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In Tamanna, the neo-noir adaptation of Anthony Shaffer’s play Sleuth, a kooky old film director invites his wife’s lover over to his grand old house in the country for an intellectual game of cat and mouse – or so the characters in the movie played by actors Salman Shahid and Omair Rana believe. We, the audience, on the other hand, have a hard time giving in to their quirks.

A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo

Intelligence, or even narrative coherence, is a faraway ingredient in the movie’s menu – but mostly because of its already finite set of options. Tamanna’s best appeal is the eccentric spunk of the dialogues by Ijlal Khan and Shahid’s over-the-top enthusiasm for playing a man who may be crazy to begin with.

Most of Tamanna functions as a one-act play, limited to a single location and one solitary night. About one-third of the narrative is the build-up between the two actors, as Feryal Gauhar (in cameo-esque cuts), watches over them via the house’s security feed.

A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo

Soon the old man, in near-alcoholic stupor, has the young actor staging a robbery in his house dressed up as a clown. The jewels that are to be robbed, he says, are over twenty million, and his wife (Mehreen Raheel) has expensive tastes.

The exact reasoning of their play-acting is as flimsy as the screenplay, as Shahid literally leads Rana to the jewels by first helping him break into the house, and then by directing him on how to mess up the rooms so that the break-in looks realistic to the police investigation. The security cameras recordings can be taken care of, he adds a bit later. What happens next isn’t as much a narrative jolt, as it is act of self-mockery; although, for whatever it’s worth, it does give Rana some acting headspace.

A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo

Mian Tariq Ali (Shahid) and Rizwan Ahmed (Rana), given the ever-present ambiance of their bizarre mutual animosity, are curiously relaxed in each other’s company. In fact, their jesting, which overtakes the issue of disillusioned marriage and infidelity, can even be mistaken as some aberrant bromance – which is, of course, a strict precondition of the originating material.

A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo

Director Steve Moore, whose Pakistani career includes cinematography in Khuda Kay Liye, uses too many camera angles to keep the frames interesting, letting his actors make the most of the screenplay. The constant change of frames – and the inconsistent color grading – although snappily arranged by editor Sameer Hamdani (Siyaah), don’t always gel.

On top of that, the cinematography by Malcolm Hutcheson has the outlook of a DSLR restricted off its potential by dimly lit sets (the tonal quality, highlight blooms and the flickering dots in Shahid’s dark blue shirt are a dead giveaway).

A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Tamanna". – Courtesy Photo

The technical set-up aptly compliments the minimalism of the plot and its execution. It does not make Tamanna a better movie; it just helps it get by.

The final word

Tamanna, as it is, does not flow like a feature film. It could have been a better stage play, or a telefilm, since it is written for the screen – just not the big-screen.

Distributed by Summit Entertainment and ARY Films. The movie has dark, dramatic and near-violent themes.

Directed by Steven Moore; Produced by Sarah Tareen; Written by Steven Moore and Ijlal Khan, based on "Sleuth" by Anthony Shaffer; Cinematography by Malcolm Hutcheson; Edited by Sameer Hamdani; Production Design by Karen David; Music by Sahir Ali Bagga and Arthur Rathbone Pullen.

Starring: Salman Shahid, Omair Rana, Mehreen Raheel and Feryal Gauhar.

Author Image

Despite living movies 24/7 (, the writer is still truly, madly, deeply in love with cinema; the root cause of this anomaly requires further clinical trials.

He tweets @kamranjawaid

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (16) Closed

tayyaba rana Jun 18, 2014 12:26pm

u may b right. although a frequent cine-goer, i m unable to find such drawbacks. in a nutshell like the movie. At least far better than run of the mill indian stuff.

Salma Feroz Ali Jun 18, 2014 02:39pm

Worse Movie

Striver Jun 18, 2014 03:24pm

Not impressed by the review. We tend to disparage all things Pakistani. It's about about time we became a bit mature. The film is very good is many respects. A simple fact.

We set standards high, in our minds, when analyzing Pakistani films. But when reviewing foreign films particularly Indian why do we lower those standards. Another simple fact.

