Meera in Baaji

Critic Rating

Saqib Malik’s directorial Baaji graced the screens with a promise to be different than the usual rom-coms or mindless comedies. It was certainly different but does it qualify as a memorable movie that has set precedent for film makers to widen their horizons and look up to it as reference point? This is something that is debatable but lets break it down before we give our final verdict.

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At first glance Baaji’s story seems simple, Shameera an actress facing dying stardom, an ambitious parlor worker Neha who enters her life becoming her confidant and her savior, a budding director from Hollywood Rohail, who takes an interest in this “has been actress” for his next film.The question that arises is why a fresh blood like him would idolized a senior actor who has been written off by an ageist industry. We get the answer in the last 15 minutes of the movie by that time it doesn’t really matter.

The real issue that lies in the movie is the screenplay that hasn’t been polished. There aren’t any memorable dialogues, except Meera’s

“Love me or hate me but you can never replace me!”

This dialogue came with a promise that the film will have a solid narrative just like its delivery. Instead we were served with a film that gets detracted midway through its run succumbing to its sub-plots . It is nice to have sub plots in the film, as long as the film doesn’t stray away from the main idea. In case of Baaji the sub-plots only further make the story hodgepodge and confusing.

It is rather disappointing as the vision and concept behind the film is beautiful and one that should be made. However, that concept fails to go beyond just an idea in the film. The climax though intelligent is not much relevant to the main plot or theme of the movie, and it comes very late in the movie.

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The audience should have been given something that led on to that reveal and should not have been straightforwardly served to us. Had the makers played around with it a little, built up mystery and intrigued,it would have played out very well.

The film has a beautiful packaging but if one digs a little deeper they can witness messy narrative stuffed in.The movie may be titled Baaji, however towards the end of the film it feels more like Neha’s story than Shameera’s.

There are scenes in the movie like the video leak, which are a deja vu moment for all those familiar with Meera’s story, and since the makers aren’t calling this a biopic (though it could have worked in their favor), all it does is remind us about the controversies. The relationships between the characters aren’t fully explored either. The love story between Amna and Osman’s character is barely developed and it comes off as a given.

As far as performances go, there are scenes in which one is completely taken by the fine acting be it Meera or Amna Illyas.Yet there are times when Meera comes off as trying too hard. Nayyer Ejaz as always made his character enjoyable with his effortless performance as Chand Kamal.Ali Kazmi is also impressive as the jelaous ex-boyfriend. The characters have been given the look and the costumes that make their avatars believable. It is a story revolving around the glamour world and no expense has been spared to establish that. Meera not only plays a diva but also looks like one. Amna Illyas’ ravishing transformation is also admirable.

Mohsin Abbas and Osman Khalid Butt’s characters are the least developed in the film. The narrative does not familiarize us with their character traits or their life story. Mohsin Abbas Haider is such a versatile actor yet his role is not given enough exposure or screen space. Had there been any other actor playing that role, it wouldn’t have made much difference. A multi-talented actor like him seems wasted in this role.

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On the music front, tracks like Badlaan and Khilti Kali are refreshing with good vocals by Zeb Bangash and good composition by Taha Malik. Ik Tu is visually stunning and gives us major 90s Lollywood vibes. Other than that no other song really sticks as you leave the cinema.

Osman Khalid Butt & Amna Illyas
Osman Khalid Butt & Amna Illyas

Having said that, I would give brownie points to the director for daring to be different and taking a bold risk. With grandness of the set, great attention to detail, beautiful art direction and cinematography  Saqib Malik offers a true cinematic experience. Whether it is the heart of old Lahore or the grand bungalows of the high society,the contrast is vividly depicted. The film does establish one thing for sure that Meera is an impressive actor who should not be written off just yet!

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