Film: Heer Maan Ja
Release Date: 12th August 2019
Director: Azfar Jafri
Review By: Hassan Hassan
Despite Heer Maan Ja being a smaller film in its magnitude and buzz as compared to the other two big Eid releases, I was counting on it to be the dark horse of the race. It was my first choice among the three films releasing simultaneously courtesy to the team behind it and all the claims of strong content they had made. I find this relevant to put it out there as I had watched all three Eid films back-to-back, on the same day.
As much as I was disappointed with IRK’s previous outing Parchi, I was hoping for Heer Maan Ja to make up for all the unkept promises in the team’s previous offering. Guess I would have to wait for their next production to witness the magic they created in films like Siyaah and Janaan because Heer Maan Ja just did not live to up any expectation or hope that I had from it.
Heer Maan Ja follows Kabir (Ali Rehman Khan), a career-driven young man who, after finding out that he may be suffering from a life-threatening disease, decides to apologize to the people he has hurt in his life to make amends in what could be his last days on earth. This includes his ex, Heer (Hareem Farooq), who is about to get married to her ferocious cousin, Wajdan (Faizan Sheikh).
In the next two hours or so the film unravels how Kabir and Heer get tangled together as opposed to their plans, and we are told what led to their breakup in the first place.
The runaway bride with a reluctant hero to accompany her on her adventures is something we have seen scores of times in films and still, it remains an interesting premise to weave an engaging story around. But what could have been an exciting roller coaster ride ends up being a stale, dull journey with a lot of messy bumps on the way. There are moments from whereon you hope the film would stand up and walk on its feet but much to your dismay, these hopes erode sooner than expected.
Among the few redeemable qualities of the film, the performances by (most of) the cast are applause-worthy.
Ali Rehman as Kabeer is impressive, to say the least. The actor has great comic timing and shines in both romantic and intense sequences. His transition from a careless boy to a sensitive man is relatable and well-conceived and executed. Ali is one actor to look out for and he deserves to get more acting jobs in films other than those by IRK films, that can explore his potential as an actor.
Hareem Farooq as Heer also impresses at many instances. She especially excels in the comic and romantic sequences. She has never looked this beautiful on screen before, and her chemistry with Ali Rehman remains the USP of the film. Although, there are moments in her performance where one feels she could have done better. Like in a few emotional scenes the viewers remain confused whether she’s doing comedy or crying. But still, Hareem as a performer has less of “the low moments” than Heer Maan Ja as a film itself.
Apart from Heer and Kabeer, there is hardly any other character that is well written and has multiple dimensions to it. Faizan Sheikh as Wajdan is one opportunity that the film hugely and glaringly missed. Faizan’s portrayal of a rich, entitled, and ruthless brat is believable but the way the character turns out, in the end, leaves much to be desired. He looks dark and ferocious in the start and makes for a villain that is both stylish and threatening in equal measures, but he loses this malevolence as the film progresses.
Wajdan could have been assigned better motives that would explain why he is such a bad guy that he was portrayed to be. In addition to that, he appears and disappears jarringly from the screenplay and the viewers don’t feel the trepidation when he appears in the climax. Having said that, Sheikh beautifully portrays the role and a lot of people will not recognize him to be that hilarious guy from the popular TV sitcom. He is a capable actor.
Cameos instead of supporting characters
Rest of the supporting cast consists more of cameos and less of the properly carved out characters. The film’s inordinate dependence on cameos rather than fully fleshed out supporting characters make the film a superficial affair where the “supporting cast” is trying extremely hard just to evoke laughs to keep the audience engaged, but those jokes remain irrelevant to the main story. IRK went the same Parchi way i.e. its emphasizes on having as many funny sequences as it can squeeze in and as a result loses concentration on the main story.
There are some laughable moments by Mojiz Hassan, Saleem Mairaj, Shamayle Khattak, and Ali Kazmi, but in most of the instances, the jokes are unfunny. Because no matter how competent the cast is, it cannot rise above such a poorly written script.
Aamina Sheikh as Saba, like the rest of the cast, has good comic timing and she looks smoldering, but despite the vital amount of screen time that is assigned to her, Saba’s relevancy to the story remains a question mark even as the climax approaches. Saba could have served better either as a proper supporting role or the makers could’ve benefited by relegating the “SMS wali Saba” to just a random cameo.
Confused screenplay and direction
In an attempt to stay relevant Heer Maan Ja tries to highlight a few social messages encompassing gender equality and honor killing, but where highlighting these themes enhances could have increased the film’s relate-ability, they erode the overall mood and tempo of the film. The blame could partly go to the poor editing and partly to a shabby screenplay and script.
For example, in one scene the film laments the plight of women with all seriousness and the immediate next scene comprises of entirely dull comedy. As a result, the film’s attempts to address a social issue appears jarring, as if woven rather forcefully into the narrative to give it some seriousness and depth.
The first half introduces character after character, leads to confusion, which apparently according to the maker would suffice as suspense in the second half, never helps the audience engage with the story. By the time the second half starts, you lose interest in Heer and Kabeer’s story. thanks to the overdose of unnecessary characters, despite the second half being done decently well.
The climax scene is so poorly executed that you start to question whether it was directed by Azfar Jafri or not. And the blatant, in your face, product placements are another surprise let down by Azfar and the IRK team. Considering the state of the Pakistani cinema which is still dependent on corporate giants to stand on its feet, it is nearly impossible for filmmakers to avoid product placements in their films. But where rest of the Pakistani cinema has learned to plug in brands subtly, HMJ seemed to be stuck in the Karachi Se Lahore era where dialogues would appear in the script solely to forcefully push fast food and ghee brands down the viewer’s throat.
Other technical letdowns
The music of the film doesn’t leave any major mark either. Addi Maar may be a good wedding dance number, but Zara Sheikh’s poor get up and dance moves leave much to be desired, more so after witnessing the song on the big screen. The romantic songs aren’t a complete disappointment, at least visually. Hareem and Ali look extremely beautiful together in the romantic songs and sequences even though the songs themselves are just adequately good.
The art direction seems interesting in some scenes but is a let down at some other instances where the framing, locations, and backgrounds don’t match with the demand of a scene at all. For example, an intense scene of the villain happens in a brightly lit setting thus taking away the harshness of the antagonist and the conflict itself. Just like the melodrama or comedy of the film, the action sequences are impressive at some points and cheap at others.
Another massive let down was Hareem Farooq’s styling. The flashback part of the film shows Heer as a university student but Hareem’s styling and makeup do not have her come across as a convincing one. There’s no change in her styling throughout the film and that makes her character come across as very stagnant.
Despite Heer Maan Ja juggling multiple genres which are inculcated to ensure a socially relevant commercial flick, the end product remains half-baked. The alternative bouts of comedy and tragedy happen in a jarring manner throughout the entire narrative. And their enjoyability is purely subjective to individual taste.
Heer Maan Ja is a bearable one-time watch only if you are a fan of Ali Rehman and Hareem Farooq or simply enjoy the escapist form of cinema like this team’s previous venture, Parchi.
Rating: 2/5 stars