Movie Name: Dance Kahani
Release Date: Aug 5, 2016
Director: Omar Hassan
Review by: Zeeshan Mahmood
Cinema is the most powerful medium of visual arts and with the rapid advancements in the technology and creative processes, the cinematic experience is becoming more engrossing and intoxicating. The human capabilities of telling compelling stories in different possible ways is increasing day by day as more and more technological and creative possibilities are being created and expanded.
Our budding new-age cinema is slow in adapting to this global phenomenon as it is still in the ‘discovery’ state and taking baby steps towards developing a sustainable film environment in the country. But, the good thing is that, our filmmakers are experimenting with different ideas and making films of varied genres.
Dance Kahani – a first of its kind dance movie in Pakistan – is the recent example of it, as it tells an unconventional story of hip-hop and ballet dancing, something quite unusual for the film industry feared to be heavily influenced by formula-films churning Bollywood, and joins the league of recently released independent and art films as a fresh addition.
The film has no real star power (except a cameo done by legendary film actor Nadeem Baig) as the entire cast and crew is fresh one and it relies solely on one thing: dance – the core theme of the movie. There comes the skills of the film’s director Omar Hassan who has done a tremendous job as the first timer and presented the less-known formats of dance in acceptable and pleasant way. The cinematography is also of good quality and reveals the potentials of the people behind the camera.
British-Pakistani Nizzy (Madeleine Hanna), who has a dream of becoming famous ballerina in UK, is forced by her parents to settle in Pakistan after spending there decades of their lives in abroad. She needs an escape plan and there is no other better than participating in a hip-hop dance competition with a prize money of one million rupees (really?). The problem is to have a crew of her own for which she luckily discovers street hip-hop dancer Tipu (Vernin U’chong) and makes the team with him. They hunt for the other adept dancers in the narrow streets and shops of the city and make ‘Road Crew’ comprised of street dancers including a barber and a waiter.
What follows is the predictable stream of team building, interpersonal clashes, romance (with an unwelcome entry in the crew) and rivalry with the other crew participating in the dance competition. The plot of the film is developed on some ill-conceived and unconvincing turns and twists, but these serve the purpose of creating a reasonable story arc.
The majority of the dialogues, as spoken by the female protagonist, are in English and the audience is not facilitated with Urdu subtitles. This is the weakest point of the film, as common movie watchers who have a lot to get from this blend of indie and commercial cocktail will be disappointed if the ‘beautiful face’ does not make sense to them. The length of the film is another let down, as it could have been expertly skimmed to three quarters of its total run time.
It also needs to be mentioned here that at times the film looks like a project made by some film enthusiasts for a varsity competition. The performances of most of the actors are amateurish and the dialogues sound overly done or impromptu at certain places. Every scene fades out to the dark, although the editing of dance sequences is done fine, and the dubbing does not sync well with actors’ way of speaking.
These shortcomings will make it difficult to recognize Dance Kahani as an equivalent of other indies, like Seedling, Dukhtar and Shah, which were made by more professional people with maturer approach.
Madeleine Hann plays a British Pakistani girl who is neither a full gori nor a full desi, having an identity crisis of its own. Signing a foreign actress for the role could have been debatable if she has not done justice to it. Hann spoke Urdu with great difficulty, which can be understandable by some people having such ‘gora’ cousins, but she maintained a graceful appearance on the screen and gave beautiful dance performances (wishing the last ballet was little longer in duration).
A dance movie is incomplete without good music and Dance Kahani excels here as well. All the tracks are euphonious and in line with the theme of the film. Kudos to the musicians of the film for their work!