Almost halfway through director Wajahat Rauf’s latest Eid release ‘Parde Mein Rehne Do’ (PMRD), once the movie’s plot became rather obvious, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is it really ‘cinematic’ enough? Male infertility and the social attitudes around it is an area that perhaps the government and non-governmental organizations are more concerned with, especially when it comes to social messaging. Can it really make for a breezy, entertaining film, that too an Eid release? Well, Rauf and writer Mohsin Ali (‘Ghabrana Nahi Hai’, ‘Wrong No.’) show that indeed this is possible, with some interesting results.
While ‘cinematic’ or larger-than-life are terms that would likely not be appropriate for PMRD’s plot, the film’s slick production, a controlled direction by Rauf, and strong performances by leads Ali Rehman Khan and Hania Amir ensure that the audience does get their bang for the buck – and likely more. Khan and Amir vibe quite well on screen: their chemistry was rather charming, exactly as the script required it to be, and importantly, both exuded that elusive quality called screen presence that is not easy to come by. Unlike Rauf’s last venture ‘Chhalaawa,’ there was minimal over-the-top melodrama and his creative vision seemed largely on point. His directorial cues likely ensured the film’s measured emotional tone and avoidance of sanctimonious, overt moralizing – a major plus in my book.
The story is not entirely new: A newlywed couple Shani (Ali Rehman Khan) and Nazo (Hania Amir) have married against the wishes of Shani’s parents (played by Javed Sheikh and Munazzah Arif). Their matrimonial bliss is somewhat interrupted by the strong family and social pressure to have biological children. Following little success at conceiving, the couple decides to seek medical help. In the face of all the pressure and not many options, our hero, unfortunately, decides to be not-so-heroic and has much consternation about accepting his and his wife’s circumstances. Naturally, emotional turmoil follows.
The film’s setting is more along the lines of reel-imitating-real, with the many characters behaving like individuals typically do in everyday Pakistani society. The relentless pressure on newlyweds to have children from the parents and/or in-laws, friends cracking inappropriate jokes, relatives and neighbors constantly asking about a potential baby on the way — all these feature quite elaborately in the screenplay. The film is also notable in that it successfully highlights the strongly ingrained, patriarchal notion of masculinity that is a constant across all social strata and generations in most Asian cultures. In what is a win for the filmmakers, these elements are incorporated with much subtlety and do not stand out for their obvious messaging quality.
While the narrative by and large flows rather smoothly without too many jarring interruptions or situations, more sensitive handling at certain points could have further elevated the film’s graph. In particular, the scene where Shani visits the doctor, only for him to sit through an overly long hectoring session at the hands of the medical specialist, could have been written and handled better. Firstly, what the doctor’s character says might not be entirely accurate in terms of the medical prognosis offered, and secondly, its tone sends out a discouraging message to those trying to seek medical help. Additionally, showing women smoke – as Hania’s Nazo does in many scenes — does not in any way connote women’s empowerment if that was the intent.
If you can manage to look beyond these hiccups, the film boasts of a decent sound design, with the ambient background music nicely complementing the film’s not-so-heavy content. Even during portions of emotional upheavals, the music score is suitably restrained and easy on the ears, and overall works rather well as background accompaniment for the leads’ performance.
The Bottom line
PMRD deals with a relatively simple plot and is a story well told in a lighthearted, entertaining way. A few hiccups aside, the writer and director have managed to bring to screen the important subject matter of male infertility (and no, it’s not impotence as has been incorrectly reported by some outlets) to light without being too heavy handed or preachy. Ali Rehman Khan and Hania Amir exhibit the right screen presence and share decent on-screen chemistry, and their performance is one of the reasons why the film works. For a night out, PMRD would make a pleasant watch and is recommended.