Chalay Thay Saath takes us on an uphill, but worthwhile journey of friends looking for the same thing: to connect with each other. The first step, as we learn, is to accept our inherent loneliness.
The slow burning tale attempts to looks inward before heading forward.
MEET THE TRAVELERS
Resham (Syra Sheroz) leaves her big city life as a doctor to return to her family home nestled in the mountains and to her father (Behroz Sabzwari) with whom she has a remarkably close relationship. She’s hanging on to memories of a mother she hardly knew and a romanticized almost magical idea of love.
Architect of the trip is her best friend Tania (Mansha Pasha) who needs closure in at least one of her relationships as her marriage to Zain (Osama Tahir) falls apart. Zain in turn desperately wants to rebuild the marriage but cannot find the footing to do so.
Zain’s old friend Faraz (Faris Khalid) tags along as the most directionless of these searchers. He doesn’t know what he wants in life and his listlessness manifests as obnoxiousness. The more frustrated he gets at his friends the more he takes it out on their Chinese companion Adam (Kent S Leung). How better to cement a place of belonging then by designating someone else as the outsider?
SO ALONE, WE CAME TOGETHER
The two leads connect with each other in a moment of genuine honesty despite a clear barrier: language. Adam spends the rest of the film overcoming this distance with a translator app, Urdu classes and attempt to understand Resham’s culture. He even uses Resham’s diary to understand her innermost thoughts.
This feels like a violation and an unforgivable crime to the boys, but Resham sees it differently. She finds a kindred spirit in Adam. Despite the somewhat sneaky way he came to it, she now has someone to share her feelings with, who understands where she is coming from.
This some times fleeting moment of real connection is the reason we embark on journeys, the reason we make films, it’s even the reason we write reviews – to let others know that “you are not alone, I have felt this too”.
ALSO READ: 11 minutes with Syra Shehroz
A FOUNTAIN OF LIES AND LOVE
Adam and Resham’s innocent romance forms the core of the story but the movie offers much more. As we see relationships being forged, we also see how tenuous they are to maintain and how they fall apart if they are not cared for.
Resham tells the rest of the group about a mystical ‘fountain of love’. According to legend you fall in love with the next person you see after drinking from the stream. But as we learn the legend is only half true.
The clear waters of the lake can show you who you want but you need to figure out how to make your relationship work.
When you are on your own personal journey it is hard it have patience for someone else’s and even the most trivial, arbitrary fights blow up to ridiculous proportions. It takes a tragedy for our characters to realize that none of the bitterness they were holding on to matters as much as the people they care about.
Chalay Thay Saath takes you on two journeys. In the first you find yourself by understanding someone else: that might take you to an all women’s carpentry workshop or camped outside a girlfriend’s house until they deem you worthy.
The second more unexpected journey is isolation: you cannot be with someone else until you take some time to deal with your own past.
Though the message is clunky at times, we see the characters simply struggle to communicate. The mountains (and life) cannot be controlled.
Some of the criticism leveled towards the movie is fair. There are a lot of characters and storylines. It is not just a straight forward travelogue as the trailer promised.
Nothing earth-shattering happens plot-wise, even when the earth literally shatters it is treated as a minor inconvenience rather than a shocking natural disaster. Yet almost every moment is warm, engaging, funny and surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Chalay thay saath is not a roller coaster, it is a cozy bonfire of a film.
Some trips are planned meticulously with a perfectly scheduled itinerary from which you can never deviate where the destination is clear and the journey is deliberate. Then there may be trips where you meander leisurely without such a definite goal and simply absorb the world around you and let the journey take you where it may.
Chalay Thay Saath, is a movie that meanders so delightfully that it doesn’t much matter where we end up.