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Rangreza: a colorful, musical, pretty train wreck

Pakistani society has always looked askance at the ‘expressive’ arts. Thanks to the strain of right-wing factions, there have been lesser opportunities for film and media to thrive in the country for long. All that seems to be changing now, however, as more films and entertainment mediums have sprung up every which way.

This year was especially great for Pakistani films as it saw many promising releases and ventures filled with attractively packed star casts and inviting storylines. However,  we have found the same problem with many films: we haven’t really let go of the small screen to graduate to the big screen.

One of the year’s most anticipated releases, “Rangreza” stars Bilal Ashraf, Urwa Hocane and Gohar Rasheed.Written by Akairhtar Qayyum and directed by Amir Mohiyuddin, the story was the musical journey of a simple girl from a qawwal family, Reshmi (Hocane), and her slightly unhinged fiancé, Waseem (Rasheed) and a rockstar (Ashraf) named Ali.

The film starts well as it contrasts the life of poor but respectable qawwals (played masterfully by Tanveer Jamal, Saba Faisal and Saleem Mairaj) and the high-flying Ali Zain, the rockstar. It boasts of a powerful soundtrack that tries to do its best to support a flailing script and rickety-splickety editing but unfortunately Waseem’s quirks, Reshmi’s hair flips and Ali Zain’s growling sneers are not enough to save the terrible script.

The first problem is Gohar’s character that seems to be evil without established motivation. Sure, he had a screwed up childhood but that point doesn’t seem to reflect well in the various conversations and drawls Waseem delivers. “Some men just want to watch the world burn,” I think, as I see him wreaking havoc in every scene that he is in. There is confusion as to what his endgame really is – is he a menacing villain who is a borderline psychopath? Or is he merely gullible and a product of his negative environment? Events confuse us instead of clarifying the root of his motivations. At one point, he seems maniacal – almost delusional and at another, he is calculating and manipulative.

While Gohar shines in some scenes, it seems that there is far too much pressure on him to turn the role into a larger than life villain – which simply does not happen.

Reshmi’s character is just as confusing – how does she fall in love with a man without so much as having a proper conversation with him? Her role is one-dimensional and mostly weepy – Hocane adds little to the role and is always seen either smiling or whimpering.

There is some chemistry between her and Ashraf but by that point in the film, we’ve spent far too much time worrying about Reshmi’s izzat and honor. Ashraf’s angsty depiction of a rockstar is the saving grace. of the film. The actor has magnificent screen presence and massive hero-quality.

Ashraf is under-utilized and has no way to shine in a role that could have potentially skyrocketed him to true super stardom.

He owns his scenes but unfortunately for him, his dialogs are neither powerful nor memorable, an essential ingredient to king-making.

With one too many scenes that would have made for a great drama but serve no purpose in a feature length film the film simply drags. Ghana Ali and Saba Faisal provide laudable support but it is Bilal Ashraf who saves most scenes with his sheer charisma.

There are obvious problems with dubbing, songs come at you from nowhere and there is a bizarre dream sequence that make me wonder if the director had some new theory of mental imagery that the audiences have not caught up on yet. It is disappointing that Rangreza is mess – because it seemed assuring enough from the trailers that it could possibly be paisa vusul but overall, the film is a colorful, musical train wreck.

1/5 stars.

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