Movie review: Diana - a Pakistani love affair

Despite humiliating reviews, Diana is still an amusing portrait.

Beenish Mahmood October 06, 2013
Despite humiliating reviews, Diana is still an amusing portrait.

The personality of Princess Diana shone across borders, making her a topic of global interest. She remains in the hearts of many, and the attention received by the movie based on Kate Snell’s 2001 book Diana: Her Last Love proves just that.

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, the film Diana is an attempt to reproduce the last two years of the life of the Princess of Wales. Australian actress and Academy Award-nominee Naomi Watts plays the role of the highly admired princess in the film. Though known for her talent, Watts has suffered humiliating reviews, as a critic said, “the much-loved Princess of Wales has been recast as a sad-sack singleton that even Bridget Jones would cross the street to avoid.”

Watts makes her first appearance, giving the initial impression of a ‘lame’ Diana. Watts’s constricted smile almost takes away the element of spontaneity that came so naturally to Diana. However, when the central theme and love affair, between Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) and Diana blossoms on-screen, we find Watts slipping comfortably into Diana’s shoes.

The turning point comes when Khan informs the princess of his inability to marry her because both of them lead very different lives. Khan, a heart surgeon by profession, lives a life of quietude and privacy. Diana on the other hand is a public figure and her life is alien to privacy. Khan leaves Diana alone and this is the climax of the one hour 53 minute movie. Diana is devastated and is shown playing the piano fiercely as her tears fall to the keys.

There are small moments of relief from the tragedy that was Diana’s love affair. After the break-up, Diana goes to meet her friend to confide in. That is her moment of catharsis.

As Diana wrests control of her life we see her hire a journalist to take shots of her while pretending to have an affair with Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar). She does this just to make Khan jealous as he was her one and true love. However, as Khan realises his mistake, it is too late — Diana has already become a victim of her fate. He is left heartbroken and as he lays flowers by Diana’s pictures, he leaves her a note: “Somewhere between right and wrong there is a garden. I will meet you there.” (Rumi). With this note he declares his love for her but it can only come now as salve for her soul.

The film does a good job of encapsulating the life of a princess, as a mother, as a lover and as a social worker. Because it opens in the post-Charles period of her life its focus is not on her role as a wife, mother and princess of Wales. Instead it zooms in on her from a more human perspective. We see the enormous compassion she displayed in her contributions for humanitarian causes and the sacrifices she made in her personal relationships. We even see her cleaning her lover’s flat. We understand, however, that a public figure cannot have the privilege of a leading a normal, private life, a contention that arises many times between Khan and Diana and finally severs their relationship.

The script is rich and well done. Khan says to Diana at the start of their relationship, “You don’t perform the operation. The operation performs you.” And another dead winner also comes from him: “The hard part is receiving love.”

As can be expected, the film has not been well received in certain quarters. Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, refuses to watch it. “Why would I want to see a fictitious incarnation of a world I was a part of?” he argues.

Burrell has been a source of information on Diana’s life. He has spoken of how Diana and Khan met at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital and developed, according to him, “an immediate connection”.

Diana apparently told Burrell: “You’ll never guess what happened today. I was in the hospital lift going up. The door opened and there was the most adorable man you could ever wish to meet standing there in a doctor’s coat. The moment I looked into his eyes I knew that man was for me.”

She said: “I have to get to know this man.”

And the more she got to know him, the deeper in love she fell.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, October 6th, 2013. 


sterry | 9 years ago | Reply

Naveen Andrews hardly looks like a Pakistani Pashtun! It seems the movie in the West can't tell the difference between a native Pakistani from the North and a typical Indian looking man.

Not Dr. Khan | 9 years ago | Reply

The guy who played Dr. Hasnat Khan does'nt look like him at all. It would have been better if someone from Pakistan had been given this role. Such as Jamal Shah, Noman Ijaz, or if possible to trace, the guy who played the role of Naveed (a.k.a Nido) in the Drama Serial Dhuan (who I think is the best look-alike of Dr Hasnat).

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