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Good Morning Karachi: Girl on a hot tin roof

Updated January 04, 2015

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Beo Zafar is the aunt who helps Rafeena realise her dreams
Beo Zafar is the aunt who helps Rafeena realise her dreams

This film was shot several years ago and it’s finally been released in local theatres this weekend. Previously titled Rafeena, Good Morning Karachi is director Sabiha Sumar’s (Khamosh Pani) latest offering and perhaps first big screen release in Pakistan.

This is also the film in which Amna Ilyas made her acting debut — as an incredibly broody but ambitious girl from the lower income class of Karachi determined to break the social shackles that bind her and make something of herself. She has an overtly protective mother (Saba Hamid) whose sole purpose in life is to get her married off, something Rafeena is least interested in — “Do you know that women from the upper class have their own apartments and live with cats?” she tells her brother excitedly in one scene. He ‘allows’ the apartment, but not the cats and certainly not her living alone in it. The film is based on a short novella by Pakistani author Shahandana Minhas.

Radio Jockey Khalid Malik’s familiar voice sounds over a montage of scenes from Karachi’s cityscape every morning in the film, setting a backdrop of the socio-political and religious turmoil that’s tearing the country apart — Benazir Bhutto is set to return to Pakistan and increasing religious fundamentalism sees ‘fundos’ defacing/burning billboards with women models on them. That’s where one assumes the title of the film changed from Rafeena to Good Morning Karachi somewhere along its way to finding a release.


It’s models vs mullahs in Sabiha Sumar’s latest film, Good Morning Karachi


Amna Ilyas leads the cast of 'Good Morning Karachi'. – Photo courtesy: Official Facebook page of 'Good Morning Karachi'
Amna Ilyas leads the cast of 'Good Morning Karachi'. – Photo courtesy: Official Facebook page of 'Good Morning Karachi'

The film is a bagful of clichéd characters: you have the ‘bitchy’ salon owner with an androgynous hairstyle, the gay, impatient but loveable modelling agency head who tries to mould Rafeena into a fine fashion model, the overly-protective mother, the naughty but supportive younger brother, the aunt with a heart of gold etc.

Deepak Perwani plays a cameo role as himself in the film. One spotted stylist Marium Azmi, singer Zoe Viccaji, producer Mehr Jaffri, actor Mohib Mirza, model Rubya Chaudhry, photographer Zeeshan Chaudhry in a variety of ‘smaller’ roles — collectively forming the upper class of Pakistan from which Rafeena is not and desperately wants to be a part of.

For a film centered round the fashion industry, there is very little ‘fashion’ in it. For the most part, Rafeena dresses in tank tops and pyjamas at home (highly unlikely in real life considering she’s from ‘Faisal Colony’ which was filmed in Kharadar), even for a runway show her ‘look’ is kept plain and simple — no innovation in hairstyling or make-up is seen.

There are some wardrobe inconsistencies: there is a scene in which she goes to a department store to show her fiancé the product she’s modelled for ... while wearing a short, red cocktail dress. First of all, you wouldn’t see that kind of skin on display in public here and second of all, the establishing shot showing how she even got into that dress is missing. And no one goes shopping in a red cocktail dress.

Amna Ilyas gives yet another stellar performance in 'Good Morning Karachi.' - Photo courtesy: Official Facebook page of 'Good Morning Karachi'
Amna Ilyas gives yet another stellar performance in 'Good Morning Karachi.' - Photo courtesy: Official Facebook page of 'Good Morning Karachi'

RJ Khalid Malik’s familiar voice sounds over a montage of scenes from Karachi’s cityscape every morning in the film, setting a backdrop of the socio-political and religious turmoil that’s tearing the country apart — Benazir Bhutto is set to return to Pakistan and increasing religious fundamentalism sees ‘fundos’ defacing/burning billboards with women models.


Where going fairer than your natural skin tone used to be a thing, over here it’s the opposite: Amna Ilyas is made to look darker than she naturally is. Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s beautiful but there were times when the make-up base just seemed a tad too overdone. The film does pay tribute to the more dusky beauty — Rafeena idolises another model who shares her skin colour: Aaminah Sheikh and seeks inspiration from the massive billboard with the model outside her bedroom window.

  A still from the movie. – Photo courtesy: Official Facebook page of 'Good Morning Karachi'
A still from the movie. – Photo courtesy: Official Facebook page of 'Good Morning Karachi'

The cinematography for the most part is simple and beautifully captures the dingy streets and the tiny apartment Rafeena is from and lives in. This is Amna Ilyas’s first film, which she acted for well before Zinda Bhaag came out and she’s a natural at it. Saba Hamid, as her bag-of-nerves overly protective mother, plays her part well and appears to be quite familiar with her role as if she’s done it many times before.

Beo Zafar as the aunt who helps Rafeena realise her dreams is quite charming while Yasir Aqueel, as her jobless fiancé Karkun who is supportive of her dreams up to a certain point, acts his character to the tee. Nothing much can be said for all of the other characters as they fail to make an impact but that’s not the fault of the actors — the characters they play are simply not developed enough.

Having said that, Good Morning Karachi is a simple story about a girl determined to pursue her dreams against the odds she faces — a conservative mindset bent upon treating her as nothing more than a potential baby machine, while living against a backdrop of religious fundamentalism and political instability.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 4th, 2015