Balu Mahi review: Paisa vasool but stretches too long
KARACHI: Last night at Nueplex cinemas I saw Pakistani actors dance around mountains, roll in the hay and it didn’t feel awkward. Since the onset of Lollywood’s wave of reincarnated cinema this was perhaps the first time it didn’t seem our actors were up to something alien. It was far from notions that are popularly considered against ‘our culture’ and they certainly walked the talk to rebut this myopic argument.
Throughout its promotions, the Balu Mahi cast has been vocal about the film being a typical paisa vasool offering that hardly has anything indigenous about it. That is unfortunately very true but even with all the clichés of modern-day romantic comedies, Haissam Hussain manages to keep you fixated for the most of his film. His sense of humour offers a refreshing mix of highbrow and whacky jokes and characters that come for a short while but leave a long-lasting impression. I couldn’t get Javed Sheikh’s ‘bheriya moment’ out of my head as I walked out of the cinema 10 minutes before the film ended. It had become too much for the bladder and Sadaf Kanwal’s beauty shots weren’t good enough reason to rest my case.
The film begins with Bilal (Osman Khalid Butt) all set to express his feelings to his girlfriend who is about to get married to another guy. As soon as the girl reveals her face, it turns out that it’s Mahi (Ainy Jaffri Rehman) and not the girl Butt was looking for. This creates confusion and Mahi forces Bilal to run away with her so as to save herself from a fate she never wanted. They run away only to realise the mistake they had committed and so begins a chase between their families and their dreams.
One could hardly contain a yawn during this entire establishing sequence. The drama though was forced, and actors, particularly Butt and Jaffri seemed rusty as if it was literally the first sequence of the entire shooting process. There were some major sound panning issues as well with the dialogues coming from one side of the hall and the score and effects from the other side. But just when you were about to look at your watch and think about the quality of caramel popcorns, the film actually picked up.
With the passing of narrative both Jaffri and Butt shined and showcased one of the most well-suited performances in Pakistani cinema. The edginess and confusion Butt portrayed as a man who is learning to dare and take charge of things remarkably blended with his good looks. He is in process of proving himself to be more than just a chocolate hero. Ainy on the other hand was the real surprise package; it seemed like either Mahi was tailor-made for her or that is actually a character very similar to her real life persona. Her dialogue delivery was on point and so was the spontaneity of her body movements, she was literally going with the flow and Hussain deserves equal credit for paying attention to such details. Team that with Sahir Ali Bagga’s exceptional command on excelling at film music and you have a recipe for success.
As a film buff I’ve always despised the romantic comedy genre. Its shallow and you know what’s going to happen in the end of it. That was exactly the case with Balu Mahi but where Hussain really stood out was his intertwining of sub-plots and subtlety with which he communicated them on screen. Having said that, like most of the Pakistani films and some Bollywood offerings too, he opened so many threads within the subplots that by the time he tried to resolve each one of them, it was already too tangled.
In Faiz’s words, director Haissam Hussain arrives like spring silently appears in the wilderness and gives us enough moments to embrace Balu Mahi despite its unbearable duration. You can easily walk out after two hours of the film and you aren’t going to miss anything…save for some drop dead gorgeous shots of Sadaf Kanwal.