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WHEN LUB TURNS TO HATE

Updated July 09, 2017

From the moment we first meet Mehrunisa (Sana Javed), you know things aren’t going to get any better for her. Jolting up from a nightmare where she runs from three badly-dressed ghouls (actually, three men in uncut black fabric), Mehru is the proverbial girl-next-door who lives with her dear old dad (Arshad Mehmood) on a mountainside cabin somewhere in the northern regions of Pakistan.

Sometime in the past, she may have ‘innocently’ uttered “I Lub U” to a boy from Karachi. That could be the reason for her bad dreams because the sod — now all grown up — returns and asks for her hand in marriage. And his family will not take no for an answer.

Childhood promises have dire repercussions and Mehru — who is ‘turned on’ by Ali (Danish Taimoor) — happily marries and moves to Karachi. Soon the city with its noisy pressure horns, hustle bustle and looming concrete structures promptly flicks her ‘on’ switch to ‘off.’

Utterly horrified by urban life, she can’t get pregnant until Ali, with heroic muster, decides to rinse out his family’s dusty, littered, lower-middle class neighborhood. He cleans up the mohalla and they spend their first of many nights together, and bam, instant baby! By the end credits Yasir Nawaz, the film’s director, pops up to instruct the audience to do the same (clean up their areas and make babies?), rallying a Pakistan Zindabad! cry for good measure.

Yasir Nawaz’s Mehrunisa V Lub U is all ado about nothing

At that moment, one wonders about Mehru: who is she and what exactly has she done to get such a fervent response from the community? She opts to keep her thoughts to herself (she has about 10 dialogues in the film) and all of her post-marriage scenes have her sitting alone in her room. We barely see her interacting with her in-laws or the friendly neighbours, and only comes out of the bedroom when her hubby takes her out to eat (or to indulge in a song) — and even then she has zero communication with the outside world.

I repeat: who is Mehru and other than the glib title Yasir Nawaz throws at us, who ‘lubs her’ and why? Forget the hard queries, screenwriter Saqib Sumeer and Nawaz have a difficult time explaining these simple questions.

I can almost sense the response bubbling up from the makers of Mehrunisa V Lub U: songs from Gulzar (music by Simaab Sen), lush cinematography by Saleem Daad (Jawani Phir Nahi Aani fame) and the film gives society something to ‘think about.’

For Pakistani filmmakers, simple accomplishments such as the ones we see in Mehrunisa V Lub U evoke nirvana-esque sighs, followed by the hollering of fake hurrahs. Oh, how the mighty have fallen since the 1960s! Agreed, our commercial films need good songs but I can’t even recall one from MVLU. The framing of vibrant images is a must (that is if you want your audience to see what you’ve shot) but almost all of Daad’s long or wide shots are out of focus.

The message about mending one’s community might have some weight if only the neighbourhood didn’t transform from a Burnes Road-like area into a Red-Blue-Yellow coloured film set whose denizens instantaneously ditch their shalwar kameeze and cigarettes for three-piece suits and smoking pipes. And suddenly, these people start adoring Mehru to such a degree that they lie about Pakistan’s volatility by reinterpreting newspaper headlines and televising fake news broadcasts (no kidding) just so that Mehru — a girl who greets them with a “Hi” for the very first time after intermission — can get pregnant.

When not ludicrous and idiotic, Nawaz’s MVLU and Sumeer’s script offers tons of vulgar, imprudent humour. In one scene Qavi Khan (Bunty, Ali’s grand-dad), shouts “tum se nahin hoga” [you’ll never manage it] and Ali, who is about to consummate his marriage loses his resolve … for good. To add insult to injury, Ali who has not ‘done it’ yet takes Mehru to the doctor (“Is there something wrong with us?” he asks … d-uh!).

Nawaz’s film, slacking in narrative with an eventless trifling story, is full of bull. Sana Javed can’t dance and barely acts. Danish Taimoor has two-and-a-half expressions (angry, happy and half-gruff). Qavi Khan is wasted with double-meaning dialogues while Javed Sheikh barely holds his own as the film’s most natural actor.

Lest I forget, there’s also a gay character (Sumeer), a local transsexual (Waqas Hussain, quite good actually), an evil politician (Faraz Nawaz) and a transsexual land-grabber villain (Nayyer Ejaz) because, well, someone can’t get enough transsexuals to fit into the story (or is a big fan of Mahesh Bhatt’s film Sarrak). Actually, to be precise, someone (read: Nawaz) thought both Wrong No. and MVLU were good ideas!

After watching the premiere show, Mehru’s nightmare — which added nothing to the narrative before — makes complete sense: she wasn’t afraid of Ali, Karachi or the littered community. Her subconscious was afraid of how Mehrunisa V Lub U would fare at the box office.

Published in Dawn, ICON, July 9th, 2017