Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pakistani Film Reviews: Ishara (1969) اشارہ

Written, directed, produced by: Waheed Murad

Set-up and hook

Struggling artist Aamir (Waheed Murad) ...




 . . . meets Alia (Rozina), a wealthy family's ward, when he's "caught" fixing his bike in front of her hostel and brought before the headmistress for questioning.


Alia manages to avoids Aaamir for like a day, and then is properly wooed at a group picnic. It's not long before the two are sighing into each others pleasant faces and over long spiral phone cords and on shady park benches.



Well, when she can manage to ditch her family on the few holidays she has from her boy-hating boarding school, that is. And avoid snooping (ok, curious) friends.



More serious roadblocks to love may or may not include: oops, Aamir's female patron, Reshma, is in love with him;  and oops, Alia's aunt wants to get her married to the mustachioed heir of the house;


AND major oops, Alia feels beholden to her aunt and will probably say yes to mustache-cousin just out of gratitude.

Performances

where DID I leave my cell? never had this problem with my pink wall-phone
Story-appropriate (read: sweet). Errs on the side of heavy-lidded stares over shout-y theatrics. This is my first Waheed film, and I have to say that even if Aamir is pretty dull for an artiste-type (zero misbehavior), Waheed himself is charming. Rozina didn't make a huge impression, but she's adequate. Just don't ask me to pick the actress playing Reshma out of a line-up.

Perks

Lots of variety in locations and creatively edited sequences. Definitely isn't a point and shoot film, evidenced by the very first frame, a "first person" dolly cam angle down an alley spliced with Aamir's narration "This is the street where I live, etc." A few shots flat out surprised me, as I've never seen comparable angles used in same era Bollywood.


An album to own, honestly....
  • A piano ballad/sequence with three major characters lamenting their doomed love story, Main ik bhoola hua naghma hoon. [I love these on principle, and this is a catchy one.]  

Some heroes acting heroic!

*Aamir wins the gentleman award. Reshma keeps her head pretty well, for a spurned woman. But due to niceness overload, no one ever says what they need to say to get what they want. As a Minnesotan, I really know *ahem* nothing about this phenomenon.


Annoyances  

betrothed cousin was the only one allowed to be a little naughty 
Few. The comedy borders on comedic, with a funny sideplot about a classical music student who can only hit a proper sa-re-ga-ma scale when she's crying.

Gender stuff: the flip side to Aamir's consummate chivalry is over-earnest passivity. If you are looking for an action hero, look far, far away, or at the screen next door playing a Punjabi film. And the women--self-sacrificing, but mostly behind closed doors.

Picture quality: Not great, could be a lot worse. I expect some of the locations would be gorgeous, if you could see them properly.

YOU be happier! no, YOU!
Weepiness level: low, even with the multiple depressed shaadi se pehle folks.

Coherence: Pieces are missing from this print. How random people are socially connected in this movie is a mystery, maybe because of subs; maybe Aamir just knows people 'cause he's a friendly dude.



Oddities

we are a 50 year old boy band! whoever heard of such a thing?!
*A music teacher's daydream about a long-haired, aging pop group known as "The Bugs."

*The fact that none of the boarding school girls seem to have anything to study except love notes...no, I guess that seems about right.

*Aamir is virtually never seen at his patroness' house. Why have a patron if you aren't going to paint at their beautiful studio? I mean, if you can't ignore the cougar crush-vibes, then maybe you shouldn't be an artist at all.

Verdict: Watchable. Downloadable. Maybe lovable. 

Don't leave! How can I be sure to meet another Pakistani film as nice as you?
If you like fluffy 60s romances with a lot of a good humor, boarding school gags, and breathless puppy love a la Annette and Frankie, then the film as a whole might appeal. 

Note: Generally, I don't find Pakistani films with subtitles, so if you've seen the film and want to correct a plot point, please do so in the comments. 

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