There was a lot of hype around the film Chalay Thay Saath because it’s so rare to see decent films being made in Pakistan. When we first saw the trailer, everyone was immediately hopeful. The gorgeous locations, the beautiful and talented star cast, the dreamlike soundtrack and an international actor all made us hopeful that finally, we’ll see a film that we really like.
But then the film hit the cinema screens and mixed reviews started pouring in, making us wonder where Chalay Thay Saath had gone wrong.
Let me first just say that CTS isn’t a bad film. Since everything has to be taken into context, it would make sense to compare CTS with films like Raasta and Thora Jee Le to know what a bad film is. A bad film is one that has no purpose, no recall value and no fun. CTS certainly does not fall in that category. The purpose of the film is very clear; it sheds light on real live events that took place in Gilgit as well as on the Karakoram Highway. It integrates culture; ten years from now when people watch CTS, they will have a realistic image of what life was like in Pakistan. And the film was fun to watch.
We’ll explain why we thought the film was fun. First of all, the actors delivered really memorable and believable performances. Mansha Pasha and Osama Tahir were absolutely brilliant. Canadian actor Kent S. Leung barely had any dialogues but the screen would light up every time he would make an entrance. Syra Shehroz is meant to be a film star; she can act, looks good and has a very likable aura. Zhalay Sarhadi and Faris Khalid had small roles but they did justice to them. We loved seeing Mooroo strumming his guitar in his song, ‘Mariam’. Behroze Sabzwari is a veteran and he almost had us crying in one really emotional and well constructed scene.
One thing that we absolutely loved was how seamlessly the brand integration had been done. This is probably the first time in Pakistani film history that we watched a film and didn’t feel like a product was being marketed poorly. Everyone is very casually drinking Pepsi in the film and the entire film has been treated with the colure blue which was also tastefully done. The stylist of the film would mix up the colure palette for the actors but would remember to include a shade of the Pepsi blue somewhere.
Most importantly, we loved watching Hunza’s picturesque mountains stretched across the cinema screen. What we also loved is how the film didn’t use the beauty of Hunza simply as a majestic backdrop without any context. As promised by the film’s producer Beenish Umer in an interview with Instep prior to the release of the film, CTS used stories of Hunza to create the final climax of the film. The setting of the film has a major role to play in the conflicts that take place on screen.
However, the conflicts don’t come to life completely. For one thing, the film’s duration could have been shortened. We understand that a show reel of Hunza’s beauty could not have been an easy thing to edit, but tight and concise editing is extremely crucial to our films, a technicality that is going unnoticed nowadays.
Also, we noticed that the film tried to develop a back story for each of its characters: Zhalay Sarhadi is a single mother who makes her own living, Leung’s father was one of the workers who helped construct the Karakoram highway, Tahir and Pasha have marital problems because of a tragedy they faced earlier. However, these sub- conflicts seem half cooked. Sarhadi’s role in the film is very confusing and we don’t buy her relationship with Khalid that occurs out of thin air, leaving us with a lot of questions.
We also felt that the first half of the film has a very subtle vibe. The dialogues, the interactions, the conflicts – everything is very mellow. There will be instances where actors are simply walking along a street and the only sounds one can hear are of birds chirping and the sound of leaves rustling in the wind. There is no dialogue and no music, sort of like how the film Dil Chahta Hai has been made. It’s a very realistic portrayal of what life is really like because we have silent moments in our lives where there isn’t an overwhelming soundtrack playing in the background.
However, towards the end of the film, the level of drama seems to increase and suddenly, everything is very melodramatic and over the top. Those parts of the film appear contrived and forced. The end of the film is supposed to find the second conflict of the film as well as its eventual resolution, but for a film as mellow and chilled out as CTS, the ending sequences seemed a little misdirected.
The biggest problem with CTS is that even though it appears to have everything a commercially successful film would need, it leaves you with the feeling that something is missing, like a well cooked dish that doesn’t have enough salt.
Although there are certain moments here and there in the film that are absolutely endearing. We wonder whether Shehroz’s real life relationship with father in law Sabzwari might have played a part in it. For instance there’s a scene in which Shehroz is picking leaves from a tree with her father. The exchange that takes place between the two is very natural and believable. A father and daughter who share such a special bond must have unique conversations as well and those could be seen in CTS.
We would encourage people to watch CTS. It’s got a phenomenal soundtrack; hats off to all the artists who lent their songs to the film: Bell, East Side Story, Mooroo, Bakhshi Brothers, Natasha Noorani and Sikandar Ka Mandar. Abbas Ali Khan also did justice by creating an authentic and riveting score for the rest of the film. And of course, the film looks good. If you have time to kill and want to see some beauty, then CTS is a decent way to spend the evening.