7 Din Mohabbat In … Or Not

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Okay. So I don’t like film premiers. Granted, me being invited to the premier of 7 Din Mohabbat In was an anomaly. But once was enough to make my mind up for me; I don’t like film premiers. In part, arriving an hour late probably didn’t help. But I spent the event pitifully stalking the cast of the movie, as did everyone else. It was a claustrophobic mess, and I didn’t get a selfie with Mahira Khan out of it. So there.

Although, when I did manage to corner Hina Dilpazeer, the selfie turned out great. I just left out one, tiny detail.

Me. I left myself out of the selfie.

But hey, I wore red lipstick. So I guess it wasn’t a complete disappointment.

Usually, I leave the glitz of the entertainment industry to Nusair. But, he had to pass on 7 Din Mohabbat In. And so, here I am; reviewing a Pakistani movie. Trying to feign the kind of lazy savagery that he has made a name for himself via. But I promise you, I will try my best.

Short Disclaimer (And Spoiler Alert) 

Film reviews should not be taken as fact. They are opinions, backed by facts when the writer has some sense of propriety. But, they are opinions nonetheless. So, please do not take your cue to either watch or not watch a movie from a blog. Also, regardless of the audience reaction, the work that goes into making a film cannot be disregarded. Neither can it stop films from being the conceptualizations of visions. Nothing I write takes away the fact that someone believed in this idea, and decided to stand behind it.

There; this disclaimer should keep any hurt sentiments at bay. Whatever I write is how I saw this film. It cannot take away from your experience. And in fact please, in spite of this review, go watch the movie.

And if you don’t like spoilers, go away.

 

In A Gini’s Bottle

Since this review is as much about bridging the gap of Nusair’s absence as it is about documenting my own thoughts, let’s begin with a score. My score for 7 Din Mohabbat In: 6/10. A five out of ten for me is pretty neutral. Where, I wouldn’t care if you watched the movie or not. Hence, a six is a slightly more enthusiastic, “yeah, go watch it.” And a slightly more dejected, “oh you didn’t like it?”

Slightly.

7 Din Mohabbat In is an interesting beast, with its heart almost in the right place. It revolves around the loveably hapless jeweller Tipu (Shehryar Munawar Siddiqui). Tipu wants to be a ‘hero’ rather than the ‘zero’ that he perceives himself to be. Or to use his own words, he wants to go from being faluda to faulaad.

We also have his live-wire of a cousin Neeli (Mahira Khan). Neeli is Tipu’s unwavering fan and source of support. But if only the affection of one stunningly beautiful woman was enough. And so Tipu enlists the help of Dwarka Prasad (Javed Shaikh) a jinn that he chances upon, to make him every woman’s fantasy.

Now to be fair, there is that tiny detail about Neeli being engaged to a legitimate psychopath, gunshots and all. Her fiancé Naseer Kankata (Aamir Qureshi) is misogyny incarnate. He has blown through his previous wives (yes plural) and now has designs on Neeli. And as feisty as Neeli is, she is not able to get out of the forced match. And so, she must encourage Tipu to first realize that he loves her and then find the courage to do something about it.

Meanwhile, the jinn turns out to be dubious. Tipu now has seven days to get a woman to say that she loves him, if he succeeds he’ll get everything he wants. If he fails, he will be Dwarka Prasad’s slave, forever! Oh and also, the woman he finally bags needs to have a mole on her face. This little McGuffin is kind of important, so hold on to it.

As is to be expected with such a mishmash of Beauty and The Beast and The Ring, drama ensues. And we are taken along for an often bumpy, albeit mostly charming ride.

 

Match Made in Heaven

Beginning with the reasons to come along, let’s talk about the leading pair. This is going to be a tall claim, but I think that Mahira and Shehryar are the perfect local film couple. Their chemistry is undeniable, and adorable.

When the film begins, they already have a pretty established friendship. Neeli is Tipu’s orphan cousin, and lives with him and his mother (played to bizarre perfection by Hina Dilpazeer). And it is also obvious that they harbour varying degrees of affection for each other. Of course, Tipu doesn’t dare make a move because Neeli is betrothed to a certifiable lunatic. But this doesn’t stop the two from making you root for them.

As the film progresses, their relationship matures. Going from awkwardly one-sided in the beginning to endearingly passionate in the end. And every moment they are together on screen is pure gold. I suppose this is because theirs is a love rooted in friendship and respect. Rather than falling for each other at first sight, they have been together their whole life. And their relationship has buckets of camaraderie dumped onto it.

