The Big Picture

Verna: Why Shoaib Mansoor’s latest flick will fail to impress the audience

Shoaib Mansoor seems to be angry with society, and Verna makes him sound the angriest we have ever heard him.

Khuda Ke Liye Bol Verna. . .

Mansoor’s upcoming flick will launch his third tirade, completing a trilogy of sorts.

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The official trailer of Verna reveals a likeness to the rape-revenge genre, a sub-category of horror or exploitation films. 

Rape or sexual assault is a heinous crime but fictional movies that attempt to address the issue don’t come without controversies.

 

RR movies have usually been a subject of contention for blurring the lines between condemning rape crimes and objectifying rape victims. In line, the audience has to sit through “brutal depictions of rape in the first half, only to have those rapes avenged (typically by the woman who survived them) in the second half” (Kelly MacNamara).

What’s more, RR movies are usually handed an R-rating for mature content, restricting teens and preteens from receiving the ‘righteous message’ in a bottle.

Are families in Pakistan going to watch Verna safe in the knowledge that Shoaib Mansoor will steer clear of the meat and potatoes of the genre, and will leave much to the audience’s imagination?

There answer is obvious. 

Verna can be true to the genre expectations or it can be true to the audiences’ expectations (of no mature content). To be true to both conditions at the same time, the movie will have to defy the ‘law of non-contradiction’.

It is not hard to imagine that the general public would want to watch it for the charismatic Mahira Khan and the raw strength of her onscreen avatar, Sarah. Perhaps, a select audience will also be attracted to the story resonating with good melodious. The rap song Power di Game is gaining popularity.

Needless to say, Shoaib Mansoor will be best remembered for giving the nation great music and dead-pan comedies especially in the 1980s. Now, it is saddening to know that the old master seems to have lost much of his sense of humour.

When filmmakers are angry, they turn to documentary filmmaking to the likes of Errol Morris, Michael Moore and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, winning plaudits and awards—and a few law suits—along the way.

Shoaib Mansoor, too, shows strong attributes of a documentarist but chooses to pick unreal stories to vent his ‘anger’. Worse still, he even puts bells and whistles on his stories to qualify for the “commercial cinema”. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that per se. Aamir Khan does so all the time, but Aamir Khan does not create in anger.

On the trailer, one of the shots caught my attention the most. A glimpse of the real-life gangrape victim Mukhtar Mai demanding justice for the fictional-world rape victim Sarah. . .

That very shot instantly reminded me of the song called, The Irony of Choking on a Lifesaver by All Time Low.

Shoaib Mansoor made his ‘anger’ public in a latest press statement issued in absentia at the launch of Verna’s theatrical trailer in Karachi:

“My films reflect my beliefs and conscience. Things happening around me bother me and hence, I am forced by my inner self to take them on. My films reflect the anger that I feel on social injustice of all forms. So, every time I am about to embark on a film it is my anger that controls my thoughts, not the hunger for success and money.”

Now a filmmaker who is angry and, at the same time, fearless of failure at the box office is hard to find. Equally hard to find is an audience, including myself, who are willing to buy a movie ticket only to be subjected to an angry filmmaker’s revenge from civil society for two long hours.

Serious filmmakers in Pakistan must not forget that they have bigger and ‘real’ fish to fry: the bitter truth about the many wars we have fought and the lives we have lost; the mysterious assassinations of political leaders; the rise and fall of gangs and mafias in Karachi; shocking abductions and rapes of children and women as well as the plane crashes and hijackings in the distant and recent pasts.

Serious filmmakers in Pakistan must not forget that they have bigger and ‘real’ fish to fry: the bitter truth about the many wars we have fought and the lives we have lost; the mysterious assassinations of political leaders; the rise and fall of gangs and mafias in Karachi; shocking abductions and rapes of children and women as well as the civil-military plane crashes and hijackings in the distant and recent pasts.

Until and unless we explore those socio-political themes realistically and objectively, we will not have a ‘national cinema’, and we will not have peace in the future. Hence, history will keep repeating itself. 

Verna is a co-production by Hum Films & Shoaib Mansoor’s Shoman Productions, and it’s slated for release on November 17, 2017.

Farhan Jamalvy  Farhan Jamalvy is the founder of Karachi Film School, and resident Fellow of the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF, Germany. His twitter handle is @jamalvy.

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