Pari (Review): Anything but a horror film

Movie Name: Pari

Release Date: February 2, 2018

Director: Syed Atif Ali

Review by: Momina Mindeel

When Pari’s trailer was released last year, Pakistani publications could not stop gushing over what was supposed to be a pioneer in Lollywood’s modern horror film department. While one publication called it goosebump-inducing, others referred to the trailer as promising. Being a horror movie buff myself, I, too, was looking forward to it. Pari was initially scheduled to release on Halloween 2017 but it got delayed on account of some unknown reasons.

The film finally hit cinemas earlier this month and (un)fortunately, could not leave any impact whatsoever, just like the other recent films to come out of Lollywood including Rangreza and Parchi. The film was anything but original.  With an incredibly uneven pace, bad acting, weak plot and unnecessary incorporation of religion vs. science debate, Pari was far from being a horror film. In all honesty, it looked like an experiment gone wrong that the directors or actors cared too little to rectify.

The film revolves around a couple, Mehwish (Azekah Daniel) and Shehram (Junaid Akhtar), and their daughter Pari (Khushi Maheen) who move to a new house somewhere in the mountains of Ayyubia. Nobody knows why they’ve moved to a new house and why the wife is such a brooding young mother throughout because the film does not bother to explain any of that.

From there on, the film just progresses as a misplaced mystery that the director seems to have no sense or inclination of resolving. As soon as they enter the house, disturbing things start happening (hint hint: it’s the same disturbing stuff that we have seen in every horror film to have ever come out). The doors are opening and closing brusquely, the rocking chair keeps rocking on its own, lights go out every now and then and there’s a spirit of the young boy who keeps drinking Pari’s milk every night.

The first half of the film is basically Mehwish crying all the time amidst all of these eerie happenings while Shehram tries to console and communicate with her. Mehwish, a true embodiment of every stereotypical characteristic out there of a desi woman, always pushes him away and just plainly refuses to communicate. At one occasion, however, she complains to his husband that all of this is happening because he did not let her organize a Quran-Khuwani in the new house. So apparently, if you’re not a Muslim and cannot hold a Quran Khuwani, please lock your doors because scary things are about to happen to your family. Gotcha!

Just when the film is about to get scary, it abruptly shifts to Shehram and Mehwish’s (again misplaced) love story; between a teacher and a student. Shehram gets attracted to Mehwish during when one of his lectures when she blatantly attacks his atheistic views and he is left speechless (honestly, give me a break). The scene is then followed by a whole sequence of them falling in love and getting married. The sequence, in my opinion, was utterly unnecessary. In fact, this time could have been used to develop the plot further but you cannot always have what you want. Now, do you?

Cherry on top of the many unexplained things are the recurring appearance of a nun in Mehwish’s dressing table mirror (I swear the nun shots have been stolen from Hollywood because there is no explanation to them whatsoever) and a scar on her right arm. There is no story behind them, at least not in the movie, and they are not even culturally appropriate, to begin with. If the lack of Islamic values is what you’re attributing this whole drama to, at least have the sagacity to use culturally or religiously appropriate evil spirits.

In the acting department, one would expect the veterans like Qavi Khan, Rasheed Naz and Saleem Mairaj to lend at least some support to the crumbling story but unfortunately, they do not and it looks like more of the director’s fault than the actors themselves.  Azekah Daniel, on the other hand, seems to have some potential but her character’s transition from a happy beloved to a brooding mother is not only abrupt but out-of-place as well. This could again be attributed to the director’s lack of direction skills. My sincere apologies to Syed Atif Ali but it was how it was.

Moving on to the music department, there is nothing, in particular, to talk about because the film hardly features any songs. The Ali Maula Sufi track, towards the end, however, might be the only good thing about the whole movie. Lastly, as earnestly as I want our local cinema to flourish, please do yourself a favor and don’t watch Pari.

Final word: Pari is one of the weakest movies to have come out of the Pakistani cinema which reaffirms our faith in the notion that we should just stick to making love stories.

Rating: 1/5 stars