Movie Name: Ready Steady No
Release Date: 19th July, 2019
Director: Hisham Bin Munawar
Review by: Hassan Hassan
It’s always exciting to see films made by débutante directors for they, potentially, could bring a new vision and film-making style with them, thus bringing something fresh at the table. Just two examples of filmmakers who brought freshness to screens with their debut projects are Nabeel Qureshi, who brought socially relevant slapstick comedy with his debut film Na Maloom Afraad, and Asim Abbasi who explored impressionism and symbolism via his debut film Cake.
In Ready Steady No‘s case, the opening credit scene involving a puppetry sequence gets you intrigued, hoping that the otherwise low budget affair may have something fresh in the offering with regard to its content, however, the excitement fizzles out sooner than the carbonation in your cola drink.
What could have been another Zinda Bhaag for local cinema turns out into a sitcom/stage drama like sequences that masquerades as a cinematic affair, that too a lousy one.
The story follows Raziya (Amna Illyas) and Faisal (Faisal Saif), two middle class lovers from different Punjabi castes. Razia’s widowed father (Salman Shahid) is as reluctant to get his daughter betrothed outside his community, as Faisal’s fierce and bossy mother (Nargis Rasheed). Unwilling to give in, the couple keeps protesting, until they land on a decision to elope when all negotiations are futile.
While the basic plot depicts a redundant theme in south Asian cinema it’s always the treatment and storytelling technique that decides the ultimate fate of the film. The director shows spark at some places but unfortunately that’s not enough to ensure an entertaining watch.
An Amna Ilyas and Salman Shahid show altogether
The only thing that gives a cinematic believability and feel to the film is Ilyas’s presence. The fact that she gave a stellar performance in Saqib Malik’s masterpiece Baaji, only adds to the assertion. The film was shot a few years ago before Baaji but still, she shows maturity as an actor and effortlessly managed a wide range of emotions.
Such is the extent that, in most of the frames she manages to overpower pretty much every co-star with her pleasantly conspicuous presence. The observation could be made till the end credit shaadi number, despite it being a low scale and poorly choreographed song.
Amna Ilyas is surely the next big thing of Pakistani cinema and it’s time she gets acting jobs in films on a regular basis.
The veteran Salman Shahid shines as Ilyas’s widowed father. His comic timings are effortless and spot on. He manages to evoke some laughs despite the dialogues given to him being bland at most of the places.
The film’s main protagonist Faisal Saif, however, turns out to be the biggest disappointment. He seems unenthusiastic in scenes where energy and assertiveness is required. For example when he tries to convince his parents in the film’s start or when he confronts Razia’s father. There are hardly any variations in vocal and facial expressions, even in the extremes of the scenes and situations.
Supporting cast does what is expected of them
Like the film itself, the supporting cast offer moments of fun with their acting. The film’s cast boasts of a supporting cast of many veteran actors. Muneer Ahmed plays Detective Muneer. While he remains funny at the start, like the film itself, his scenes become dragged and repetitive to say the least. Ismail Tara, Ashraf Khan, and Nayyar Ejaz, do what is expected of them but the poor script does not allow them to give a memorable performance. Nargis Rasheed as the bossy and fearsome matriarch looks convincing with her body language and dialogue delivery.
From the new lot, Marhoom Ahmed Bilal (Billu Butt in Teefa In Trouble) as a lawyer cum grocery delivery guy deserves a special mention amongt the supporting cast. He provides a lot of fun moments and perhaps remains the most amicable supporting character in the film. Afzal Zain as the cleric is, again, funny in bits. Had he been given the lead role of Faisal, film could have been salvaged in part for its lack of chemistry between the lead couple.
Unfortunately the cast alone, isn’t able to save the film from being a disastrously boring affair.
Relevant themes let down by poor writing
The director and writer Hisham Bin Munawar has glimpses of Shoaib Mansoor’s style in his writing and direction, whom he had assisted earlier. He follows his content templates like casteism, religious bigotry, manipulating, self righteous clergy, lack of respect for artists, media vigilantism, inefficient police system etc. Similarly well infused satire and avoidance of unnecessary sex jokes gives the film a ShoMan vibe.
The themes may be brave and laudable to explore, but there are more let down moments than the ones which he excels at. Most of the times, the product turned out to be bland and half baked, thanks to poorly written dialogues and scenes, and in an attempt to sound funny the film becomes caricaturist.
Especially the unrealistic and bizarre climax sequence which aims to make the antagonists realize the fickleness of caste system is against the whole realistic tone of the film. Save for another puppet sequence, the film actually mocks viewers, and itself, in the last 20-30 minutes for being a no-brainer.
Music and Editing does not help the film
The songs and background music are just adequate and nothing to shout about. Dekho Dekho, a romantic number, does generate interest in the start though.
Apart from the poor script writing the biggest drawback in the film is its poor editing and cinematography. The are 10-15 minutes long scenes in claustrophobic settings which gives an impression of a sitcom or a stage play. You may feel as if a telefilm was unnecessarily released on cinemas. I doubt most of the viewers would maintain interest by the time the second half kicks in.
For a new, independent director it is indeed courageous and encouraging to make a social film on a shoestring budget but at the end of the day the film is supposed to entertain and not bring boredom. Being a first time director or having a low budget doesn’t suffice to gain local viewers support/ encouragement.
Getting a good story and well written script is very much possible in a low budget. The sooner the Pakistani filmmakers, specially the aspiring ones, realize it, the better it is for the industry. The “support Pakistani cinema” slogan is wearing off and there are very few viewers left to buy it.
Is Ready Steady No socially relevant? Yes, it does contain themes which fit the bill. Is it entertaining or bearable in cinemas as a feature film? The answer is a big NO.