Here's the thing — since director Wajahat Rauf and writer Yasir Hussain threw out the rule book while making new film Lahore Se Aagey, I figured I’d do the same while reviewing it. Just gonna freestyle it.
You know, I wanted to like this movie. I really did.
I'd hoped, considering Yasir’s character Moti — the stuttering fool with a heart of gold — was the high point of its prequel Karachi Se Lahore, that Lahore Se Aagey would somehow be more enjoyable than its predecessor. I'd hoped the change of pace, fresh faces, melodies and new scenery would add up to a story that was better than that last trip.
Instead, Lahore Se Aagey, directed and produced by Wajahat Rauf, is not much more than a random collection of situations strung together with chewing gum and prayers. Let's start where the film didn’t: the plot.
Is this a road trip or just... a trip?
Lahore Se Aagey tries to pick up where things left off in Karachi Se Lahore, as Yasir’s character Moti, tries to get from Lahore to Swat to see his dying mamoo (Behroze Sabzwari).
As he sets off from Lahore, he is almost run over by the “free spirited” wannabe rockstar Taraa (Saba Qamar) who is looking to escape her confining, highly irritating tool of a boyfriend, Aly.
Meanwhile Moti’s “evil” momani (played by Rubina Ashraf) has devious plans. She dispatches two annoying assassins to stop him from laying claim to his inheritance. So it sounds like the movie is about Moti and Taraa’s quest to go north to find his fortune while staying one step ahead of dangerous assassins, right? Nope.
Unfortunately, that isn't exactly the case.
Instead of embodying the spirit of a road trip film by evoking a smooth sense of movement, Lahore Se Aagey feels more like a collection of short sketches thrown together with little more than hope and a prayer to bind them. We're never really told how or why Moti and Taraa end up at certain raves or village musical events. We're never told how Moti's uncle bounces back from what ails him.
This sense of superfluousness overrides the entire script. Like KSL, Lahore Se Aagey favors quick, cheap laughs over actual cohesion or character building, as though it’s been written via machine gun, spraying jokes all over the place, hoping something will stick.
Going back to blackface — really guys? Blackface is offensive for reasons that are easily available via a quick Google search for anyone who cares to be responsible.
I mean, in the span of maybe 50 minutes we go from Gawalmandi to a bus to a random tribal rave to the middle of the jungle, (with Wajahat as the tribal chief —in blackface), to the north and oh there’s a singing competition too.
And going back to blackface — really guys? Blackface is offensive for reasons that are easily available via a quick Google search for anyone who cares to be responsible. This is why you should never make a movie without adult supervision.
One could argue that the movie was striving to ape absurdist humour. I appreciate a good old absurdist farce as much as the next guy, but only when that's truly a movie's intention. This was aiming for mainstream comedy and only unintentionally falls into the category of the absurd.
This is evident in how the tone of the thing stumbles from parody to authenticity —shameless, schmaltzy sincerity — whenever it pleases.
This is also evident in the seemingly random directorial choices that pepper the film. I mean, breaking the 4th wall and having actors speaking directly to the audience is cute, and can be effective when done right, but in Lahore Se Aagey it's employed too spastically.
To be honest, the movie lurches from shot to shot and scene to scene like it’s been edited by an epileptic hamster on a sugar rush. Well, except for the slo-mo reaction shots.
Oh God above, please let me never see another slo-mo reaction shot, or pointless bird's eye. I mean I get that drones are cool, but is LSA's cinematographer getting a commission for every time he randomly chucks one at us?
They do seem to have better luck with the landscape shots though, since the real stars of the show are the beautiful locations.
It is occasionally breathtaking to behold, particularly when we reach the northern areas in the second half of the movie. One wishes it could’ve applied to the rest of the movie.
When good actors aren't given a chance to shine
Let’s talk about how this film lets Saba Qamar down.
Her character had potential to be the breakout performance of this movie. Instead, she's given so little to work with in terms of character development that she reaches for the overacting early on just to try and sell it. This just leaves her and Yasir on two very different tonal wavelengths.
This wouldn’t have happened if her character Taraa were given just the slightest bit of establishment, room to become, instead of merely be. Instead the inconsistent development and threadbare motivation leave her wrong-footed for most of the film. It's quite sad considering she has some moments of real charm, and the chemistry between her and Moti becomes more obvious when the movie slows down for a few precious moments following the intermission.
Yasir Hussain's Moti can’t quite hold the whole enterprise up on his own, and this is where one actually misses the ensemble of the previous movie.
The obligatory item number is also cutely dispensed within this context. The number, 'Kalaabaz Dil' though a blatant auditory and visual rip off of *Kajra Re’, is the highlight of the soundtrack. At least the actors can dance well. ‘Befiqriyaan’ is the only other song worth mentioning really. It's also probably the deepest character establishment Taara gets.
Yasir Hussain's Moti, unfortunately, is also let down. In KSL, he had a sweet, off-kilter appeal. While he retains that, he can’t quite hold the whole enterprise up on his own, and this is where one actually misses the ensemble of the previous movie, especially given how skeletal everyone else’s character is.
I will also begrudgingly accept Behroze Sabzwari as a central character, he’s quite funny as the (not) dying mamoo and gels well with both Moti and Taraa.
This is a shame for an actress as decent as Rubina Ashraf (as the momani) because she, like everyone else is just cameo, or worse, a stereotype, like the irritating henchmen. In fact, Abdullah Farhatullah and Wajahat should actually apologise to the Pushtun people, because that accent was atrocious.
Some of the other cameos work better than others. Chief among them is the ever-beguiling Atiqa Odho as, let's just say a courtesean. Another pleasant surprise was the return of Zeezoo (Wajahat’s son and Ayesha Omar’s little brother from the first film). Obvious nepotism aside, the kid can work the camera quite well, and one actually wishes he had been given more to do.
The rest of the cameos are less killer, more filler. I mean we get that the director is friends with Ali Zafar but what was the point?
All in all, guys Lahore Se Aagey wasn't the cinematic experience I had hoped for.
I'll admit that it looks like the LSA team had a ball making the movie, I just wish I could say I had even a quarter of the fun watching.