Front seat: Old wine, new bottle

Updated August 25, 2013


If truth be told, in a changing, revitalising global film industry, Lollywood doesn’t seem to have a place anymore; there’s simply too much baggage of old formula. Case in point: Ishq Khuda from director Shehzad Rafique — a long-winding drama about failed romance and rediscovery of faith.

A few days ago, the presses announced that the film has grossed Rs11 million at the box office in just five days. Assuming that we would get an easy ticket for the show, we found out that tickets for that day were sold out. But we had easy access to the next day’s show as only 20 seats were reserved. It was safe to assume that the next day would be a full house. It wasn’t. Good word of mouth is a film’s ultimate marketing tool, and sadly Ishq Khuda doesn’t have that at the moment.

The film starts with Ahsan (Ahsan Khan) and Iqra (Meera), who meet on a train while traveling together to a rural area. The scene tells us that there’s a romantic connection between the two, which apart from some flirty acting, we cannot tell no matter how many times the two meet.

Arriving home (after much product placement), Iqra goes to visit her inseparable childhood friend Kulsoom (Wiam Dahmani). A song later, it is revealed that Ahsan works for Iqra’s father and that gives them a reason to jump onto four or five more songs. Kulsoom, on the other hand, also falls for Ahsan’s charms and of course they share a song or three as well.

In another part of town, a local thug, Rulia (Shaan), terrorises the turf. Soon, he is blessed by a Sufi and falls in love with Kulsoom (his intentions seem drastically different when the scene begins). He shuns his bad habits, including the advances of a local courtesan played by Saima. He proceeds to apologise to the people he’s wronged, including Kulsoom, before embarking on a journey of self-discovery.

Even after two hours into the film, it ambles along without grabbing our attention with substantial storytelling or acting. Some (if not most) of the acting is pretty average. Wiam Dahmani, a Dubai-based model/actress/host, merely cocks her head, fidgets and exaggerates as Kulsoom. As for Meera, the less said the better. Ahsan Khan is likable but his character lacks real weight. Saima is good, especially during the latter half, which only leaves Shaan. He adopts the role of the ruffian-turned-wandering mystic convincingly enough, but apart from sharing a scene with Nayyer Ejaz as a creed-questioning moulvi, there is apparently no purpose to his wanderings. The climax of the Kulsoom-Ahsan-Iqra love triangle builds up to an unexpected end after tedious clichés.

When making films, especially for an industry that has to survive the constant barrage of foreign content, our film-makers should keep in mind the competition their films would get upon release. To its credit, Ishq Khuda has the organic look of a feature film (it is shot in 35mm negative) and there’s not a shot out of focus. During Rulia’s wanderings, we get to see the full scope of a feature film frame with huge gaping vistas of mountains. The production design is inconsistent, but still better than what we’re accustomed to from Lollywood.

Ishq Khuda fails to deliver in acting, screenplay and songs (there are 11 songs by composer Wajahat Attray, sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Shazia Manzoor and Sanam Marvi). Despite the film being a Sufi/love story, it doesn’t deliver on both counts either.

Ishq Khuda is directed by Shehzad Rafique, produced by Shafquat Chaudhry with screenplay by M. Parvaiz Kaleem and Saleem Zuberi, music by Wajahat Attray, cinematography by Muzamil Shah and editing by Adeel pk. Released by IMGC Global, it is family-friendly (minus a song and a scene). The language is Punjabi.