List of things you would see during Betabiyan
- Hawa se balon ka lehrana (multiple times)
- Heroine ka hath pakarna as she tries to walk away (multiple times)
- Heroine wakes up to the tune of music, and dances her way to the closet and gets dressed
- Pearl neckless and colourful saris
- Lots of unimpressionable ballads
- Hidden love diary
- Proposals of marriage
- Marriage as validation of womanhood
- An innocuous fat friend of the hero
- Brown-skinned friend of the heroine
- Ilzam of najiaz taluqat
- Majbor male hits a woman
- Attempts at forced comedy
- Also, Babar Ali
Nostalgia when in short supply is a good thing. But like most things, an overdose isn’t necessarily welcome. Especially when it comes in the form of cinematic expression. Betabiyan is just that. An ode to 90s Pakistani films or even Bollywood. Writers Wasif Burney offers snippets of things that were ‘in’ in that period. Director Abdul Majid Khan creates that world. Actors Babar Ali, Hiba Ali, Syed Arez and Saima Baloch run with it. The question however is, who wants to watch a re-run of a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 2019?
Hasan (Babar Ali) at the start of the film loses his beloved wife, during childbirth. He raises his daughter Nida (Saima Baloch) with a childhood friend Nikki (Hiba Ali). In doing so, both Hasan and Hiba sacrifice their own life. Why you ask. Hasan, because he is the father, Nikki, well you know why. Problem is Hasan doesn’t. Or if he does he fails to acknowledge it and act upon it. Nida who is now in university also fails to see it. Enter a diary of Nikki and Zain (Syed Arez), Nida’s love interest. Do I need to continue any further?
2019 has been a pretty horrific year for Pakistani cinema. So whatever ordinary film Pakistani filmmaker churns out is a bit of a relief. Betabiyan isn’t a bad film. It is perhaps an unnecessary film. It’s not a vanity project for Babar Ali, as some might have suspected. Neither does it offer anything substantially different. A few set pieces combined together, but for what audience?
Babar Ali’s Hasan is a confused and frustrating character. The leap of faith required of him to make the film work is too big. To his credit, he isn’t forcing himself on the scenes. But what are his motivations except than this is what the film requires?
Saima Baloch was perhaps signed because of her dancing skills. But she seemed ill-suited to this character. To play a prickly and slightly annoying twenty years old, someone like Superstar’s Alizeh Shah would have been a much better choice. But Saima puts in her all; even at times overdoing it. On the flip side, there was Syed Arez, who decided to do the bare minimum to the point that he looks disinterested in most scenes. The script provides precious little for either actor.
Whereas, Hiba Ali gets the strongest character. She is well fleshed out and her acting talent shines through. In many scenes, the director decides to depict the mood of the scene through her expressions with many close-ups. It works. Her years of playing bechari orat on TV comes in handy. She suffers in silence and sacrifice is her badge of honour.
The songs aren’t remarkable nor is the forced attempt at family comedy. Especially by the two friends, who are acting like they are in a sitcom for 5 years olds.
All in all, this is an unremarkable film to mark off an unremarkable year for Pakistani cinema.