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Ahmed Ali Butt and Sheheryar Munawar | ARY Films
Ahmed Ali Butt and Sheheryar Munawar | ARY Films

“Shaadi, shaadi, shaadi, why are people so obsessed with weddings!?!” screams Sheheryar (Sheheryar Munawar). For a man who sneers at weddings, he sure attends a lot of them in Parey Hut Love (PHL) — director and co-writer Asim Raza’s blisteringly paced film about love and immature people.

Sheheryar, a handsome budding actor, is a rebel without a cause. A young man whose anger at the world stems from his own juvenile point of view. He wants success, but he wants it on his own terms — and he wants it right now. Sheheryar isn’t dumb. He is sensible enough to realise that making it takes time, yet he is handicapped by his own instinct and temperament.

As PHL moves from one aspect of the story to another, we see Sheheryar mature through fits and starts. His true sense of realisation and maturity, however, is not within the scope of this film, nor is it the story Raza wants to tell. Life is grand and big, and PHL is not a biopic.

Offsetting Sheheryar is his strong-willed cousin, Saniya (Maya Ali). The moment the camera looks at her for the first time, it is love at first sight for Sheheryar and the audience.

Asim Raza’s Parey Hut Love is a perfectly orchestrated piece of cinema, where every aspect — from swelling music cues to character arcs, cinematography, production and sound design — work in utter, immaculate harmony

Raza, whose last film Ho Mann Jahaan (HMJ) was an adequate time-filler, has grown by leaps and bounds as a filmmaker. Few, if any in Pakistan, know how to technically manipulate the ambience of every shot for optimum emotional blackmail.

Raza, with deft, signature-wielding idiosyncratic flourishes that distinguish his work in advertisements and commercials, has somehow mastered the art of cinematically blackmailing emotions. PHL manipulates one’s reactions scene-by-scene, if not shot-by-shot, leading them by the leash towards specific sentiments. The film is a perfectly orchestrated piece of cinema, where every aspect — from swelling music cues to character arcs, cinematography, production and sound design — work in utter, immaculate harmony.

Imran Aslam’s story, inspired by Four Weddings and a Funeral, is broken down into four chapters. Each is a wedding with a precise tone, especially where characters are concerned.

Superficially, the story works on a ‘masses’ level. One doesn’t need deep insight to follow the journey of the characters. Subtexts in dialogues and actions are niftily tucked a layer beneath the glossy exterior of the film. It is there, if one chooses to look for it.

Both Sheheryar and Saniya are a heaven-made pair. Saniya, being more sensible, just calculatingly makes different mistakes than Sheheryar. At one moment in the story (shown in the trailer), she introduces her fiancé (Shahbaz Shigri) to Sheheryar. Later in the film, at an emotional highpoint, her fiancé literally questions the rationale of her decisions. Matters of the heart aren’t governed by calculated life decisions, he tells her.

Both leads are surrounded by people more intelligent than them. Saniya’s dad (played by Nadeem Baig) is a famed screenwriter from the golden age of movies, who returns to Pakistan to put pen to paper once again. Arshad and Shabbo (Ahmed Ali Butt, Zara Noor Abbas — a fantastic, mesmerising pair), are Sheheryar’s best buddies — an aspiring director and his production assistant. His other two buddies are Tanaaz and Rustom (Rachel Viccaji, Faheem Azam; the latter has brilliant comedic timing). Hina Dilpazeer and Munawar Alam Siddiqui play his parents — a mum with a tragic past, who is also the film’s comedic support, and a stepdad who genuinely loves his bratty son. And — lest I forget — there is Mahira Khan as well, in a role.

To be honest, I think we are living in a new trend in movies, where stories revolve round cinema, assistant directors, struggling actors, immature youngsters, estranged parents, a mom who is an actress, and a lack of inner peace. When one thinks about it, there is quite a bit of similarity in two of the three films playing this Eid.

Imran Aslam’s story, inspired by Four Weddings and a Funeral, is broken down into four chapters. Each is a wedding with a precise ambiatic tone, especially when characters are concerned.

Seemingly, the two stories sound similar; they are not.

Raza’s film is preoccupied with premeditation, sticking to formula and narrative convention like superglue. Every aspect is deliberately produced for on-screen grandeur. Salman Razzaq and Serkan Guller’s cinematography, and the deliberate use of anamorphic lenses (which, optically, give greater depth to frames, yet have harsh, seemingly out-of-focus areas in the four corners of the frame), give life to Hina Farooqi’s punchy, brightly-lit production design.

The songs, in particular, swell up at the right moment — and for once, one can understand why sound mastering plays such a vital role in post-production (it is an aspect we rarely, if ever, get to witness). Every song works like a booster shot, keeping the monotony away, while helping move the narrative. Ik Pal, the sprightly wedding dance number, is promptly followed up by Behka Naa— a soft romantic number that makes you believe in love.

Sheheryar Munawar and Maya Ali are fine actors; Munawar, in particular, has been less than impressive in his past endeavors. In my review of Project Ghazi, I had compared his acting prowess with that of a lustrous piece of wood. Here, in the hands a sensible director, he works within the strict confines of his character. For the bulk of the story, he acts according to the mindset of an unruly, arrogant child; his emotional outburst (seen in the trailer) happening right before the intermission, is nothing less than a child’s impassioned tantrum. Later in PHL’s third chapter, we see him in a moment of crushing distress. There is a vivid difference between his previous and present forms of desperation.

Ali, on the other hand, contends with her own demons as she pops in and out of the story, sometimes quite jarringly.

Although some aspects of PHL may seem clichéd, far-fetched or even filmi — especially one middle portion and the climax — one’s overall sensation is that of being swept away. Such is the power of cinema; to make one believe in less than ideal people, who live in fascinating worlds of fiction.

Published in Dawn, ICON, August 11th, 2019