Bin Roye (2015) – Film Review

*Spoilers*

Bin_Roye_filmBin Roye (Tearless/ Without Crying) the much hyped latest offering of Pakistani cinema, while a box office success, is quite frankly a waste of time. In recent years, the avoid-at-all-costs local films of Pakistan appeared to have fueled a film renaissance of sorts, with new talent gracing the screen and innovative writers and directors developing worthwhile plots and story lines. From social commentary films like Khuda Ke Liye (For God – usually translated as ‘In the name of God’), Dukhtar (Daughter) and Bol (‘Speak’) to the action packed Waar (‘Attack’) and the ludicrously humorous Na Maaloom Afraad (Persons Unknown), for once Pakistani cinemagoers had intelligent, interesting and fun (and above all, watchable) films to enjoy. Unfortunately, Bin Roye does not live up to the standards set by the aforementioned films.

Plot: Based on an Urdu novel, Bin Roye Aansoo (Without Shedding Tears), the film introduces us to (the highly irritating) Saba (Mahira Khan) who is in love with her clueless cousin Irteza (Humayun Saeed). Irteza then travels to America, and while staying with his aunt and uncle in the USA, he meets and falls for his other cousin Saman. What follows is highly predictable and immensely dull to watch – Irteza and Saman marry, Saba is devastated and wishes Saman dead, time passes, Saman dies, Saba is guilt-ridden and yet pressurized by her family into marrying Irteza. After ages of treating Irteza like he’s some kind of monster, Saba finally confesses her guilt. Irteza, completely unperturbed, tells her not to feel guilty anymore and that he’s loved her his whole life (umm… so why did he marry the other woman?) – the end.

Honestly. What was the point? Within 10 minutes of the film, the entire story was evident. There was no suspense, no interesting developments to keep viewers invested in the film. The plot too was pathetically unoriginal – two women in love with the same man, and the complications that ensue is the plot of probably every tv series produced by the Pakistani channel ‘Hum’ (i.e., Ahista, Ahista (Slowly); Humsafar (Companion); Alvida (Farewell); Dastaan (A Tale); Mere Mehrban (My Benefactor) to name a few…).

Acting: In a word, terrible. The characters are flimsy – there’s no substance to them, and there’s no character growth/development throughout the film. The characters remain the same at the beginning and at the end of the film – this may be the result of poor writing. But, what is undoubtably the result of zero-acting-skills is the inauthenticity of the characters. The viewer is never allowed to become immersed in the film. Instead, one is constantly aware that what they’re watching is someone pretending to be this character or the other. The acting doesn’t flow naturally – its stilted and fake like a cheap knock off.

Worst of all is Mahira Khan – she’s let herself fall into the trap of playing the same character again and again but with a different name. Here, she blatantly channels her character Shano from a recent Hum tv series called ‘Sadqay Tumharay‘ (literally translated as ‘Sacrificed for you’). The body language, the style of speech, the annoying immaturity masking as innocence – its all the same, just with a few more irritating negative characteristics added to the mix.

Also, there is almost no emotional impact of scenes that were apparently meant to be moving or climatic. In a scene depicting Saba’s despair and agony at the marriage of Irteza and Saman, viewers found themselves laughing at the awful acting by Khan. She raves, rants, screams, cries, howls in utter hopelessness, anger and sorrow but Khan lacks the skill of subtlety. The angry flinging of jewelry and the screaming is so over the top. You don’t need to over-act to convey depth of feeling – but sadly neither the actress nor the director/writer/producers seem aware of this very basic fact.

Cinematography: Just as bad as the acting. Need I say more?

Rating: 0 out of 5 – time and money tragically wasted. And this was allegedly praised by critics (says Wikipedia).

 

 

 

Soulless (2009) – Book Review

Soulless by Gail Carriger (Tofa Borregaard) is disappointingly true to its title.

Soulless_by_Gail_Carriger_1st_edition_coverWhen I came across the book, the synopsis on the back cover seemed promising – the protagonist, Alexia has no soul and as such is immune to the supernatural species (vampires and werewolves in particular) that reside among the living in this alternative-history/fantasy version of Victorian England. I had hoped that this would make for good ‘fluff’ reading – something light, amusing and enjoyable. Sadly, this was not to be.

The writing is poor, the characters are uninteresting, and above all it is so, so poorly researched (I doubt any research went into it, at all).

The writing: The writing is immature. Carriger needs to spend more time refining her writing style – there’s too much description and no subtlety to speak of. It’s so ‘in-your-face’. I wish she’d spent more of the novel ‘showing’ the reader things rather than ‘telling’ the reader. This is evident from the very first chapter, which for its part fails to grip the reader or entice her/him to carry on reading.

Much of the novel requires one to continually note the dark skin tone and curvaceousness of the protagonist (Alexia) and the muscularity of her Scottish love interest (Lord Maccon). Is this meant to create an atmosphere of tense sensuality? If so, it does not. Instead, readers are left feeling their intelligent is being constantly insulted.

Additionally, action is repeatedly put on hold to make room for descriptions, explanation, remembrances lasting up to two pages, frequently causing the reader to lose track of the plot. Was the novel not proofread by an editor? Because any editor who did read this, and failed to highlight these issues to the writer deserves to be fired.

The book cover boasts “Delicious rapier wit that recalls Austen and P.G. Wodehouse“. Lies. I have read my share of Wodehouse and Austen, and I have enjoyed both. While there may be times when these two writers also dwell on descriptions, their writing style is much more engaging and fun to read. There is no tedium when reading Wodehouse’s hilarious descriptions or Austen’s satirical/indulgent ones. On the contrary, when reading Soulless the descriptive writing is mind numbing. And there is no wit to be found here.

The characters: Black sheep heroine who is devalued and mistreated by those around her; dark, broody (black sheep) hero who is the only one who values her. Sound familiar
? No? Then let me acquaint you with Barbara Cartland. This is the plot of nearly EVERY novel she’s ever written. Oh, and let’s not leave out the others Judith McNaught, Danielle Steele and company. This trope is so overdone, so stale, that its got mountains of green fungus growing over it.

If you want a romance starring a blue-stocking spinster you’ll have better luck with Georgette Heyer’s Sprig Muslin (which, by no means, is anywhere near being my favourite Heyer – and its still better than this book).

The characters are not developed in the least, they lack depth and complexity. They are also unrealistically stupid – Alexia and Maccon, when held captive by evil scientist caricatures who threaten their lives and the life of Alexia’s friend Lord Akeldama, can think of nothing other than their hormonal drives.

The research: If you’re going to write a story based in Victorian England, even if it is a fantasy, please do some research on the culture, the society and the language of the time. This novel is so incredibly pseudo-Victorian that even without reading the author’s bio, its evident that it has been written by an American with a fascination with Britain. Only the most superficial of Victorian etiquette is referenced here. Otherwise, much of the behaviour of and the language used by characters is highly anachronistic and Americanised.

Overall: For the discerning reader, unintelligent and lacking in authenticity. Is it possible to rate a book as minus 5 stars ( — 5*s)? To be fair, I suppose the tacky cover should have been a warning.

Recommendation: For a light, but well-written novel based in Victorian England with a female protagonist, go for Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series – fun, humorous, intelligent, well-researched, and also dark and gothic.