Punjab Nahi Jaungi (Review): The genre-bender is a win for Pakistani Cinema!

Movie Name: Punjab Nahi Jaungi

Release Date: September 1, 2017

Director: Nadeem Baig

Review by: Momin Ali Munshi

Punjab Nahi Jaungi is nothing like you have ever seen before unless you’ve seen a film where you are teary-eyed and laughing at the same time as the climax unfolds! When I first saw the film, and I’ve seen it twice, I was not able to fully comprehend what I had just seen on the silver screen. Why? Because from the outset, the film was pegged as an intense romantic drama but what unveiled on the silver screen was so much more.

From the word go the film elicits laughter be it the characters, the scenes or entire sequences. Now mind you it’s not a drama with some comic moments, or an outright comedy with some serious elements but the share of comedy and drama is about fifty percent each. Almost all the major plot twists, which are high on drama, are supplemented with some comedy.

So is it a romantic comedy given that the story is about Fawad Khagga and his quest for Heer? Not really, because as soon as the romantic comedy could establish itself, boom another arch begins. So then what? Well, from my understanding when I deciphered the characters and analyzed the story, this genre bender quite loosely can be termed as a satirical film.You might be wondering why I am obsessing over the genre of the film and I promise I’ll explain. But first the plot:

The film begins with Fawad Khagga ( Humayun Saeed) returning home to Faisalabad after securing a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Lahore, while his cousin Amal (Mehwish Hayat) is returning home to Karachi after her Masters in Economics from London. Durdana ( Urwa Hocane) is another cousin who lives in Faisalabad and is madly in love with Fawad but Fawad wants to marry Amal, who by the way he hasn’t seen in ages and is in love with after seeing a picture sent by his mother. But Amal is in a relationship with Vasay( Azfar) and turns down the rishta sent by Fawad. And with that begins the journey of Punjab Nahi Jaungi.

Coming back to the genre discussion, there is a crucial scene in the film where Fawad slaps Amal and feels absolutely zero remorse for his actions. He then calls Durdana and asks her what would she do had he slapped her, and here cheeky reply is ‘once more’. The audience in the theatre was divided into two fractions after this exchange with half laughing it out and the other half appalled. ‘They did not just do that’ was a comment I heard coming from the back of the cinema and by the time the film ended there was this constant discussion about it being an entertainer with some regressive themes and I kinda sorta agreed.

Then when I saw the film for the second time I closely noted all such instances where the film seemed regressive, the motivations of the characters a bit flawed and issues with the story. It was then that I came to the conclusion that a film which very vehemently propagates the idea that women should not be bound to the chaar diwari, empowers women and raises so many important points can not be a regressive no-brainer! I came to the realization that the film is kind of spoofing its own self and trying to raise awareness by making light of the situation.

The reason I spent half of the review talking about this is because discussion everywhere is centered around this slap and the weak story and I cannot help but say out loud that you are missing the point! The writer Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar and director Nadeem Baig are trying to talk about the issues we face in Pakistan, but instead of going all preachy they have used a satirical approach. In a way, they are making fun of themselves to start a discussion, or at least that’s what I feel.

Coming back to the film all parties involved have done tremendously well. On the acting front Humayun’s portrayal of Fawad Khagga, which could have come across as forced or over the top, seems just perfect and definitely will stay with the audiences for quite some time. He does rather well with his goofy character and it was great seeing him out of comfort zone. Mehwish shows once again why she is star and delivers in every frame which has her present. The infamous slap scene with Humayun is one of my favorites from the film as far as Mehwish’s performance is concerned. But the true surprise package was Urwa, who despite a much smaller screen time leaves a huge impact. Yes, she does have some of the best dialogues but it’s how she perfects her desi girl act is what has me lauding the actress.

The supporting actors all put up a great show too. Azfar Rehman makes his film debut and genuinely looks every bit a movie star with his short yet impactful role.Ahmad Ali Butt is funny in his scenes and definitely brightens the frame. Sohail Ahmed and Naveed Shahzad are a class apart and words cannot do justice to the two legends and their dialogue delivery and screen presence. Saba Hamid, Waseem Abbas and everyone else adds value to the film.

Director Nadeem Baig already proved his talent with Jawanui Phir Nahi Ani and only takes things a few notches higher with Punjab Nahi Jaungi. The film is beautifully shot, production values high and makes for a great watch. The only issue I have is with the duration of the film, which was a bit too long and could have been reduced to make the film crisper. Add to that the brilliant characterization and dialogues by Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar and you have a winner. The fact that a few of the dialogues are already making their way into the pop culture are proof of his brilliance.

The songs of the film are an interesting mix, but what I would like to mention here is the background score which is particularly great. It’s good to see that we are finally giving the background score some importance here in Pakistan. As for the songs, there is a little bit of everything in this album but the duration of the songs both audio and video wise could have been reduced.

Final Word: It is the perfect family entertainer for you to enjoy in cinemas with your family and celebrate how far we have come in this new age of cinema.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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I might be an Economics graduate from LUMS, but cinema is where my heart truly belongs. Always up for a discussion on fims and I guess you could call me a Pakistani Cinema aficionado. Email: mominalimunshi@yahoo.com

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