Mein Punjab Nahin Jaoongi (PNJ), 2017: Lady Cool Meets Feudal Lord, And Then...
Wait for the surprise. Spoiler alert! PNJ succeeds in shattering the larger than life ego of the stereotypical Pakistani feudal male, in this case the hero Fawad Khagga played by our very own desi handsome Humayun Saeed. Somehow, it works! The feudal hero is dealt a bashing — something most Pakistani woman have wanted to do for a long time now to the egotistical Pakistani male, feudal or otherwise — and he eventually capitulates to the stronger party, becoming a sodden, sentimental mess who has had an awakening.
The lady who deals the blow is heroine Amal (lovely Mehwish Hayat) – she fits the bill for the perfect heroine who has it all; a London-return economics major, a graduate, also stunning, sporty and stylish to boot! She sprints, plays basketball — even spins the orange ball on her finger, twirling expertly. She is quite the dude!
Labeled a feminist film on Social Media, Amal carries the film’s theme on her shoulders and doesn’t give into established social norms without a fight! PNJ puts the case forward for modern female emancipation buffered by matriarchy—while Amal knows her own mind, her grandmother Bebo Jee (played by charming veteran Naveed Shahzad) rules her immediate family, and even extended relatives (Fawad Khagga’s family) with an iron hand. There is no messing with her and her granddaughter is no different.
As Fawad Khagga woos her to become his wife – Amal’s London boyfriend Vassay (Azfar Rehman) pales into comparison as Khagga’s passion, Punjabi style, is not something he can match with his cool, western upbringing. (These are some of the stereotypes that actually make you want to scratch the cinema walls!) Diametrically opposed to Amal is Fawad’s cousin Durdana (expertly characterised by Urwa Hocane) who has a thick crush on Fawad and has nothing better to do than to ensnare her man. Her wiles are so good that Fawad rushes to her at the height of frustration during his romance with Amal and asks: ‘Help me Durdana!’ While the setting is comic and this tagline has become famous, the message is serious; don’t mess with another woman when you already have one at home. Fawad Khagga’s slow but sure evolution into a ‘person’ who accepts a woman who is accomplished and strong is what is probably the most appealing message of the film. And an important one too!
Made with blockbuster aspirations, the film’s setting and locale is fabulous; the Lollywood dance and drama has had a grand budget put into it;and the script has lots of funny one-liners that make you laugh! The film promotes local culture; wedding festivities, traditional and folk dances, and South Asian Sufi culture – Fawad Khagga evokes Heer of Ranjha fame to help his romantic distress, and his trip to her shrine is beautifully shot. While stereotypical jokes and characters are very much a part of PNJ, one hopes that eventually – with efforts like this one in our film bank in Pakistan – scripts will evolve, and characters become more meaty and real. I am sure it will happen one day! Meanwhile, the formula for a film with mass-appeal is a good old romantic comic romp with item numbers – it keeps the public happy and the box office too!