By Maliha Rehman
A day after watching Money Back Guarantee (MBG), Faisal Qureshi’s cinematic scriptwriting, production and directorial debut, some of the many puns littered throughout the movie keep coming back to me.
There is the way the Mahajir character, played by Maani, is partial towards the paan he keeps chewing and spray-painting ‘G.A. Mahajir’. The way Marhoom Bilal’s Munda Punjabi is obsessed with food. The kooky antics of the Machiavellian bank manager, enacted by Fawad Khan. Kiran Malik’s Sanam Baloch is a poet who writes verses particularly dedicated to ‘gas’, alluding to the dearth of gas in her province Balochistan. Gohar Rasheed is a Sindhi, the movie’s producer Shayan Khan is also acting in it, playing a Kashmiri, his co-producer Mikaal Zulfiqar is a Pathan, and Afzal Khan ‘Rambo’ is a Christan, whose name is Christian Bale!
And then there’s the director, Faisal Qureshi, who keeps turning up in the movie after short spurts in an assortment of characters; among them, a chowkidaar, a fish monger, an exterminator, a building watchman. He slides into the frame suddenly, says something completely insane and often irrelevant. It’s very similar to the cellphone ads that he used to direct and co-star in many years ago.
This similarity can actually define the experience of watching MBG. The humor is sometimes silly, sometimes layered with meaning and sometimes completely unfathomable. Like those cellphone ads, the movie is often entertaining and there’s definitely some intelligent political satire bolstering the script – it’s just that, at some other points, it all stops making sense.
The movie is star-studded. Its cast includes seasoned comic actors, promising new faces, Waseem Akram and Shaniera Akram dabbling with acting and the veritable icing on the cake, Fawad Khan, the country’s favorite hero, in a never-seen-before comic avatar. More than anything else, though, this is a Faisal Qureshi movie. His signature wit is often evident, you can sense him in the dialogues and in the madcap sequences and while there are parts that just shouldn’t have had been there, perhaps Faisal, in a bout of experimentalism, wanted MBG to be this bizarre, this crazy.
In retrospect, if Faisal had only toned down some of the jokes and not been intent on making every scene funny and laden with meaning, MBG would have had offered a far better cinematic experience. There is a scene with mice, for instance, that doesn’t make sense. What is the point behind featuring Javed Sheikh in some scenes and then, letting him disappear later? Why does the policeman, enacted by Adnan Jaffar, make a reference to his parentage in a disconnected way? The characters chance upon their exact lookalikes but don’t seem surprised by this at all. Why? Shouldn’t a dialogue or two been added in to explain this curiosity?
I wonder if somehow, some of the story has gone amiss in the final editing. The elimination of a few scenes and the inclusion of a few others would have had definitely made it more well-knit.
The actors are in their element. A lot of the punch-lines are delivered by Maani and Gohar Rashed, playing the Mahajir and the Sindhi respectively, and they are extremely funny. The rest of the main cast – Kiran Malik, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Marhoom Bilal, Rambo and Shayan Khan, whose acting career is still in its fledgling stages – also act very well. Shafaat Ali’s role may be limited but he is, as always, brilliantly funny and is one of the movie’s highlights.
Fawad Khan – who is unarguably one of the main reasons why audiences have gravitated towards watching MBG – dabbles with all-out comedy and proves that he can be very good at it. Fawad carries with him the baggage of being a superstar and a very good-looking one, at that. And yet, it is evident that while the world may place him on a pedestal, perhaps all that Fawad wants to do at this point in his career is do different roles and simply, act. His character laughs maniacally, makes funny faces and is totally over the top. You end up forgetting that he is Fawad Khan superstar and most recently, Maula Jatt. Instead, he’s just MBG’s nefarious, wheeling-dealing bank manager. This is appreciable.
One also has to commend the songs in the movie. The lyrics are pure political satire and they’re catchy. It is rare that such thought is put into writing songs for movies that are layered with meaning. Ayesha Omar looks beautiful in her cameo, as the coquettish Meena Begum.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, a few spurts of well thought-out editing could have had really helped this movie along. Cinema tickets are expensive. Furthermore, we’ve recently gotten spoiled by a magnum opus called The Legend of Maula Jatt which was held together by exemplary storytelling. MBG’s story, in contrast, needed to be more mature.
Having said this, Faisal Qureshi indubitably knows how to tell a funny story and the negative reviews of MBG on social media seem a bit too extreme. The movie definitely entertains. But there is such a thing as far too many jokes. And a story that skids off-center all of a sudden.
Watch it if you’re a fan of some of the many actors in the cast. Watch it if you like political satire. You’ll laugh – you’re also likely to get confused.
What do you think?