Pakistan has gotten its first ever neo-noir film in the shape of Salman Shahid-starring “Tamanna”, which has been directed by British director, Steven Moore, and produced by Concordia Productions (PVT) Limited, which has on board an old Shoaib Mansoor collaborator (Khuda Kay Liye), Sarah Tareen.
Tamanna is the story of a seemingly artless young man, Riz Ahmed (Omair Rana), who falls in love with the young actress-wife (Mehreen Raheel) of the wealthy, Whiskey-drinking, cocktail-loving, purported film industry bigwig, Mian Tariq Ali (Salman Shahid). Ahmed pushes his luck a tad bit too far, and goes to talk to Ali to plead his love, and the latter’s backing off. However, Ali proposes that in order to take his wife in marriage Ahmed must steal some precious jewels that the former had brought a while ago. Thus begins a topsy-turvy tale of dark and humorous series of deceptions and counter-deceptions, and plots fissioning into a growing number of myriad schemes and increasingly complex (read: confusing) narratives. And as all the mayhem unfolds, we find Feryal Gauhar in cameo-like cuts watching the Ahmed-Ali madness through the security camera feed of Ali’s mansion.
The film is a for-screen, contextualized-in-Lahore adaptation of classic British stage play “Sleuth” by Anthony Shaffer. It straddles the two realms of thriller and murder mystery, and dark humor, and seeks to present itself as an intriguing (emphasis added) tale of crime, love, jealousy, infidelity, thirst for wealth and, eventually, deception. It tries also to address questions of class snobbery and ego. However, Tamanna is a poor adaptation of the classic. I had added emphasis on the word “intriguing” because the movie is intriguing, and nothing but intriguing, and a little too intriguing for its own good – it intrigues one’s mind into wondering what were the film’s makers thinking when they came up with the story line that their viewers now have to go through the agony of bearing. The story is so convoluted and so complex (and not in a good way – complex like an extremely-entangled-iPod-headphones-complex) that the film makers themselves seem at a complete loss to make sense of what they started out to do, and where they had come.
The film drags for vast extents of its running time, bores the audiences, confuses them, presents poorly thought out, indeed idiotic, buffooneries in the name of “plot twists”, turns into a hectoring monologue at one point, resorts to oddball shenanigans best suited for a short film made for a college semester-final submission, and, in the end, frankly, it does not even turn out to be very funny. Its editing is poor. Its first ten minutes are so poorly edited, they bear down on one’s eyes like a South American military regime’s tyranny! The film is also riddled with continuity issues, with clear breaks in sequences, and goof-ups.
All, however, is not bad with “Tamanna”. Salman Shahid delivers a stellar performance. Here’s a man who stands out in the film as a class apart – he’s the engine that drives “Tamanna”, the wheels on which it rolls, and the oil that keeps its nuts and bolts in order. Omair Rana is entertaining and offers some sense of promise in an industry that has been for long on the wane. Mehreen Raheel’s performance is alright, though one would expect a little something more from her.
Traditional song-and-dance sequences remain conspicuous by their absence, in a refreshing break from Lollywood custom, and Bollywood standard fare. However, what comes across as the most striking – the “breath of fresh air” offering of “Tamanna” in a G.T. Road-plying-wagon-like stuffy, staleness of usual cinema of Pakistan – is that “Tamanna” steers clear of the done-to-death romance genre, and the much-in-vogue politics and religious extremism bandwagon, and brings class and social issues (however poorly executed) to the silver screen.
A special word ought to be put in for the film’s director of photography, who, at places, has handled his job particularly well, executing some aesthetically very pleasing shots. The film has a good score, winning an award for its Rahet Fateh Ali Khan song at the London Film Festival.
In the final analysis, the film is a drag and a bag of confusion. However, it needs to be appreciated for Salman Shahid and Omair Rana’s performances and its break from traditional genres to attempt to give Pakistani audiences something new to chew on (one would wish the attempt had been successful as well). The film is rather short and poorly made for the silver screen, for reasons elucidated elsewhere. Perhaps, it should have been made into a stage play, or a telefilm, or even a drama serial. One feels hesitant in recommending the film to his readers, even though one realizes that cinema needs more public support to remain afloat, and eventually shoot into the 21st century as a successful industry, doffing both its Maula-Jutt overhang and Gandasa culture moorings. Go watch this movie if you must, and if but to support the fledgling cinema, but keep no expectations. Pay for your theater ticket, and think of it as charity.