Now, I did have one problem when the film began. We are informed that there is something wrong with Tipu. That he isn’t the kind of guy our vanity obsessed society would fawn over. And yet when you look at Shehryar Munawar Siddiqui, rippling muscles and disarming smile in tow, you don’t buy this. Tipu doesn’t need magical intervention, he needs a shower and a wardrobe change. And I suppose one of the strengths of this movie is that it realises this. As it progresses, we realize that his problem isn’t external. Or to put it in romantic terms, he has to see himself through the eyes of someone who loves him. And once he does (with Neeli’s help of course) he becomes a more complete version of himself. To this end, these two even make the nineties relic that is a makeover montage seem fresh and fun.

 

The Heroes We Needed

The film has to be commended for  the kind of underdog it asks us to get behind. I’ve had a huge problem with Pakistani cinema’s panache for painfully jerky leading men. Ranging from spineless to violent, these guys usually come equipped with some suitably problematic screenplays to boot. In contrast, Tipu (for the most part) is a genuinely nice guy. The scene where he helps Mona Liza (Rimal Ali) evade some goons is incredibly endearing.

And so, when he is frustrated with himself and wants to change, we kind of hope he succeeds. Simply for the sake of his happiness.

But the standout character of the movie is definitely Neeli. Firstly, to see Mahir Khan slip into such a different role after Verna is great. And I must say, this is my favourite Mahira performance. Some people have had issues with her being a bit too affected in the past, but here she is perfect. She is a whimsical ray of sunshine, all while being enterprising. Neeli is a hopeless romantic, stacking up love poems and love potions (kind of) whenever she can.

But she also knows what she wants and is pretty resourceful when it comes to getting it. Like when she helps Tipu get a makeover in return for a simple date. Or when she distracts her evil would-be husband in a bid to protect Tipu. Essentially, she believes that she can live her life on her own terms. And uses any means at her disposal to advance her goal.

She is also a genuinely funny character. Mahira Khan is the national sweetheart, and is stunning. But, Neeli isn’t eye candy. Or rather, that isn’t just what she is. In fact, she is allowed to have fun and be fun. At one point, the draconian realities of her life are laid bare in front of her. And her aunt commands her to come out of her room, echoing the audience’s fears about Neeli harming herself. But when Neeli does emerge, she is a shining beacon of positivity, wrapped in a chiffon saree. She hasn’t given up hope, her resolve just needed a new outfit.

From 7 Din Mohabbat In’s teaser

In fact, that both Tipu and Neeli are loveable makes the almost sad turn at the climax of the film, well, really sad. Because we actually want them to be happy.

 

On The side

This film has a ton of subplots and side characters. For the most part, I didn’t like them. But, there were some endearing diamonds in the rough.

Let’s begin with Mona Liza, the bar dancer with the heart of gold. I find item numbers cringe worthy at the best of times. But how they incorporated a heartfelt message about our shared humanity made this one palatable. Mona Liza is also transgender model Rimal Ali’s first role. And while it is a tiny appearance, the character still leaves an impression.

Beo Rana Zafar is hilarious as Pinoo, and did elicit the heartiest laugh from the audience. I also really liked the eccentric ‘professor’ who gives Tipu the Gini bottle. Quoting quadratic equations and Shakespeare in the same breath, he was also a nice little addition to the movie.

Javed Shaikh is being an exaggerated version of the stock character that he plays in almost all Pakistani movies. He is such a good actor that I wish he were given more nuanced roles. But then again, it’s Javed Shaikh. So even an over the top heckling mess is better than what some of his contemporaries could muster.

 

The Ambiance

Arguably, this movie is meant to be a modern, desi fairy tale. And so the stylistic elements matter, maybe just a bit more than in other films. And again, I feel that many aspects of the movie work. The cinematography is really lovely, presenting Karachi as a kaleidoscope of colours, troubles and romances. I particularly liked the transition from day to night, that  conveys the dejection and hope. Coupled with the plethora of characters, the cinematography builds the city up as this would be wonderland with an edge. Anything can happen here, and that’s not always a good thing.

