Ghabrana Nahin Hai Review: Smart Alecks, Land-grabbers and an Unconventional Money Heist


Ghabrana Nahin Hai Review: Smart Alecks, Land-grabbers and an Unconventional Money Heist

An experience worthy of the big screen… even at a 900-rupee ticket price

Zubaida — Zuby, as she’s called — has had enough. When her good-natured blue-collar dad’s property is misappropriated by a powerful land-grabbing don called Bhai Miyaan in Karachi, under whom works a corrupt yet violence-averse cop, Zuby will have to buck up and become a ‘mard’ (man) to get back her family’s land.

I’m sure woke feminists will have a problem with the constant allusion that a ‘mard’ is superior to an ‘aurat’; this, of course, is not the filmmakers’ assertion at all. In fact, the film is a pro-feminist tale of the highest order. If the premise doesn’t tell you that, then the dialogues pelted out in brute force by Saba Qamar, who plays Zuby, will make that clear.

Ghabrana Nahin Hai (GNH) — a far better title by the way — was once called Zubaida, Mard Bunn. While in theory, one understands the gist of the original title, and its reference to a woman’s resolve in righting wrongs in a man’s world, in the context of the film, however, we hardly see Zuby’s actions reflecting the spirit of the original title.

Zuby, who lives in Faisalabad, wants to be an actress. She has two million subscribers on TikTok, and an audition interview scheduled with a sleazebag “producer” in Karachi. When dad’s property is taken up by the city’s land mafia, she tells dad and mom (Sohail Ahmed, Shazia Badar) to throw away their worries and that she, their only daughter, will take care of everything (i.e. Ghabrana Nahin Hai). 

Off she goes, boarding a train to Karachi where lives Vicky (Syed Jibran — one of the many excellent aspects of GNH), Zuby’s love-struck cousin who wants to marry our girl ASAP. Zuby’s eyes and later her heart, however, lock on to the local SHO Sikandar (Zahid Ahmed, another of the film’s excellent assets).

Ghabrana Nahin Hai Review: Smart Alecks, Land-grabbers and an Unconventional Money Heist

Sikandar and his assistant-cum-cohort Aslam (Afzal Khan, aka Rambo, underutilized in the role) are working on a strict five-year get-rich-by-any-means timeline; they even have a red diary that keeps their focus tact sharp. Mostly Sikandar and Aslam’s schemes revolve around secreting the land-grabbing Bhai Miyaan’s dirty deeds. Sikandar himself is somewhat of a surrogate son to the don; the cop’s parents died during the violent ’90s, and the bad man raised the boy up for his own use.

The associations between Sikandar and Bhai Miyaan, and Vicky and Zuby, form the crux of this very entertaining romantic-heist movie.

Yes, you read that right: this is a heist movie, though that part of the tale comes very late into the film. 

Written by Mohsin Ali (Wrong No. and Payday Mein Rehnay Do) and Saqib Khan — the latter also directs — GNH is a very well-written film that exhibits signs of multiple rewrites. The film has a streamlined, well-connected flow with few, if any, unnecessary segues.

Structured like a Bollywood feature film, this first film production, and distributed by cinema owner Jamil Baig, and the fourth film by Hassan Zia (Wrong No., its sequel, Mehrunisa V Lub U), shows how a film can thrive if it has the right combination of expense, expertise, and experience supplementing the director.

Now, when reviews come out, many will herald Saqib as a raw, sensible, wunderkind director — and they have all the right reasons to make that postulation — but what one needs to understand is that a director can only reach his or her potential if the production doesn’t take shortcuts to quality (shortcuts never work; they become very apparent on-screen).

Within moments of the first frame, one realizes that GNH is a bona fide big-screen motion picture, custom-built with just the right balance of technical and aesthetic pizzas (the cinematography is by Asrad Khan of Bachanaa and PMRD fame).

Ghabrana Nahin Hai Review: Smart Alecks, Land-grabbers and an Unconventional Money Heist

The casting is pitch-perfect: Zahid Ahmed, Syed Jibran, Nayyer Ejaz, and Saleem Mairaj (who comes at the tail-end of the second act) are great value additions — each bringing their own A-game to the plot. 

Bhai Miyaan, especially in the first half, has an imposing, untouchable, reputation and extreme passive-aggressive anger (he has a penchant for chopping fingers off and feeding them to his dogs). His reclusive, egotistical nature and the build-up of his untouchability work to the film’s advantage.

While the film banks on Saba’s Zuby as the story’s spearhead, in reality, her character is mostly the magnet that attracts these characters. Zuby’s actual actions, as I mentioned earlier, don’t amount to much because the boys end up doing all the work for her.

There is a bit where Zuby hoodwinks Bhai Miyaan by taking on a fake persona that gives Saba some room to flex her sensuality. But when you really think about it, other than propelling the plot in a particular direction (and a very interesting direction at that), the character she takes the guise of to fool Bhai Miyaan doesn’t really have cinematic or story worth. She is, at best, a Macguffin — a storytelling tool that instigates a series of events, but remains inconsequential.

These critical revelations, however, come to you in hindsight, because the film — despite being a tad long at two hours and 20 minutes — holds your attention hostage.

Sikandar and Vicky are GNH’s emotional epicentre. Zahid gives a cinema-worthy performance, neither overdoing nor underperforming the typical hero-hero stereotype while making the cop uniform look cool. 

One finds small intelligent tidbits to enjoy as the film progresses. For example: note the way Sikandar’s sleeves are tightly rolled up when he plays a badass corrupt cop, and then, when he becomes righteous, the sleeves come down, in respect to his job and uniform. However, unlike in typical films, you don’t see Sikandar pulling down his sleeves on screen. Rather, this is but one of the inconspicuously placed blink-and-miss moments that give GNH an intellectual edge when it comes to chart character progression.

Characters, their stories, and their dilemmas are what good films should be about anyway, right? GNH’s makers seem to have an astute understanding of that. By the climax, the characters — especially Jibran — leave a compelling imprint on you, and so, GNH’s parting moments force you to root for a sequel. For once, that might not be such a bad idea.

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