Imran Siddiqui Jun 18, 2014 04:56pm

Abhi aik Indian movie hoti tu kehtay wah kia baat hai :) Without even watching this movie, I am willing to bet that it is better than Dhoom 3 etc.

Rukh Jun 18, 2014 05:22pm

Most of the supposed flaws as noted by the reviewer are actually what's great about the film. From this review the film sounds amazing. Cinematography by Malcolm Hutcheson! c'mon, there's reason enough to love the film.

Areeba Hanif Jun 18, 2014 09:15pm

The comments here are shocking. Why exactly one would let nationalism get in the way of an honest critique I will never know. I think this movie gave away signs of incoherence right from when the trailer surfaced. Nevertheless, there is a certain delight in being able to review a Pakistani film to begin with, isn't it?

Observer Jun 18, 2014 10:37pm

This is not an 'honest' critique. The writer clearly has a chip on his shoulder and it is evident in bashing the filmmakers and the film. Failed ambition to be a filmmaker i sense (after reading his bio) Being a former film critic myself, i can tell you that this article fails to present the case of how the film is 'not' for the big screen (the sensationalist headline) and his superficial analysis of the technical aspect of filmmaking is amusing. I would advise him to enroll in a film school before trying to sound like a filmmaker at the cost of embarrassing himself and a prestigious publication.

Faiq Jun 18, 2014 11:58pm

Well! At least, in Pakistan, better films are being produced but I don't know you, despite encouraging these film makers, start criticizing them. I used to read reviews on other films especially for Indian films you guys have soft corner. Please, stop such kind of blasting comments for the Pakistani films. They are getting place in the scene. An industry is on the rise. As a Pakistani, I feel proud of these films.

Madiha Jun 19, 2014 12:55am

A poorly made movie remains a poorly made matter where it hails from.

Mahmood Jun 19, 2014 10:34am

@Faiq There is a difference between feeling pride and applauding a badly made movie. We all want Pakistani films to revive, but not at an expense for logic or entertainment

Shoaib Jun 19, 2014 10:57am

@Rukh I doubt people know Malcolm Hutcheson and I further doubt he is the same Malcolm Hutcheson. Did you actually go see the movie? One doesn't have to go to the cinemas to see the movie's supposed flaws. They are all quite evident in the trailer.

Shoaib Jun 19, 2014 11:02am

This is not my cup of tea. If Pakistani cinema is to survive we need bigger movies. The main draws in cinemas when I was there were bollywood movies and then house fulls of big hollywood movies. I know we cannot match their scale but we need to make something along the same lines. When we do make commercial films we make the System. God forbid I gave that one a chance and laughed all the way home. I bet I'd do the same with this one.

Sunny Jun 19, 2014 12:12pm

@tayyaba rana It means According to you dhoom 3 was a good movie.

Nasib Akhtar Jun 22, 2014 09:32pm

I think we should applaud Pakistani cinema's revival but at the same time all our film makers need to be cautious. Making films that do not reach out to the masses will not create long term awareness. Pakistanis may end up thinking that OUR cinema is only for the elite or those who are too intellectual. We need more commercial films, even on low scale. I agree with the author and his views on Pakistani movies in general. If we dont make good films than indian and hollywood movies will continue to be the only source of film entertainment here.

Sheheryar Sukhera Jun 22, 2014 11:31pm

As a Noir film lover, I do not agree with your review. If you really know about the play "Sleuth" you wouldn't be criticizing the film. It's not an adaptation but a remake of a Hollywood classic. And I won't say it's the best but definitely a good step in the revival of Pakistani Cinema. You should be promoting it for the honest effort behind it, instead of criticizing it for no reason.

Farhan Haider Jun 24, 2014 02:43am

It was my big mistake to see this film and it become bigger when I saw it at Atrium Cinema. Alas! my good money lost. First of all, our traditions and religion, do not permit us to judge a strange man whether he is suitable for our wives or not. We are not the father of our wives to interview them. It is against the ethics of Islam. Even in Indian movies, no such kind of non-sense is used to display. 2nd the public want relief, when they come to cinemas, they want entertainment to forget their sorrows. This film is a total failure, except the Song of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. "Koi Aa Raha Ha Dil Main Dastak, Deaye Bagair". Any how, even though any one want to see this movie, my best wishes for them.