By now everyone has either seen or read about Lahore Se Aagey. The reviews haven’t been so good (alright, they were quite ruthless) and the only people who liked the film were director/producer Wajahat Rauf’s friends and family and people with an IQ lower than 60. It can’t be said whether it’s delightful or depressing that there are enough people in Pakistan who fall under that bracket. It’s depressing because lack of intelligence isn’t exactly a reason for pride. (These days we’re finding solace for our stupidity in Donald Trump’s US election success.) But at the same time it is delightful because no matter what, we do want to support local cinema and if naiveté will ensure a happy box office then so be it.
So, how good or bad was Lahore Se Aagey, you may be interested in one’s humble opinion? While every film critic and social media activist has aired his two cents (with an equally detailed response from the ‘Lahore Se Aagey Official’ team), here’s what we felt, in a nutshell of sorts.
Lahore Se Aagey is a very small film. It takes you from Lahore to Swat but the treatment is juvenile enough to convince you that it’s been made for family and friends, not a larger and wider audience. Director Wajahat Rauf, who has made this as a sequel to his 2015 venture Karachi Se Lahore, appears to have little to no aspirations for his own film as he has treated it like a home production rather than a full scale feature film. How else would you explain the personal jokes and drawing room humour?
There are too many Ayesha Omar references, too many internalized jokes, from Wajahat’s son saying “Yeh meray baap ki film hai” to Moti saying, “Yeh mumaani nahin, Rubina Ashraf hain.” I’d like to know how many people outside the industry circle know Munib Nawaz or that Frieha Altaf is a horror when she’s managing an event? These private jokes certainly did trigger chuckles and laughter at the premiere but then that’s the point. A premiere is for friends and family and the media, of which the latter has been quite critical and subsequently, the former has been aggressively critical of the criticism.
Featuring Yasir Hussain and Saba Qamar in lead roles, Lahore Se Aagey’s next weakness is its script that has been written like a Lux Style Awards ceremony script, which coincidentally Yasir Hussain has a big role in as well. It throws insides jokes and so many one liners that it begins to sound like a Rodney Dangerfield autobiography.
It doesn’t help that the plot is too weak to carry a tedious script.
Moti (Yasir Hussain) has to travel from Lahore to Swat on his dying mamoon’s insistence. The fact that mamoon (Behroze Sabzwari) is hale and hearty and quite unnecessarily lecherous can be overlooked. Moti bumps into Tara (Saba Qamar) who, escaping from her own life, offers to drive him all the way to Swat. The road trip is actually an extended chase sequence, in which two unthreatening hit men, who look like they couldn’t even swat a fly, have been assigned to bump Moti off.
Lahore Se Aagey’s saving grace could have been its cast – which is pretty stellar, from Saba Qamar to Yasir Hussain, Behroze Sabzwari, Rubina Ashraf, Abdullah Farhatulla and several others. But one feels that Saba Qamar, undoubtedly a mature and impressive actor, has been miscast as the ‘wannabe rock star’ she is attempting to portray. Saba has an eastern attraction that she has not managed to grow out of; she’s excellent on TV and in roles such as Nur Jahan in Manto but she cannot express herself equally effectively in modern, westernized roles. It’s the Vidya Balan syndrome; she’s out of her comfort zone as soon as you put her in a skirt. Saba’s body language, from her appearance (her choice of blond curls and long fingernails) to her articulation is more desi doll than grungy, genuine rock star. It doesn’t add up. And the fact that she shines in a Nomi Ansari lehnga choli for ‘Kalabaaz’ verifies that more than anything.
Yasir Hussain, however, is in his element throughout the film and overshadows everyone else. He’s the only irreplaceable plug; this film would not have worked (even as much) without the stuttering, stumbling ways of this unconventional hero. And even though there was the biggest cloud of ambiguity on whether he would work as hero or not, he flies in the role. Yasir can act and dance and given the right script one doesn’t doubt for a moment that he would be able to romance too. The camera loves him and it has to be said that Yasir Hussain is the saving grace of Lahore Se Aagey.
Watch the film for him, if nothing else.