With a star-studded cast, exotic locations and the promise of plenty of entertainment, Jawani Phir Nahin Aani (JPNA) is easily this season's biggest release.
The film scores on many levels, with some excellent performances, sleek styling and plenty of laughs. But it is also let down by some frankly awful songs, awkward product placement and heavy inspiration from Bollywood. Nevertheless, it’s a laugh-out-loud entertainer with just the right feel-good factor for Eid.
Note: Spoilers ahead!
Introducing Sherry and his band of hapless husbands
Humayun Saeed plays lawyer Sherry who returns after years in America to find that his three best friends are now hen-pecked husbands.
He manages to arrange a boys-only trip to Bangkok for his crew, where Mehwish Hayat, the daughter of an underworld Don, falls for him. The plot thickens as his friends’ wives find out what they’ve been up to. With his three friends’ marriages falling apart, Sherry himself heads to Lahore to marry a billionaire’s daughter, played by Sohai Ali Abro. When Mehwish arrives in Lahore to claim her prince, mayhem ensues.
The plot itself is full of holes and Sherry comes across as an amoral character whose motives are never clear. The entire story line about Sherry being engaged to both a billionaire’s daughter and a mafioso’s daughter is lifted straight from Bollywood movie Houseful 2.
What saves the film are inspired performances by the ensemble cast and many genuinely funny moments.
JPNA gets comedy right, and the cast have a funny bone
Writer Vasay Chaudry, who also plays one of Sherry’s friends, has filled the script with self-aware one-liners, references to Pakistani pop culture and hilarious situations. There are some cringe-worthy scenes, but it’s the lesser slapstick comedy that had the audience laughing out loud and clapping.
The gags allude to ad slogans, drama serials, films like Waar and Bol, Shah Rukh Khan, TV anchors and the actors themselves. In one scene Sohai Ali Abro goes to bridal designer XYZ while in another Hamza Ali Abbasi is called Pyaare Afzal. Witty and self-deprecating, the jokes reference pop culture with a light touch.
Actor Ahmed Ali Butt gets some of the best farcical moments, including mistakenly romancing his father-in-law and a Thai massage gone wrong. His comedic timing is one of the many acting highlights of the film.
Much of the ensemble cast has small parts. Both Javed Sheikh and Bushra Ansari play caricature characters that resemble former roles. The two veterans do an excellent job and are engaging and amusing.
Sarwat Gillani has also small role as Vasay’s Pathan wife but she lights up the screen whenever she appears. Her accent and mannerisms are superb and she gives an exemplary character performance.
The bubbly Sohai Ali Abro is hilarious as Sherry’s spoilt rich fiancé. Selfie-obsessed and extravagant, she parodies new-money princesses brilliantly. With her hashtags and her 'MA MA', this is one memorable character. But the movie only scratches the surface of the madness of over-the-top society weddings, with their choreographers and one-upmanship. It would've been great to see that aspect developed further.
Even Mehwish Hayat can't make Humayun Saeed look good on the dance floor. But he shows an unexpected talent for comedy.
The other female ‘lead’ Mehwish Hayat seems to have stepped into the movie from another world. While other actors look awkward and stilted in their dances, Mehwish is brilliantly effortless. There’s not much to her role but she looks great and her confident portrayal shines.
Unfortunately, even Mehwish Hayat cannot make Humayun Saeed look good on the dance floor.
Awkward and stilted, he is a terrible dancer and this detracts from what is otherwise a solid performance from the star. Better known for straight roles, he shows an unexpected talent for comedy. The scene where he pretends to be seducing his friends is simply hysterical.
Aisha Khan and Uzma Khan do a good job with their small parts, but it’s the menfolk who have meatier roles. Vasay Chaudry, Ahmed Ali Butt and Hamza Ali Abbasi get the bulk of the jokes in the first half and all three carry them well. They get less scope in the second half, but there are a couple of sidesplitting sequences even then.
Hamza, of course, is the biggest star of the three, but disappoints at times with his comic timing. He also comes across as hypocritical after the huge fuss he made, distancing himself from the movie citing its item songs. In one shot he emerges from a pool staring at a bikini-clad girl. One of the other leads could clearly have done that shot.
JPNA would have been better without its item songs
The item songs in JPNA are actually much tamer than most Bollywood movies but the many people seem to have double standards as to what they’ll accept from each side of the border.
What’s ironic is that the item songs actually do the film no favours at all because they are so poor.
The two songs that work best are the ones where the cast is rapping more than dancing. Most of the songs in the movie are terribly shot and badly choreographed. Mehwish Hayat’s song with backing dancers dressed in horrible skimpy police costumes is painful. The Bollywood-inspired Khool Jaye Botal looks a pale imitation of a party song, but the shaadi songs are truly dreadful. Step into any real mehndi and you’ll see much better dancing. Worse still, both songs are blatant brand endorsements that do nothing for the movie.
As far as brand placement is concerned, the chai song and the fairness cream song show how sponsors can actually damage a movie. JPNA would have been a better movie without them.
It’s evident that the producers needed sponsorship to pay for the exotic locations, but these relationships should have been subtler.
Brand placements are glaringly obvious throughout the movie, with a bank, a fast-food chain and a high-street chain all prominently highlighted. While this is obtrusive enough, the chai song and the fairness cream song show how sponsors can actually damage a movie. JPNA would have been a better movie without them.
Not all of JPNA’s brand collaborations were a fail. The movie’s stylists called on various top fashion designers to provide the wardrobe for the movie. Deepak Perwani, Sania Maskatiya and Sana Safinaz all contributed clothes without overt branding and the result was a cast that was well turned-out and stylish.
Similarly the locations were well chosen and beautifully shot, as was the one fight scene. The improvement in production values over recent years has enabled local film-makers to make much more of a mark. Pakistani cinema is still finding its feet but needs to break free of the shadow of Bollywood.
How can we claim this? Well, because some of the film’s funniest moments were uniquely Pakistani in character.
Despite its flaws, JPNA is an out-and-out entertainer. An engaging blend of slapstick, spoofs and wit, the film is easy on the eye and an undemanding crowd-pleaser. Definitely worth the price of admission.