Last week, Pakistan’s film scene dished out tasters for multiple comedy movies. On 20th November, the trailer for Maan Jao Na was released. Two days later we were given the trailer for Chupan Chupai. And a day later the first-look of Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 was unveiled.
Clearly, I have a problem with almost everything that happens in the world. But please don’t misunderstand me. I do like many Pakistani comedy movies. I liked Na Maloom Afraad, I liked Jawani Phir Nahi Ani (probably more than I care to admit).
But when we are still recovering from Punjab Nahi Jaungi, and Na Maloom Afraad 2, ending the year on the same note that we started on is a sign. It is a sign of redundancy and commercialization.
We can put all the talk about artistic integrity to one side; filmmakers go the comedic route because it is profitable. And it shouldn’t be surprising that comedy movies make money. They always have, everywhere. But the problem isn’t the genre so much as the execution. The central problem isn’t that most Pakistani films are comedies; it is that all of them are the same comedy.
And yes, yes, I know what many will argue; they all tell different stories. But let me put this simply; a film isn’t about the story it tells, it is about how it tells the story. And the how for Pakistani comedies is virtually the same.
In fact, here, let me point out the obvious.
Because all Comedy Movies Have to be Loud
The tone of a film sets it apart from the crowd. Two films with virtually the same plot could end up being completely different because of the tone. For example, compare early Batman films with the Christopher Nolan versions. Same story, different tones.
This is the first problem I have with Pakistani comedy movies. They all have the same tone. What this means is that even though they may rely on different plots, they end up looking the same and having the same effect. They all rely on bright colours, scenic landscapes, an upbeat soundtrack and ‘local humour’. More often than not, they also all rely on an ensemble cast.
In fact, let’s do this. Here are screen-grabs from the trailers of two aforementioned films, Maan Jao Na and Chupan Chupai.
One is a coming of age, romantic comedy, the other relies on political satire. Can you guess which screen belongs to which film? Do they even look like they belong to two separate movies?
They All Need a Political Angle
Sometimes though, a film is lazy enough to rehash whatever has been done before. Read my Rangreza trailer breakdown for a dose of what I mean. In the realm of humour, this done-to-death crown belongs to political satire. It was cute when Zinda Bhaag attempted it. It was also cute when Na Maloom Afraad really did it.
But seven films later, I’m done. I get it, politics is our dinner-table conversation of choice and we have a history of political satire. But it has been done, over and over again. I have seen literally every iteration of the corrupt police officer, politician, feudal landlord imaginable. Can we please, please move on?
And the Sequel Shtick Sustains
And finally, perhaps the most blatant attempt at a cash-grab. When a film makes money, why use it to tell a different story? Especially when you can recast the same names, add more glitter to the same plot and make even more money?
This year brought us the second instalment of Na Maloom Afraad. And while not everyone at The Kollective had a problem with the film (hint hint: Nusair) I wasn’t feeling the charm. When the first film ended, the story had been given a satisfying end as well. It didn’t need another chapter. I could say the same thing about Jawani Phir Nahi Ani, which as I’ve already admitted I liked much more than I thought I would. And yet in the same year, we are given the finished sequel for one and the promise of a sequel for the other.