Yasir Nawaz’s film Mehrunisa V Lub U had its premiere last night and I’m still trying to make sense of what happened.
Danish Taimoor plays Ali, a young man who returns to Karachi after spending three years in China and immediately decides to marry his childhood love, Mehrunisa (Sana Javed), who lives in northern Pakistan. A rushed wedding later, Ali brings Mehrunisa back to Karachi so that the rest of the film can take off.
Mehrunisa, or Mehru as she’s called, is so used to the pristine mountains she’s previously lived in that she just can’t ‘adjust’ to life in Karachi. She finds her mohalla painfully dirty and crowded and becomes depressed. Ali realises that life in the neighborhood has in fact become too disorganised and that he must change it if he wants to hang on to Mehru and start a family. He persuades his mohalla to clean up its act.
Meanwhile, a corrupt politician is attempting to get the residents of the area to sell their homes to him so he can profit off the area. Drama ensues.
This might seem like a plot that’s simple and sweet enough for a fun family-oriented Eid film. But is it really?
Here’s what you should know before you head to the cinema.
1) Mehrunisa is barely a character
It’s ironic how the whole film revolves around Mehru, from loving Mehru to making the world a better place for Mehru to saving Mehru and whatnot, yet there is so little input from Mehru herself.
Mehrunisa’s character is entirely two-dimensional, the same old person from start to finish. Without any character development to speak of, the film’s insistence on positioning Mehru as the catalyst for basically every major event seems implausible.
Mehru is very mellow and timid. And that’s fine, many people are like that, and for someone who is timid and from a very quiet area to come to Karachi, it’s understandable for her to be uncomfortable. I actually liked the scene where Mehru enters her new home and is at a loss for words when faced with a loud reception. But it was the lack of growth and the very high level of naivety in Mehru that made us wanna grab her and shake some sense into her.
Seriously Mehru, how unaware are you of your surroundings? Your husband has convinced the whole mohalla to change and you aren’t even the least bit curious? Come on girl.
2) The film equates cleanliness and ‘modernity’ with life in, like, London
Okay maybe not London, but here’s our point: when Ali convinces his neighbours to become cleaner, more conscientious residents (FYI, he says they need to change for the greater good but all that is basically a ploy to make Mehru happy) they reappear wearing suits and dresses that could only be worn on a European vacation, NOT in a middle-income Karachi neighbourhood.
While I can appreciate that the movie attempts to make a point about cleanliness and civic duties… why are we still equating these concepts with all things ‘gora’ or stereotypically western?
I mean, whitewashing much?
What really concerned me is how this sends a message that being maila is an intrinsically desi flaw. We love wearing jeans but that doesn’t mean we think kurtas are maila. It felt like some inferiority complex. Please stop.
3) Danish Taimoor has too many jackets
And while we’re talking about the wardrobe… I’d like to add that Danish Taimoor looked more like a model continuously prepping for a shoot than a young man hanging out in Karachi.
He literally wears a different jacket in every shot. Trust us, we love jackets, and even the marf looks cool, but this is Karachi, and it’s clearly not winter season in the film, so why is Ali always clad in winter fashion?
Danish Taimoor’s fashion went beyond winter wear as well, with weird shirts on top of kurtas and the oddest vests, but judging by the wardrobe of most characters, there is someone to blame. Someone with a vendetta against Danish though.
4) Danish Taimoor’s character celebrates becoming a father by performing an item number with a woman who’s not his wife
We don’t want to delve into the existence of the item song in Pakistani cinema, because this goes way beyond that. Allow us to explain.
A little recap. So Mehru tells Ali that she is expecting a child. She makes sure to whisper it in his ear even though it’s just the two of them in the room. A cute scene follows of Ali telling his family the good news. All of this is predictable.
What isn’t predictable is that this happy news is celebrated with an item song.
‘Marhaba’ from the film has been dubbed the celebration song by the director and we’re guessing the celebration was of Mehru expecting. We highly doubt an item song, where the father-to-be is dancing with a random person (a guest appearance by Amna Ilyas) is the way to go.
But of course, the only way to celebrate a wonderful marriage and beginning of a family is to dance in front of the whole family like that. Again, Mehru, girl, say something. We got your back!
5) For an Eid film, the humour sure is crass
Are weird, creepy sexual innuendos a must for comedy?
We hope not. But if they are, they shouldn’t have to be so forced. The script was pushing a joke in at every moment they could get, and a majority of the moments didn’t have any space for them. Because of this, a bunch of the jokes would drag on and were pretty much a scene of their own rather than a passing joke. And it was not fun. It was uncomfortable after a while.
We don’t mind a funny dirty joke every now and then, but all over crass humour is different. Especially in a movie talking about cleaning yourselves up!
6) The acting gave us mixed feelings
Its difficult to say whether the acting of the film was good or bad, because there were definite hits and misses. We don’t know what to say about Sana Javed’s acting because the character and script really did not allow her much margin to show her acting chops.
Danish Taimoor was all over the place with his over the top reactions and ability to cry at almost every single thing. Seriously, his eyes were just filled with tears through out the second half. The best friend played by Saqib Sameer, who is also the scriptwriter of the film, was also underperformed. Sameer also plays his own father, a character that had a lot of scope but because of all the forced slapstick comedy, just ended up being irritating to watch.
Surprisingly enough the actors not in the lead really did a good job. We loved both the fathers, Javed Sheikh and Arshad Mahmud, the latter appearing for a small bit but leaving a pleasant impact.
Nayyer Ejaz was another victim of a limiting script (and the worst catchphrase ever, what does “Lakalakalakalakalakalaka” even mean?) but he still outshone most of the cast with amazing acting skills and delivery as Marzi, the henchman of the corrupt politician who is trying to rid the area of its residents, and is a transvestite.
Best part about his work was the shunning away if stereotypical portrayals and being a very stable and noticable character, despite some slapstick humour.
7) Director Yasir Nawaz pops up near the end to deliver a self-righteous speech about stuff
The film is wrapping up, whatever tears have to be shed are being shed, whatever love has to be fanned has been found. That’s cool. But at the film’s close, did I expect the director of the film to step out from the crowd, break the fourth wall and make sure to explain the lessons to me himself?
Oh yes, that’s the twist right there.
Just like Captain Planet telling you “The power is yours!” at the end of every episode, Yasir Nawaz gives a speech about how we are in charge of fixing our city and the conditions and we should strive for a better country.
That is all well and good. But did this have to be said here? And like this?
Mehrunisa V Lub U seemed to have really good intentions but I feel its the execution that let it down. I doubt there’s anyone who’ll disagree with the claim that its not the place that is bad but people, but perhaps with a better script and direction, the concept could have been highlighted better.