Let’s just acknowledge one undeniable fact: the makers of Rishtay are gutsy; they chose to take the unconventional route of releasing the film in cinemas without a PR campaign.

With no hubbub prior to the film’s sudden release, one is caught totally off-guard. You can’t handle surprises like that — not that the film is a surprise, mind you.

A three-generation spanning tale of heedless, self-centred children and later, their badly behaving offspring, the film is not a knock-off of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum, whose poster it takes inspiration from (inspiration means ripping off, by the way).

Malik Sahab (Shahid Hameed) is a high-ranking police officer who gets a plea from a sad old man at the very start of the film. The man has been kicked out of his house by his ungrateful son who has craftily shifted the ownership to his name. The man has nowhere to go, he cries to Malik.

This unfortunate story hits the staunch-but-kindhearted Malik with the impact of a derailed train; he fears that his own story might not be that different.

Malik knows he is a failure when it comes to teaching his unruly son Hamza the way of living a selfless, noble way of life.

One day Hamza — who has a proclivity of revealing terrible “surprises” to his mom and dad — announces his plans to go abroad to study for seven years. Despite gruff opposition from dad, Hamza flies to the US so that he can make a new life for himself that doesn’t involve either parent. Ten years later, Hamza, now a doctor, returns with another “surprise”: he brings his ultra-modern and very much insufferable wife and two kids along as well.

After a spat with his daughter-in-law, Malik puts his plan to action to unify the family: he forces Hamza to stay in Pakistan, while claiming the right to raise one grandchild as his own.

The two brothers, when they grow up, are poles apart: the younger one, Moosa, raised by Hamza, is a wild child who wins races, parties hard, dances in the rain with his girlfriend, gulps alcohol and sniffs cocaine. The older one, Hamdaan is the golden child; he reads the Quran, refrains from bad behaviour and talks sense. Eventually (after a fight and a gun wound), the family comes together to take a family portrait.

Rishtay, being a film about families, has nothing objectionable as far as its story goes. The disapprovals begin with every other creative and technical aspect, from below-average lighting, uninspiring camera moves, nonexistent production design, a measly four-track background score, amateur performances, uneven screenplay and shoddy direction.

You’ve seen better telefilms.

Starring Shahid Hameed, Saima Saleem, Nawaz Khan, Abdullah Khan, Jamal Yousaf, Areej Chaudhary, and Ghania Shaukat, Rishtay is written by Fatima Khan and directed by Malik M. Nawaz Khan

Published in Dawn, ICON, May 22nd, 2022

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