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Telefilm: No laughing matter

August 15, 2010

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A couple of months ago, while sitting on a bench inside a shopping mall in Karachi, I spotted a clown unsuccessfully trying to sell cotton candy to disinterested kids. Dressed in bright colours, he seemed rather out of place as he should have been in a circus, but here he was stuck in a dead-end job.

Writer Basharat Tirmizi was probably inspired by one such depressing life of a clown and thus portrayed him in Rang, the ninth telefilm of the Hum Telefilm Festival 2010, shown on July 31.

Veteran TV actor Anwar Iqbal, whose claim to fame was the Fatima Surraiya Bajiya classic drama serial Shama, essays the life of a clown called Mastana in Rang. He entertains guests at a restaurant at night while he holds a day job in a factory.

His wife (Hina Dilpazeer Khan) and daughter Maham (Ishita Mehboob) are clueless that he is a moonlighting jester. Maham is an arrogant, ungrateful daughter who spurns her father's modest gifts since she has a rich boyfriend who lavishes her with expensive presents. When she marries him, she cuts off all ties with her parents.

Many years later, Maham goes to the same restaurant where her father works along with her son, Armaan. She starts frequenting the eating place as her son grows fond of Mastana the clown. During the course of the telefilm it is revealed that Maham's husband left her after a year of marriage. Ashamed to return to her parents, she has single-handedly brought up Armaan. The last scene of Rang is when Mastana brings his daughter and his grandson home, and Armaan throws a tantrum when his “clown uncle” is nowhere to be seen. Mastana decides to risk it all for the child's sake and dresses up in his clown garbs thus blowing his cover once and for all.

The director Hamza Khan presented the clown character in Rang much in the tradition of old Hollywood films. According to a website “Most such movies revolved around a character who struggled with an experience that he is trying to forget or perhaps has some type of emotional handicap, and the clown persona was a mask to hide the emotional pain. These clown films had a generally sad theme, while containing scenes that made you smile and even laugh.”

While there is not much to say about direction, acting and cinematography, it is in the make-up department that Rang scores some brownie points. The clown make-up, a mixture of comedy white face and auguste face base, was done quite well.