Osman Khalid Butt and Ainy Jaffri's debut movie is a boy-meets-girl story with a twist. With so much hype surrounding a film, one can't help but expect something great, and while Balu Mahi delivered that on the 'unexpected storyline' front, the execution was lacking.
Starting with the plot, there's nothing particularly new about it; but that said, if we look at films the world over, there's also nothing new under the sun. While some filmmakers are content with creating replicas of what sells in Bollywood, the Balu Mahi team has actually made the effort of starting a dialogue, while still keeping the film light. This is quite commendable when we put it into perspective in the Pakistani film scene.
One thing that must be mentioned is that the whole film has been shot in Pakistan, and most locations have been very well picked. Be it Hunza or Lahore, the film has done justice to showcasing Pakistan's beauty and giving us some vacation goals.
The songs in general are nice, but the one that steals the show is the Rahat Fateh Ali Khan qawwali, Rang De Chunar. The general consensus in the theatre was that the film actually started looking up from that point on.
Now that pretty much everything else has been discussed, there is no way a discussion on the acting can be avoided. Coming to the main lead, Osman Khalid Butt as ‘Balu’ is charming and easy on the eyes, but the boy can't quite act — there, I said it. If this was a movie where the actors simply had to keep a straight face and try to look like they were contemplating grave matters, OKB's performance would have won him an award. This film, however, involved a spectrum of normal human emotions, most of which the male lead did not seem comfortable with.
Ainy Jaffri, on the other hand, took on the role of ‘Mahi’ with such emotion that there were points in the movie where we wanted her to tone it down a bit. She should, however, be commended for taking on a role that most other young Pakistani actresses would not have dreamed of. More power to you Ainy.
Shafqat Cheema, Pakistan's favorite villain, has broken into the new cinema scene with all we expect of him and more. He has played the role of Mahi's overbearing grandfather really well. This is one actor who does not need to prove his acting credentials; he has been in the field since before many of us were born, yet his streak continues. The big plus here was that Mr. Cheema adapted well to a movie that is fifty shades different than films like Choorhiyan, which many might consider to be his forte. Veteran actress Durdana Butt's parallel to Cheema brought back memories of an era gone by in the best possible way.
Sadaf Kanwal was in the film for a reason, and she justified that reason completely with great help from the wardrobe department. Kudos to her, and that's practically all there is to say about it.
The soon-to-be if not already famous Javed Sheikh sequence in the farmhouse may have been an attempt at adding humor while breaking boundaries, but some of us thought that the film could have done without it. One fact about Sheikh Sahib that amuses us is that he is to be found in every mainstream Pakistani film ever made. Is that ever going to change?
Overall, Balu Mahi is worth watching, and the fact that we have started to look for a balance between mainstream cinema and cultural dialogue should be celebrated. But the industry, in return, must understand that their audience has great expectations from them – not just in terms of entertainment, but also in terms of quality cinema.
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