Ho Mann Jahaan: Waited and Watched


By Asadullah Naweed
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Asim Raza’s latest foray into Pakistani cinema had no shortage of hype ahead of its release. Easily one of the most heavily advertised and marketed films in recent Pakistani cinema, along with an A-list cast, it was predicted to be one of the biggest hits of the season, which is saying a lot since it had to compete with major Bollywood releases like Bajirao Mastani and Dilwale, which came out two weekends before Ho Mann Jahaan. But does the film itself live up to the hype and anticipation?

A romantic drama, Ho Mann Jahaan narrates the coming-of-age story of college friends Manizeh (Mahira Khan), Arhaan (Shehryar Munawwar) and Nadir (Adeel Hussain), as they navigate post-graduate real life, which sadly is no bed of roses. Nadir, the only child of an excessively wealthy family from Karachi, is an ideal son, always up for a challenge and exceeding everyone’s expectations. Arhaan is determined not to live the 9-to-5 routine of his father, who earns barely enough for the family to scrape by on. His father’s disapproval of Arhaan’s disinterest in his studies, and his decisions in general, are a constant source of tension between the two. Free-spirited Manizeh holds her dreams very dearly, and is terrified of having her wings clipped. The daughter of a divorced artist, Manizeh hails from the so-called middle class.

Part of the same music band in college, the three friends share a burning passion and commitment to music, which they are forced to reflect on by the demands of post-graduation. The same pressures are felt by Nadir and Manizeh’s romance, which faces the judgements and expectations of family. Hard decisions are made, disagreements ensue, and as our trio faces reality, they learn more about each other and, more importantly, about themselves.

While the film does well to depict the struggles and emotional turmoil of adolescents from different socio-economic walks of life, unfortunately, it does so in quite a drag. With a protracted 170-minute running time, it is long drawn-out, and often feels boring. It could easily have been reduced by as much as 30 minutes. More than once, it felt like we were watching a play with actors on stage without any dialogue or cues, and nothing happening. There were several sadly misguided attempts to capture the audience’s attention, but the pointless plot twists, which were inconsequential, fell flat.

The actors do a fairly decent job of portraying their individual characters. Hats off to Shehryar Munawwar for his rendition of Arhaan; there’s never a dull moment when he’s on screen, and his character is, by far, the life and soul of the film. While not a member of the main trio, Sonia Jahaan looks absolutely fabulous in her role as Sabeena, the café owner who gives Arhaan some much-needed support. Her dialogue delivery, both English and Urdu, is spot-on, and she looks incredibly classy. It’s not easy to do that in the same film as Mahira Khan, who rules the hearts of many Pakistanis.

Adeel Hussain, sadly, feels miscast as Nadir, and pales in comparison to the others. His dialogues come across flat and lifeless, which is partly the fault of the writing, and partly the performance. Mahira Khan’s performance is commendable, though not a revelation. In her portrayal as Manizeh, she draws from the same emotions, facial expressions and dialogue delivery that elevated her to fame in Pakistani dramas. While this recipe is tried-and-tested, it would be nice to see her try different kinds of roles, and explore new directions in her acting career. That being said, she is in no danger of becoming stale anytime soon, especially if she keeps busting out moves like she did in Shakar Wandaan Re.

Speaking of Shakar Wandaan Re, the filmmakers sadistically placed the much-awaited song at the very end of the film, to make sure that audiences did not leave prematurely. A clever move, I guess, since the song was picturised beautifully, and made people leave on a good note. The choreography was solid; the dancers clearly put their hearts into it. It is not a surprise then that this song is all the craze this wedding season, with serious fights between cousins and friends of the bride and groom over who gets to dance to this song at the Mehndi.

Click on the picture below to see the video.

Click below on the picture to see the video.

Ho Mann Jahaan is a rather long film, but one to sit through especially if you can relate to one of the characters (I could totally relate to Adeel. Overachieving is an oft-misunderstood burden). The cast is gorgeous, the acting is decent, the dance number is a lot of fun, and the guest appearances are nothing to scoff at (no spoilers). But it’s LOOONG. So stock up on your movie snacks.

Asad’s Rating: 6/10.

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About Asadullah Naweed

Asad is a Lahori, through-and-through. Born and bred in Lahore, Asad moved to the US to do his Master of Science at UNC Chapel Hill. Having stayed on as a Software Engineer with Cisco, moving away from home has been an experience to behold. When Asad isn't engineering something cool, he is cooking, working out and creating lots of drama. His motto in life? If you aren't going to be excellent in whatever you do ... don't do it.