Ho Mann Jahan was the first release of 2016 and what a promising way to start the new year! HMJ is a coming of age story circling around the three main protagonists- Nadir (Adeel Hussain), Arhaan (Shereyaar Munawwar) and Manizey (Mahira Khan). The trio are passionate about making it big in music and have chalked out plans about how they’ll shape their career after graduating from IBA. While Nadir hails from a privileged background, his life is controlled by his overprotective parents who have an entirely different vision for him. Manizey is raised by her liberal mother who is an artist by profession and allows her the creative freedom required for such a profession. Her father was himself a musician but had a change of heart and quit his profession and became a born- again Muslim. Realizing that his wife wouldn’t change, he left her but maintains a strained yet civil relationship with her. Arhaan doesn’t quite fit in with the elite crowd as he belongs to a humble background. Frustrated by his lack of privileges, he is constantly at loggerheads with his widowed father who has tried his utmost to ensure that Arhaan has a decent education so he can make a better life for himself.
Two’s company, there’s a crowd- but it doesn’t have to be. The story is predictable but the execution makes it interesting. Apart from the leads, there’s the very talented Sonya Jehen who makes her entry into Pakistani movies as Sabina. I think she was a very apt choice and took the movie up a few notches. Nimra Bucha as Manizey’s mom and Jamaal Shah as her father have given extremely powerful performances. There’s also Bushra Ansari and Arshad Mahmood playing the role of Nadir’s parents who are given sufficient screen time. Plus, there are plenty of cameos from the likes of Fawad Khan, Hamza Ali Abbassi, Strings, Zoheib Hassan and Syra Sheroze.
Comparisons come to mind time and again- The introduction of the trio is reminiscent of Zindagi Gulzaar Hai; Babaji’s words of wisdom brought to mind Shehr-e-Zaat; the colourful choreography of Shakar Wadaan reminded me of the ad- Mere des ka biscuit Gala! Having said that, one must appreciate that the film industry is just taking off and the same actors are already enjoying popularity as they have made their way to the top thanks to the thriving drama industry and commercial endorsements. The movie is just a little shy of 3 hrs but that doesn’t take away from it in any way. The soundtrack is an absolute delight and has something for everyone- ranging from pop to rock to Sufi. I was mesmerized by the attention to detail- the DoP covered Karachi with such finesse- I doubt Karachi has ever looked better! I loved the contrast between Nadir, Arhaan and Manizey’s homes. Nadir’s home reflected his background, Manizey’s home paid homage to her artistic mother and Arhaan’s rundown abode was a reminder of the growing income disparity and economic tension. Also, a big shoutout to whoever was responsible for the wardrobe- I loved the youthful feel and use of vibrant colours. In its simplest form, HMJ is a fun movie- it provides a few hrs of feel- good entertainment highlighting Pakistan’s best- whether it’s the booming music industry thanks to Coke Studio; the talented actors; or the undeniable vision of the director, Asim Raza, HMJ is a superior visual experience. Without attempting to get into a heated debate, HMJ also manages to gently touch upon two very sensitive subjects- that of music in the context of being unislamic and the role or rather control of parents in our society. The movie doesn’t really force you into taking sides but leaves you with some food for thought.
In terms of acting, I was pleasantly surprised by how far Shereyaar Munawar has come. This was definitely one of his best performances till date. He has done complete justice to his role of a conflicted, manipulative and somewhat selfish individual harbouring bitterness due to his circumstances. There were definitely multiple shades of grey in Arhaan. Mahira Khan is one of the most accomplished actors in Pakistan- she is gifted with the Midas touch. She looks great and her expressions are spot on. Adeel Hussain is a fine actor and played Nadir with such honesty, I actually shed a few tears! As consumers of entertainment, we are entitled to our opinions and I’ve read a few not-so-positive reviews. I’m not saying that HMJ is free of flaws but I’m definitely willing to overlook those because the positives far outweigh them. And truth be told, if for nothing else, go for the songs! You won’t be disappointed.