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Friday, September 20, 2013

The Lamha arrives, grainy but strong


 It makes for a sad story; Lamha director’s involvement in a murder case, the tragedy that befalls its lead characters and the audio-visual quality of the film itself are all unfortunate. But amidst the darkness, there are moments that can take your breath away.

Photographer Raza (Mohib Mirza) and painter Maliha (Aaminah Sheikh) are a husband and wife fraught by the difficulties of dealing with a disaster — the death of their seven-year-old boy. In the course of recovery, the two abandon their careers and become estranged. On the other end of the spectrum, is the culprit, rickshaw driver Anil (Gohar Rasheed), who looks for better financial opportunities to support his pregnant wife.

Tackling complicated psychological issues amidst a rather anti-climatic narrative is not easy. It is even tougher when a Pandora’s Box of narrative threads is unraveled. But as a debutant director, Mujahid shows a lot of promise by bringing forward one of the sharpest and most immaculately-performed illustrations of story-telling.

While the movie’s foremost aim is to focus on the overwhelming feeling of failure to get over a major loss, the loss itself ends up taking dominance over the complexities of psychological issues at hand. This is where a rather traditional and risk-free approach by cinematographer Faraz Iqbal comes in handy. He creates a cathartic experience, by using better-framed TV shots in film, for an audience that is accustomed to TV. The closing shot, where the camera tracks out of a garden, is by far one of the most consequential closing shots we have seen in Pakistani cinema, as you actually feel the process of being relieved from a rather discomforting life of a wounded couple. The multiple narratives may seem unresolved at places, but are joined together well on the editing table. The pace of the film, as a whole, is disturbingly bumpy and things do happen against your expectations but there is no shock value to them. That is probably the reason why a predictable story like Lamha appears flatter as time passes by. If we had watched the film before Bollywood’s Talaash, which has a similar story base, the impact would have been much greater.

Aaminah Sheikh’s performance is her best in cinema thus far.  As Maliha, she is so powerful that she often overshadows her husband. The other characters, too, add to Maliha’s agony. As Anil, the talented Gohar Rasheed, who we recently saw in Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, is consistent, raw and plays his character inside out. He is by far the only actor who balances out Aaminah’s strength when he shares limited screen time with her. Hira Tareen, sadly, is not the right choice for her character. Despite the fact that her role was small, she was unable to expose the depth given to her character.

Apart from these performances, the appropriate use of a ghazal is another win for Lamha. Mehdi Hasan’s Gulon Mein Rang Bhare comes near the end of the film and enhances the overall grand and piercing sound design of the film.

Having said this, your Lamha experience may be interrupted the poor quality of the film with respect to audio-visuals. It is a flaw that could have been easily avoided, but powerful and moving scenes are undermined by occasional grainy visuals (especially in night scenes) and awkward sound balancing.

Still, the beauty of Lamha, unlike contemporary narratives, is that it doesn’t set very high ambitions for change. It’s a film that goes for a controlled psychological study of two people instead of a larger-than-life story. What is even more refreshing is that for the first time, a Pakistani movie is not solely about the country and its done-to-death challenges.

Verdict: With powerful story-telling and a relatable story line, the film beautifully depicts the anguish and suffering of the lead characters. If only it were not marred by technical glitches.

Score: 3.5/5



Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2013.

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