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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.