It’s hard for a film to have a social message and still be entertaining. Especially in our industry, which is still finding its way. Directors have gone on a preachy rant with a film like Chambaili or turned cinema into a platform for sexual jugat bazi with Jackpot. To his credit, Hisham Bin Munawar has managed to achieve that balance to some degree, which is a big win.
Ready Steady No, is a story of Raziya (Amna Illyas) and Faisal (Faisal Saif), a middle class couple who are in love. However, they are from different Punjabi castes. So, Amna’s single father (Salman Shahid) and Faisal’s mother (Nargis Rasheed) are strictly against it. Despite their protests, their parents aren’t willing to give in. So, when all their request falls on deaf ears, the couple decides to elope. This is the basic, clichéd plot of the film. We have seen two Pakistani films on Eid, with a similar plot. Yet, Ready Steady No offers something different. Its characters are the focus of the film, rather than the story.
Raziya is a naïve girl, who has seen little of the world and is ready to trust people. While, Faisal seems like a submissive man, who tries to avoid confrontation, yet a situation has been forced upon him. Perhaps this was a play on his family dynamic, where his mother has an iron grip over his father (Ismail Tara). On the other hand is, Amna’s father who is pushing his nephew Munir to win the affections of her daughter. Munir is stereotypical bumbling fool. A character we have seen a lot of time before. While, he does get some funny lines, it wears you out quickly.
Then there is Marhoom Ahmed Bilal as a lawyer, who provides lot of fun moments. We had seen him before in Teefa in Trouble. Here, again we see the Lahori in him shines through. Afzal Zain as the cleric is again funny in patches. Salman Shahid is a pretty decent actor and he is likely to make you laugh. Ismail Tara, also manages to impress even with his limited role. Given what we saw in Jackpot, this was simply a role more deserving of a man with his abilities. Ashraf Khan and Nayyar Ejaz, also offer moments of fun with their cameos.
Hisham Bin Munawar as a writer has plenty to offer. There are plenty of laug-out-loud moments and dialogues which will remain with you when you leave the cinema. With the climax, you will realize that the writer had left clues for you to pick on throughout the film. Its intelligent writing.
As director, there is certainly more room for improvement. Being a writer, perhaps it would have been difficult to cut out scenes or cut the scenes short. But a fair chunk, perhaps 15 minutes or so could have been cut out in the edit room. Certain dialogues, which were funny initially become tiresome because of repetition. I did get the feeling that some scenes especially involving Ahmed Bilal were improvised on the day, which can be the reason of slight inconsistency. Cinematography is adequate w/o being impressive. It fits the narrative of a middle class story in a way.
Amna Illyas, is a powerful performer. She does well in her role and her expressions do tell the story. But the chemistry between the lead pair is lacking a bit. Faisal Saif, seemed lethargic in some scenes, where perhaps more urgency, more energy was required. Had the film, showed that Faisal was forced into eloping by Raziya, such demeanor would have made more sense. The only time, you feel a real connection between the two is in the song Dekho Dekho (it’s a decent song on its own).
The film does reflect the problems in our society like castes, religious bigotry, lack of respect for artists, vigilante media anchors, policing system and more. There are some really fantastic moments; check out the wall clocks on a small motel’s reception. However, it could have been better if the film focused a tad bit more in building the relationship between Raziya and Faisal more or talk a bit about caste problems. It perhaps might have changed the tonality of the film, a little bit but certainly given it more weight.
Overall, Ready Steady No is an entertaining film, with a social message. For an independent film maker, with a relatively little known team it’s a worthy effort!