Cinema is a profound medium to say the least. When a collection of moving pictures are put together in an ideological narrative and stylistic coherence and screened in a larger than life environment, it has the ability to save lives and change perspectives. But the ultimate success of the magic trick lies in its prestige, which depends as much on your craft of deception as on the audience’s willingness to be fooled; an inch here or there, and you lose the plot of that connection.
Dobara Phir Se (DPS) arrives like a magic spell. Mehreen Jabbar makes the rabbit appear out of the hat by telling a very powerful story in an equally simple fashion. But pulling out a rabbit from a hat is a trick you are likely not to come to see again. DPS is good but it’s a one-time watch. I strongly believe that a good film is one that you would pay to watch again, but in the case of DPS, we’ll have to make an exception. It’s a film that doesn’t target the regular local cinema-going audience but still manages to succeed at what Ho Mann Jahan failed to do: define the ‘Pakistani urban cool’ in its true essence. Some will love it and others won’t bother watching.
However, for expat Pakistanis, DPS will become a vehicle of cultural change. It’ll provide the much-needed catharsis for our cousins living abroad, who have spent and are going to spend the rest of their lives finding a balance between nature and nurture.
Hammad (Adeel Hussain) is invited to a house warming party of his friend Vassay (Ali Kazmi) and his girlfriend Samar (Sanam Saeed) at their new apartment in New York. Samar, like a typical ‘committed’ friend, has plans to set Hammad up with an attractive desi girl Natasha (Tooba Siddiqui). They seem to get along quite well until Hammad spots a girl =he had seen in a ferry earlier in the day at the same party. He excuses himself from Natasha and managed to talk to the stranger who had been on his mind the whole day. No longer a stranger, Zainab ( Hareem Farooq) is cute but composed and before Vassay can make a move, her husband Asim (Shaz Khan) erupts at her for not keeping her cellphone charged. Hammad eventually leaves the party feeling dejected and finds Natasha in the elevator and they decide to meet again. This is just the first 15 minutes of the film and the rest is for you to find out for yourself.
The party sequence itself is quite engrossing because it manages to lay down the foundation of the entire film in just 15 minutes with all its intricacies and foreshadowed complications. That eventually backfires when a film with such a basic plot and a closely-knit story stretches up to two hours 10 minutes. DPS loses its pace terribly in the second half and you end up feeling the same as you do two hours into a Bollywood film that doesn’t seem to end despite telling you how it’s supposed to end.
However the shots and the score both do justice to the overall feel of the film, which lies somewhere between a free-flowing, constricted and dense set of emotions. The powerful close-up is back in Pakistani cinema and it is not only supported by neat frames and pretty faces, but very much so by impeccable performances.
Hussain as a brooding young man, who thinks too much about everything, manages to bring a consistent restlessness on his face and makes you equally clueless about his life. Kazmi and Saeed ,on the other hand, are the relatively simpler characters and they do perfectly well to form the bridge between extremes. Hareem is good as Zainab but her overall restrictive character seems to have hampered her performance as well. There was very little room for her to play around with but she didn’t make the most of whatever was available. Shaz, on the other hand, who seems to have graduated from Moor to DPS as Asim is very much like Moor’s Ehsaanullah – it’s just that he carries a different baggage for similar symptoms and carries them in style. Siddiqui, on the other hand, has proven that it’s about time we stop calling her a diva and start calling her a performer.
Speaking from a Pakistani context, DPS as a whole focuses on problems of the rich and affluent; of a society that actually has the opportunity to overthink and focus too much on the thinking aspects of their lives. We, as an audience, don’t get that opportunity very often and even if we do, we prefer not paying for it and that is why the film will not deliver the numbers, at least in Pakistan, where the poor man is a significant contributor to the box office.
As Albert Camus says in his biographical account, “Remembrance of things past is just for the rich. For the poor it only marks the faint traces on the path to death.”
Dobara Phir Se is good but a one-time watch.