
Comedy and romance play off each other like a daydream in this parable.
Tipu, by the end of the film, finds his true self. But I found myself rooting for Neeli. I was yearning to see her transformation. I wanted to know more about her life, her backstory, and so many other things. It is a rarity because only few characters are written in a way that you want to know more about them.
The film is essentially about Tipu and Neeli and about their togetherness in the face of loneliness.
The focus, however, is on Tipu, who needs to break free and be loved.
The women in the film are confined to playing supporting roles, especially the ones who are ready to invest in a relationship (Amna Ilyas’ Ghazala) and the ones who express their feelings and seek true direction in love (Mira Sethi’s Princess Sonu and Rimal Ali’s Mona Lisa).
Mahira’s Neeli is the mirror in which Tipu will eventually spot his real reflection; she is the one who will make him realise that he is much more than regular and mediocre. She is clearly less confused and more evolved than the hero.
The film might be Siddiqui’s and he might be good and earnest and all that, but Mahira makes a bigger impact here in a role that leaves us wanting for more.
I find this quite strange because usually the central protagonist gets a viewer’s attention.
On the other hand, when I go to watch Gaur and Nabi’s films, I am always looking forward to see a specific city as one of their central characters. In their films, cities convey different meanings: in terms of ideology, theatrical events and translating the perception of a reality. The expectations were further elevated when I came to know that the writer of this film is one of the best chroniclers of Karachi.
No wonder 7 Din Mohabbat In insistently depicts the perpetual movement of the sea, conveys the energy of people’s transits and portrays the spirit of Karachi with tremendous fluidity.
7 Din Mohabbat In weaves its spell, bringing back to life, in some measure, the spirit of more inventive movies by the same magicians.
There is definitely a good thought that Khan invests in 7 Din Mohabbat In and some moments do come alive and reach out strongly under Gaur and Nabi’s direction.
The appearances of Ali, Ilyas and Sethi are thoughtful. But these promising ideas could have been further fleshed out.
There is a wonderful character study lurking within the confines of vignettes involving Mona Lisa, Ghazala and Princess Sonu, but Gaur and Nabi drift around them in an unwieldy running time to subvert rigid societal norms—never quite justifying their heft.
If you can overcome that obstacle, 7 Din Mohabbat In has many pleasures: good dialogue, a soothing score, an element of mystery (can be predictable for some) and an idyllic setting. It is also gorgeously shot using what appears to be a lot of natural light. You can practically feel the heat of the sun emanating from the screen. It may not be without its flaws, but it offers a pleasant diversion from reality, and what more could you want from an Eid release?