Yesterday, I was introduced to the newly released music video for ‘Adha Adha’. And let’s just say, ‘hooked’ doesn’t even begin to cover what happened to me. I’ve had the song on repeat ever since. Obsessing over how perfect every tiny detail of the production is. From the sinfully addictive tune, to the compelling story, to the fact that this isn’t a feature length film.
(Okay, that last part wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was the only thing I didn’t like about it).
In fact, I have been so consumed by its awesome, that I’m starting a weekly series. There are too many Pakistani music videos that are more cinematic, than actual cinema. And, so many filmmakers have cut their teeth in the music industry, before taking on movies.
So, I thought, why not single out the stand-outs? Because let’s face it, some Pakistani music videos are feature length films, just waiting to happen. And every week, I will highlight one of my favourites.
This week, let’s delve into the music video for Shani Arshad’s latest song. Directed by Ali Sohail Jaura, this one boasts a compelling narrative, gorgeous visuals, and some very clever character development.
It is a bizarrely beautiful accompaniment to a very catchy song. But, it is also a hyper-stylized crime venture, that deserves to be on the big screen.
Adha Adha: Entirely Perfect
Truthfully, when I first saw the posters for this, I genuinely thought it was a movie. I mean, look at this.
Is this not a better poster than most actual film posters?
And the music video does not disappoint.
I have been obsessing over it, ever since it was released. And the only way I can translate my excitement, is by elaborating on its disparate parts. Because, each aspect of this tiny bundle of dark delight deserves gallons of love.
Story, Cinematography And Direction
The story, penned by Asim Siddiqui, is really interesting. It takes a narrative that has been done before, but treats it in an original way. With a well-placed twist that I absolutely adore. I also have to commend Ammar Zafar for the screen-play. Transferring a narrative onto a visual medium is never easy. And here, it is done very effectively.
Also, I cannot get over the production values of ‘Adha Adha’. There are feature length films, with massive budgets, that do not look as good as this. The production team over at Wide Angle Films should give themselves a big hug.
They have really committed to the colour palette. Apart from the posters, it also shows up via the cinematography. The use of backlit locations, neon lights, and even lampshades, really creates an effective atmosphere. You’re instantly transported to this seedy world.
The direction is also on point. Many Pakistani music videos have gone the crime-drama route. But what distinguishes the good ones is effective filmmaking. This is one of the good ones.
I love that Ali Sohail Jaura captured not just the narrative, but also nuances. The smallest glances to the side, or looks exchanged, are given their due importance. All in all, in terms of visual storytelling, I haven’t seen something so effective in a long time.
Ali Rehman Khan
Many of us fell in love with Ali Rehman Khan in Janaan. His rendition of the wannabe-Casanova, with a heart of gold became the pulse of the film. Everyone applauded him for transitioning, seamlessly, from comedic to dramatic.
Since then, we’ve reveled in how effortless his charisma is. Both on, and off screen.
Thus it is strange, particularly given his urbane charm and boyish good looks, that this role fits him so perfectly. In ‘Adha Adha’, he is in top form as the assassin next door.
There was a lot that I noticed about his performance, but one scene stood out.
I am in love with the scene where he makes his first kill. (Yes, you read that correctly. Also, yes, I am in fact a weirdo).
Kudos again to the direction, which focuses on his swagger, and the minutia of his actions perfectly.
Notice how nonchalantly he pursues the man on the floor. Casually smoking while he pulls the trigger; he isn’t at all concerned.
Until, some blood splatters onto his face. At which point he does flinch, and even wipes it off later.
This little act, adds so many layers to his character. In particular, it singles him out as a killer who isn’t a psychopath.
I’m going to assume that most of us don’t know any contract killers. But, I like it when film depictions don’t go the clichéd route. For example, when they treat their ruthless profession, like a mundane job.
Like, when Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield casually discuss burgers, on their way to an interrogation.
What to most of us is exciting, is to them banal.
How nonchalant Ali Rehman Khan’s character is in this video, exudes that same vibe.
I’m usually queasy when violence is depicted on screen. Particularly violence against women, because let’s face it, far too many times has it been used for cheap thrills. Which is why I appreciate, that here, most of the violence takes place off-screen.
But, its impact is made abundantly clear. Particularly through Amar Khan’s character. This is my introduction to her, and she is painfully talented.
As a young woman engrossed in an abusive relationship, she is the heart of this story. For the first half of the video, every action of hers signifies a cry for help. And you are instantly transfixed by the pathos she projects.
A particular scene really got me. When she is being dragged into the room, and she locks eyes with her neighbour. The incredulity on her face, when Ali Rehman Khan’s character turns away, is heartbreaking.
This also makes her character arc the most sympathetic. She is set up as the perfect anti-hero. Her actions, as the story progresses, are controversial at least. But, she is so sympathetic, that you accept them. You may never agree with murder, but by the end of the video, you’re still on her side.
I will be honest. The ending of ‘Adha Adha’ gave me ‘Geoffrey Baratheon’s death’ levels of satisfaction. Apart from the twist itself, which I applauded (literally) I was really happy, that the slimy villain was dead.
In any narrative, an antagonist plays a vital role. Their very existence has to justify the protagonist’s course of action. Within the parameters of this very simple formula, you can play around. You can give your villain an arc. You can make him sympathetic.
Or, you could make him the literal manifestation of everything that has ever corrupted society. I’ll let you decide which route ‘Adha Adha’ took.
Mohammad Ali’s character is vile, he is revolting, he is the opposite of Batman. And because of this, the story’s end is very, very satisfying.
I’d love to see him branch out into other roles. But until he does, can we just appreciate how good he is as the bad guy?
Shani Arshad has been a part of the Pakistani film industry for a long time. He has worked as a musical composer for many recent releases. Seriously, his resume reads like Pakistani cinema’s crème de la crème. This to me makes him a force within the industry. Not only is he talented, and experienced. But his experience is recent, so he is well-versed with the intricacies of Pakistani cinema as they are.
And I’m really excited to see him branch out, into stand-alone music.
Simultaneously, you can distinguish the cinematic influences in his music. ‘Adha Adha’ really does sound like the perfect song to underscore a story.
In particular, it is so ready to be on the soundtrack of an atmospheric thriller. In large part, because it isn’t overly dark.
The music video works so well with his song, because it plays on contrasts. The juxtaposition of his pleasant voice, and the upbeat music, against the grim story, makes it interesting. A story like this, if portrayed in typical fashion, can seem trite. But with an unusually upbeat tune, the whole production takes on a complexity.
‘Adha Adha’ is already garnering praise. Which is not surprising. As we’ve established, in some detail, every aspect of this production works brilliantly. It works as a song. It works as a music video for a song. And, it works as a story, underscored by a song.
It also whets the appetite, and leaves you wanting more. The ending is my favourite part, but it is also a cliff-hanger.
This can’t be all that happens to these two people. I want to know more.
And that is precisely why this is a music video, that needs to be a movie.