The soundtrack of the movie is also lovely, each song adding to the overall feel of the film. My personal favourite was the rendition of Amir Khusro’s immortal words. Granted ‘Kaahe Ko Biyahi Bides’ comes out of nowhere as the film takes a turn for the dramatic. But, again it adds to the mood, and it is such a beautiful track, so I can’t complain.

Also, and this might seem unimportant, but I have to commend the wardrobe department. The styling, particularly for the three ladies, is really, really well done. Can every other production house please take note? Thank you very much.

 

Too Many Leading Ladies

But of course, we cannot have a Pakistani romantic comedy without its flaws. Here, the curse of the subplot strikes again. I suppose it is doubly problematic for this movie, because it has a pretty interesting main plot. And the couple, as we have established, is all kinds of ‘made for each other’. So, when something distracts from what is working, it isn’t just annoying, it is infuriatingly annoying.

Tipu needs to find a lady with a mole, and Neeli isn’t that lady. So off he goes, having side adventures with Ghazala (Amna Ilyas) and Princess Sonu (Meera Sethi, also yes, that is her name in the movie). Now, granted these women have to serve as distractions, not just for Tipu but also the audience. We know that he isn’t really going to end up with either one. But the script injects some serious political debates into these subplots, so that we can’t just look away. We, I’m hoping, are genuinely concerned about Ghazala and Princess Sonu’s safety.

This also unfortunately brings Tipu’s morality into question.

From 7 Din Mohabbat In’s teaser

So, remember how I said he is a decent guy most of the time? Yeah, so when he decides to be less than decent, it is a bit of a mess. At one point in the film, ‘women’s rights activist’ (I will not even get into this) Ghazala is accused of potential terrorism (like I said, a mess) and imprisoned. She then tries to call Tipu multiple times. But he ignores her calls, opting instead to look for another lady with a mole on her face.

Now, ignoring that she has access to a cellphone while in jail for attempted terrorism, this is a serious problem. At this point, the choice isn’t just ‘true love’ versus ‘not exactly true love’; Ghazala is in jail! And she is being accused of a very serious crime, that she did not commit. So Tipu ignoring her is just about the worst thing anyone could do. It also is inconsistent with respect to his character. Up until this point, he has been a nice guy. Later, he is again, a nice guy (helping Sonu with her own forced marriage. Yes, this movie has not one, but two forced marriage angles). Why, then, is he an ass***** at this point?

Also, remember when Jalebi was released and people complained about Sabeeka Imam’s distracting British accent? Well, in lieu of Meera Sethi’s wooden performance, it is strangely comforting to see that somethings never change. Or rather, that Pakistani cinema cannot shake off certain irritations.

 

Nonsensical Shenanigans

And really, the issues with the script deserve their own subtitle. This movie has a pattern.  It shows off some great writing, before injecting plot holes and sloppy editing into the mix.

The dialogue for the most part is very effective. For instance, Tipu and Neeli speak to each other almost entirely via metaphorical, poetic discourse. It is the stuff of Haseena Moin romances, and really builds their relationship. But then, towards the end, we are given a convoluted little scene where Tipu lambasts Neeli for not being honest about her feelings.

At this point I almost threw my hands, and popcorn, in the air. Neeli has practically been singing about her love for Tipu for the whole movie. And, he has been resisting her attempts, citing her fiancé as the thorn in their side. E= MC whatever, this means that Tipu was aware of her affections for most of the film’s runtime. And for reasons, couldn’t act on them. Why then, has he had a sudden bout of selective amnesia? Why has he forgotten about her come hither glances, and her hot rotis with their hidden agendas?

Also, while to its credit the film plays around with twists and turns, can it decide what emotion it wants to elicit? For example, when we have just been introduced to Sonu’s abhorrent  man-child of a would-be husband, I’m assuming the goal is to make us care about her. Why then, are we given a romantic rain dance between Tipu and Neeli right after it? I mean, I realise the poor girl can’t act. But we’re really going to dance around in the rain right after her life basically fell apart? Really?

 

7 Din Mohabbat In…Yeah Okay  

Here’s the thing, this movie is perfectly pleasant. And if you would like to venture out this Eid and watch something, then this is an okay option. This is down to a compelling message about love, and a leading pair that you actually want to see happy. But, then the unnecessary bits intervene, and make it a bitter pill to swallow.

I found it funny when it let itself be. I found it annoying when it injected a new character every fifteen minutes. And ultimately, I found it okay. it’s not the best, but it isn’t the worst either. It’s… yeah, it’s okay.

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