In Na Band Na Barati, a brother accidentally marries his younger brother's fiance and it takes roughly two hours of our time for the trio to fix that.
Major spoilers ahead, but keep reading. Trust me, you really don’t need to go the cinema to see that happen.
Directed by Mahmood Akhtar and written by Harish Kumar Patel, the romantic comedy stars Mikaal Zulfiqar and newcomer Shayan Khan as the brothers Shahid and Zahid, who live a comfortable life with their family in a mansion in a serene suburban Canadian neighbourhood.
The movie opens with an over-the-top fight sequence outside a club that establishes Zahid as the ‘bad boy’. The scene then abruptly cuts to a song that features some questionable dance moves; picture Shayan in his bad-boy attire twerking awkwardly in your face.
Zahid plans to marry the love of his life Aisha (Anzhelika Tahir) and seeks his brother's help. Shahid, whose only role in the two-hour movie is to support Zahid’s farcical antics, gets emotionally blackmailed into helping him elope with Aisha. However, tragedy strikes and as (bad) luck would have it, Shahid ends up marrying Aisha - yeah, don't ask. Madness further ensues when the parents find out but everything is soon ok again and all three go off on their honeymoon TOGETHER... yeah, that happens.
As you can probably tell, the movie escalates from zero to hundred in a blink. And the flimsy plot doesn't capture enough of our interest for us to be willing participants in this racy ride.
What makes the watch even more frustrating is the treatment of women in the film. With only a few female characters in Na Band Na Baraati, one expects that the main characters Aisha would have some substance. Instead, her screen time is limited to a bare minimum and she serves no purpose other than a prop. She expresses no opinions during the entire ordeal and is calm and unconcerned when she 'accidentally' marries her fiancé's older brother!
Na Band Na Barati serves as a halfhearted attempt at portraying the life of Pakistani expats
This one-dimensional approach towards female characters also applies to the other women in the film, like the mothers played by veteran stars like Atiqa Odho and Azra Mohiuddin. They have no back story, no poignant dialogues and zero character development.
The film also panders a lot to the male gaze. On multiple occasions, the film refers to women as objects – from the moon to fish. It really makes one wonder how long our filmmakers are going to continue to perpetuate casual objectification of women instead of addressing the misogyny around them?
To make things worse, when Aisha’s father finds out about her boyfriend and their plan to run away, he shames his wife for his daughter’s actions and says “Tumhari choti beti iss khandaan ki naak katwa ke rahe gi”. It's high time we get past the idea of women holding up a family's honour. Also, why is the father absolved of all responsibility for his daughter's actions?!
Blatant sexism aside, the bad acting further adds to the viewer's disappointment, starting with Shayan Khan.
The newcomer fails to deliver on multiple levels, he struggled to dance, act or deliver dialogues effectively and most of his screen time is spent shirtless and awkward. His performance, for a lack of better words, is flat and painful to watch. In fact, every time he opened his mouth the audience cringed.
Owing to the fact that this was Mikaal Zulfiqar’s first Pakistani film as a lead, his fans thronged to the cinema to get a glimpse of their favourite actor; instead, they saw him sidelined by Shayan's character. Having said that, Mikaal’s expressions, mannerism and even dialogue delivery outshone others'.
Ali Kazmi aka The Machinist is the supposed villain in the film yet he fails to do any evil. His character is on a quest to win Aisha’s hand in marriage, but is seen relentlessly crying about losing the love of his life to Zahid. I feel he was wasted in this film, especially given a character who fails to move the plot forward. However, despite not getting the screen time, he still did well enough to make the audience laugh through some of his scenes.
Like Ahsan Khan’s film Chupan Chupai banks on the celeb's star power for box office numbers, NBNB could have also been a success despite the lack of screen time of well known actors (Mikaal Zulfiqar, Ali Kazmi, Qavi Khan, Atiqa Odho and Azra Mohuiddin) to run the show, had it not been for mediocre acting skills by the lesser-known leads.
The film serves as a halfhearted attempt at portraying the life of expats through a contrast between the parents and their children. The parents uphold traditional and cultural values while the children, who have been brought up in Canada, have Western ideals. For example, the older women don traditional shawls or saris and the younger actresses wear sultry bodycon dresses. Instead of showing the generational and ideal disparity in a subtle manner, they come across as rather forced.
The female characters of Na Band Na Barati have no back story, no poignant dialogues and zero character development.
Some scenes are perplexing because a stereotypical brown uncle will be seen addressing a gora in fluent Urdu, leaving the audience more annoyed than amused. Honestly, they could have saved a lot of money shooting the film locally because the picturesque landscapes are the only thing they’ve got going for it, and in reality that brings nothing to the table.
The script is weak and the film, terribly executed leaving only a myriad of sticky situations for forced comic scenes.
Possibly the worst element of the film is the choppy editing. There is no continuity between shots and some shots were static to the point that everything felt flat. Music did the film no favours either, as suggestive songs like 'Wiki Leak' served as an exit point for families.
Ergo, nothing in this project stands out, besides leaving the audience in a daze of confusion. In one line, Na Band Na Baraati is a maze of unamusing situations wrapped in mediocrity. After watching films like Cake and Motorcycle Girl, we have certain expectations from the film industry and if they're going to serve sexism and misogyny in the guise of humour, we are not having it.