So the trailer for Rangreza was recently released. And unlike the Verna trailer which had us obsessing over it, this one has generated a mixed response. On the one hand, it rehashes so much of what I’ve already seen. The plot isn’t original, the music ranges from okay to nice (mostly) and the casting is expected. For the leading pair, we are given the eternally over-exposed Urwa Hocane and Bilal Ashraf.
But then, just as I was about to turn the page (or close the browser window) Gohar Rasheed happened. He burst onto the screen like a phoenix; rising from the ashes of a clichéd plot. His intro shot, water-spray in tow, was enough to give this trailer a second chance.
And so, I watched the whole thing, and even made a list of everything I didn’t and did like.
Clichéd and formulaic
Now, as I mentioned, the film is regurgitating ‘been there done that’ plots. But to give credit where it is due, this is a rare film which rehashes not one but two formulas!
Formulaic plot number one. The main guy is a rock star. He has a lot of money, fame but is also facing a bit of an existential dilemma.
And then, he meets a small town girl. She is really talented, and he wants to make her a star. Over the course of their journey, they also fall in love.
Yes. You have heard this story before.
Formulaic plot number two. Two guys, one girl, they both want her (because she is a thing to be wanted). One of them is a traditional ‘hero’ (tall, handsome, good guy). The other one isn’t.
So, a musical huh?
Right from the onset this film was pushed as a musical. In their interviews, the cast claimed that it was a musical. The promotion said that it is a musical. Even Wikipedia says that the film is a musical.
Question, how is this film a musical? Or, rather, how has almost every recent Pakistani film not been a musical? Okay, let’s define things. In Hollywood musical cinema developed as sort of an extension of stage musicals. According to Wikipedia (yes, I’m using Wikipedia, I didn’t have time to do my research) the typical musical is;
“…a film…in which songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing.The songs usually advance the plot or develop the film’s characters, though in some cases they serve merely as breaks in the storyline, often as elaborate ‘production numbers’…”
Don’t stop what you’re thinking; this does sound like every mainstream Pakistani and Bollywood film ever made. Why? Well, as Kush Varia argues in his book, British India was an immensely multi-lingual society. And music was the tool that allowed local cinema to appeal to a wider audience. Even if different provinces didn’t speak a language, they could appreciate the music and dance. Hence it was accepted as part of the quintessential narrative structure. Because of this, South Asian films (almost) always have musical numbers.
And yes, team Rangreza can still bill this as a musical. But the trailer should then show us something different. Something that puts the music at more of a forefront. As it stands this isn’t the case. The trailer is structured like the film trailers for more than half of the other films.
The soft, traditional girl
The naïve girl-next-door, who is soft and men love her because of it. And then stuff happens to her because society. She is also old fashioned, but in a way that is soft and adorable, of course. In fact, this makes the guys love her all the more.
No, I’m not talking about the leading lady in Rangreza. I’m talking about a vintage Syed Noor lead from the nineties. Yes, this trope is that old. Yes, we are still seeing it.
Rangreza’s lead fits this description so well that her name is “Reshmi” (literally, ‘soft like silk’).
And just in case you weren’t convinced that she is in fact a soft, demure protagonist, the trailer even gives her a foil. For contrast, here is a non-traditional lady.
She has no dialogues in the trailer. We just need to be shown that given a choice, our leading man will go for the reshmi one.
Not that I care about any of the film awards (except the Nigar awards of course) but Gohar Rasheed needs to win all of them!
Oh how this character could have been boring and annoyingly so. But his antagonist (or anti-hero?) is such a pendulum. From the list of interesting Pakistani film characters that I compiled some time ago, you can tell that I love complexity. And I love mess. This take on the ‘other guy’ basically fills every juxtaposition imaginable into Rasheed’s lithe body.
What holds it together is his colossal talent. Going from bawdy comedy to casual violence to passionate drama in the trailer alone, he never misses a beat (get it, because this is apparently a musical).
Take this snippet, where he’s riding a scooter in the dead of the night and slaps himself.
Anyone else would have looked ridiculous. But look at the conviction in his eyes. I am sold.
I will watch the film simply because he’s in it.
Music vs. Music
Okay, so I’ve mentioned how the music should have been featured more prominently. But, what I do love is that the film is actively going to juxtapose the many genres that make up Pakistani music. In the trailer we see snippets of contemporary pop/rock and more traditional qawwali all making a cameo. It will be nice to see a film that both acknowledges and appreciates all the colours of our musical heritage.
Since film is a visual medium, I do have to appreciate the director(s) of photography. I can already tell that they have showcased their locations to perfection. My favourite bit is this bird’s eye shot of a typical dance number.
The vibrant colour against the beige bustle of the city is stunning. This is how you focus in on the action without zooming into the actor’s face.