This article has spoilers, in case you care.
So given the hype behind one of the much awaited Pakistani movies “Punjab Nahi Jaungi,” I finally decided to take the plunge and watch it. I went to iMax for their evening show and got myself a decently large sized serving of popcorn and churro’s – two things that proved to be the highlight of my time there. The theater was pretty full, despite the movie being up for more than a week – let’s just say that all the signs were very positive.
The first half of the movie was interesting. The audience is quickly introduced to some of the main characters and Urwa Hocane was not a complete disappointment. The one rather intriguing tactic was that I couldn’t entirely anticipate what the story would be. Quite honestly, there were moments where I wished my anticipation would win over the reality. As a resident of Lahore, Pakistan, the movie left me livid and jaw clenched. I only wonder what the Western audience would think when they see it.
- Mehwish Hayat’s character is shown to be shallow and greedy. She quickly shifts her love interest from Azfar to Hamayun Saeed merely because the latter makes monetary promises the former refuses. Her desire to marry and the strength of her intentions is based on one notion “will he give her his apartment or not?” Though, it was evident that the movie desired to make a profound impact with this entire 70 murrabbay and bhainsain (cows) debacle, it failed quite miserably.
- Let’s not even get started on the whole “slapping” façade. Where the Pakistani cinema and the movie makers could have used this incredible opportunity to raise a concern regarding domestic abuse, they turned into a laughing stock and a social norm. The jokes were not only immensely harsh on the already fragile social framework for a woman; the concept was exploited and converted into a matter of a few good laughs. To the extent that when Urwa’s character was asked how she would react if her husband were to ever slap her, she says “I’d say, Once More!” It is safe to say that it made me cringe and left me livid.
- The story takes a turn when Amal (Hayat’s character) decides to get a divorce, she does so not on the grounds of abuse but on those of adultery. The movie almost dismisses the entire idea that a woman had just been slapped by her husband because she challenges his “manhood” and focuses on another social issue of adultery reducing it to a viral social media meme.
- Though I was hoping for the movie to leave a strong message for all men who desire the exhaled “kaash” Waseem Abbass’ character so non-chalantly makes, it lacked all credibility and potential to do any good. It, in a very ludicrous and humorous manner justifies and then ignores the domestic violence that happens so as long as it is forgiven and something more major, like adultery is punished instead.
We are not sure what the makers of this movie were thinking when they approved of the story-line. If I am too thick to have missed perhaps a subtle denial of all of the above, then maybe I need to fix my perception of films. However, I have to stay, Punjab Nahi Jaungi could have been one heck of a film but is an opportunity wasted.