By Maliha Rehman
Even before Parde Mein Rehne Do (PMRD) was released, it was being touted as a brave film to make. Eschewing social taboos and the generic parameters that tend to be set for entertainment in Pakistani cinema, this was a movie that dabbled with the subject of male infertility. In the same vein, Wajahat Rauf was being proclaimed a brave director, more so because he chose to release his movie on Eid, when most filmmakers opt to release family comedies rather than stories with strong social messages.
But Wajahat, and producer Shazia Wajahat, have expertly wrapped up PMRD’s very important storyline in shiny candy-foil. It’s an emotional comedy which makes you laugh very often, even though you do end up crying later. There’s music, color, romance even while the plot traverses through unchartered territory. It’s a story so well-told that it keeps you rooted. Yes, it isn’t your usual masala movie. Yes, the music is often relegated to the background score rather than played out as individual songs.
The unusual treatment and storyline of PMRD make it special.
Ali Rehman Khan is Shaani, a boy who doesn’t show any interest in girls, making his parents worry that he may like boys instead. Once they decide on marrying him off to a family friend’s daughter, he has no choice but to reveal that he has married his college sweetheart. Naazo, aka Hania Aaamir, enters the scene, smoking a cigarette while dressed as a dulhan and swiveling to ‘Peela Rang’, the movie’s much-publicized dance number. The two are happily in love until the topic of infertility throws a spanner in the works.
How does the very genuine issue of infertility get tackled in a society where the topic can only be discussed in hushed whispers? How does it affect the marital life of a young couple and their families? If a problem is swept behind curtains – the titular ‘pardah’ – how can a solution be reached?
The topic itself is somber but Wajahat and scriptwriter Mohsin Ali pepper it with short bursts of comedy, aided greatly by actors Javed Sheikh, Munazzah Arif and Hassan Raza. The background score is exceptional and is an intrinsic part of the narrative – composers Aashir Wajahat and Hassan Ali have bright futures ahead of them. Setting aside conventional tropes, the decision to let the music play in the backdrop was an intelligent decision. In fact, PMRD is a very intelligent film, overall. It is expertly cut, the narration flowing seamlessly, the duration extending to a refreshing, crisp 90 minutes.
The lead cast is also well-chosen. Hania Aamir, one of today’s most popular lead actresses, brings energy and oomph to the screen but she also makes impact in the more emotional scenes, delivering some emotionally heavy dialogues just as expertly as she dances to Peela Rang. Ali Rehman shines particularly. The actor has hitherto often had to make do with lackluster roles that don’t have much scope for performance. In PMRD, he easily slips into the skin of the confused, tortured Shaani. This was, perhaps, the sort of role that Ali had been waiting for and in fact needed desperately to make his career move forward. The actor has been jostled into the good-looking, good-natured boy next door rut far too often and Shaani allows him to move beyond it and show the world that given the opportunity, he can do so much more.
More than anything else, though, this is Wajahat Rauf’s film, testament to his growing finesse as a director. PMRD is his fourth film and it is a declaration of how he is now willing to push boundaries with unconventional storylines and play up to his strengths. It must also be noted that this is the first time that Wajahat hasn’t written the script himself – a wise decision. With the very capable Mohsin Ali handling the script, Wajahat has been able to focus entirely on directing. PMRD is certainly his best venture yet.
If there is one minor criticism that I could make, it is that much of the story can be predicted, based on the trailer. Then again, perhaps a story like this one doesn’t come laden with unexpected surprises and new plot twists. Its strength lies within its storytelling and PMRD doesn’t disappoint in that department.
This movie isn’t your typical entertainer. It has never professed to be so. It is not your larger-than-life flashy cinematic bonanza. A few months from now, we may see it stream out on a digital platform and it will fit right into the format.
PMRD is, simply put, an engaging story, an important story, a socially relevant story and an indicator that Pakistani filmmakers and the audience are now willing to experience new subject matter rather than the usual conventional fare.