Friday 2 August 2013

Josh: Desi superwoman takes on evil feudal

10:33 By Lollywood Online No comments

Iram Parveen Bilal is a director of visuals and not actors. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Iram Parveen Bilal’s Josh is an extension of what a theatre group called Tehrik-e-Niswan has been doing on stage for almost 30 years. If you ignore the clichés and the misleading usage of Iqbal’s poetry — words referring to the frailty of Muslims were uttered at the opening to set the tone for what turned out to be a human rights issue — the film has stunning visuals, a decent climax and some memorable performances.
The story revolves around Fatima (Aaminah Sheikh), a well-to-do teacher in Karachi who lives with her estranged father. Having lost her mother at a young age, Fatima finds a friend in her loving and maternal nanny Nusrat Bi (Nyla Jafri), who has raised her.
One day, Nusrat Bi is found dead in her village Khuda Ki Basti, which is owned by feudal lord Khan (Qaiser Nizamani). Fatima is shattered but suspects foul play, so she decides to investigate the matter.
Here, the film turns into a detective story, with Fatima frequently visiting the village with the ease of a superwoman despite the presence of a dangerous landlord and thugs.
Iram Parveen Bilal is a director of visuals and not actors. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Stylistically, the film is a treat. Special mention needs to be made of cinematographer Nausheen Dadabhoy for capturing the true soul of rich and poor Karachi instrumentally.
The crispness of the day shots compared to the more half-hearted execution in the night scenes, however, shows where her comfort zone is. Another shout out must be given to art director Mehnaz Diwan, who plays the pivotal role in making us believe in Khuda Ki Basti with her keen attention to detail.
Now here’s the downside; the editing is lazy. The script is so weak that viewers may not recall so much as a single dialogue when they leave the cinema and the story relies too much on clichés — such as a needless romantic twist just before the climax.
The characters at large are hollow, and so much of the control is given to Fatima that it seems that the story could have unfolded without Uzair (Mohib Mirza) and Adil (Khalid Malik).
A fact that stands out throughout the two-hour long film is that Bilal is a director of visuals and not actors. The cut-throat visual treatment with some interesting montages is a treat for the eyes. But the underutilised acting talent leaves you wanting more.
At one point Adil, delivers the line “artists hi is mulk ki ek sachi awaz hain” but makes no impact at all, making the scene look more like a camera rehearsal than the final take. Having said that, for most of the underperformed scenes, a weak script, frail acting direction and off-time editing is to blame more than performers.
In contrast, the scenes in which the feudal lord’s seven-year-old son Shera (Abdullah Khan) walks ahead of his father’s armed goons, his toy gun in tow, are memorable and impactful.
Iram Parveen Bilal is a director of visuals and not actors. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Aaminah Sheikh has done a commendable job as expected. While she isn’t extraordinary in her role as Fatima, she is miles ahead of new actors when it comes to pulling off such a strong protagonist. Adnan Shah Tipu as Gulsher, however, is the real star of the film.
The Pathan sidekick of the feudal lord Khan, Gulsher’s guilt about the prevalent injustice and internal conflict is communicated beautifully to the audience. A maestro like Jafri reflects her brilliance in the few but phenomenal frames she is in, and her aura is felt even after her character’s death. Ali Rizvi as Ahmed is on top of his game throughout the film and is a great addition to the emerging league of Pakistani actors.
The ‘woman against society’ subject has been done and dusted in Pakistani narratives to a point that it is almost a whole genre. The treatment of the subject may vary from one storyteller to another, but the story is inherently tied together by the cause and effect chain of similar events. As a result, every new story becomes a more glorified version of the older one.
Verdict: 3/5
Despite its orthodoxy and needlessly extended duration, Josh is a win for independent cinema in Pakistan. It succeeds in accomplishing what films like Bol failed to achieve, by focusing on one subject and thoroughly highlighting it with research.


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