Monday, August 20, 2012

A Lamha…to embrace our pain!!!

“We need the pain…because somewhere in that pain…lies the person that we have lost…and without it…we lose them completely…”
And that’s exactly when my eyes teared up. Tears not caused by sadness or grief. Tears full of hope!

Why Yes!

So I really can’t remember the last time I cried in a film! Those moments are rare and few for a hard-ass chica like myself. I think I have cried in exactly 3 movies my entire life. The first was when I was 12 and saw a rented VHS of Radio Flyer. The second time would be in my A-levels when I watched Hope Floats after receiving a bunch of college rejection letters, a phone fight with Afia and a crush that didn’t know I existed. The third time was on a date with Mustafa in New Jersey as we watched Shrek two days before we broke up. Ok…so that time may not count because it wasn’t really the movie that made cry. However on Friday evening, I found myself being brought to tears by a film once again. This time it was an independent film from Pakistan called ‘Seedlings/Lamha.’

An avid indi movie aficionado, I was excited to hear about a local film from Pakistan playing at the New York City International Film Festival. I bought tickets just in the nick of time because they were soon sold out thanks to all the DAFNYs (Desi Artsy Fartsy New Yorkers.) I had asked my co-worker to be my date for the evening. Her girlfriend had just left her for another woman, so I figured I could be her ‘ cheer-up date’ because the way I see it; I may not be a lesbian like her ex but I am definitely hotter than her ex. She agreed. To both the statement and Friday evening’s plans.

We left work early to make it to Tribeca and then cut through a crowded lobby. There were a handful of celebrity sightings which included the leading stars from the film. We stood in a corner for a few minutes to gaze over the bulky cameras of GEO and VOA to spot any red-carpet faux pas or cute outfits. Pretty run of the mill and nothing that stood out. Well one of the male stars from the film was brave enough to sport a military-esque shirwani with a Jinnah cap and I thought that made a pretty solid and impressive fashion statement. Hey after a decade in the city of rebellion, I too am a sucker for Avant Garde! We have to admit, if it wasn’t for the meat dress, Gaga would be just another Ke$ha too.

Anyway, we lasted only a few minutes, at the unexpected red carpet hoopla before we decided to seat ourselves in the back of what we believed to be the best seats. A very smart move, because within minutes, the auditorium was packed with standing room only. By this point, we realized that no one really checked tickets. Our desi minds began to race with how we could have SO easily snuck in without buying tickets especially since the majority of the guests were too busy with photo ops! But hey! I guess it operated on an honor code. And we were being honorable. Touché!

My friend, Dori scanned the theater and then uneasily remarked.
‘Padash…I haven’t been around that many straight people since my high school prom.’
I ran my own eyes across the room and replied ‘Baby, if it makes you feel any better, I haven’t been around that many Pakistani people since my high school prom either…so I guess we’re both equally out of place.’

As the lights dimmed and the opening scene began, I was immediately engrossed. The first scene was simple yet beautifully shot. As the camera zoomed upon the female lead…I too found myself being pulled into Maliha, Raza and Anil’s world. Let me add, if you’re expecting a film with a plot rich in twists and turns, this may not be for you. Yet for me, that’s exactly what made the film so enjoyable. Its realistic simplicity, the simplicity of the story, the simplicity of its execution and the simplicity of its dialogues.

Raza and Maliha are a husband and a wife, who once probably lived the blissful life of a love-struck Karachiite couple. Their world was probably once full of artistic effervescence; as vibrant as the painted strokes on Maliha’s canvas or the colorful images from Raza’s creative photographs. But when the movie begins you are introduced to them a year after their son’s unexpected death. All the imaginative colors and the inspiration from their lives have since perished replaced with heart-wrenching pain in their eyes.

There is no heavy makeup to take away the credibility of their present lives. You see every blemish, every crater, every imperfection. Despondent hues and dimly lit scenes help validate the morose tension that has permeated into every crevice of their house. Their awkward and almost painful interaction with each other; convincing. Exactly how it must feel when faced with the uncertainty of holding on but not knowing whether to let go. All of this is shown brilliantly through carefully crafted scenes remaining true to the visual versus verbal aspect of good film-making.

The performances of all the actors – not just the leading three – were extraordinary. Special mention should be made about Gohar Rasheed who played Anil, the frustrated Rickshaw driver. On a side note, he actually looked hotter as a Rickshaw driver than in real life but then that’s just my maila fetish. Anyway, I digress. There were also some other noteworthy scenes in the film like the part where Maliha finally vents out her anger at Anil not just with rage but in cathartic hopes of closure and resolve. However my favorite scenes came at the end of the film. The ones that carried a message of optimism. And amazingly those were also the moments that made my vision blur up with tears. The movie ended on a very uplifting note and that is when you realize that in the past two hours, we have not only been introduced to but have connected with more than just the three main characters in the film. Everyone searches for closure in the end. All the characters in the film. Even the members in the audience.

The film could initially be perceived to be about how lives can change for the worst in just a moment. It takes a mere moment to face the loss of a loved one. However, by the end, one wonders if the “lamha” in the film is the one within our control. The moment we finally take the first step to moving ahead and moving on. I leaned over at Dori and saw tears in her eyes as well. Quietly, I squeezed her hand as we continued to stare at the rolling credits.

Later that night, Dori and I sat in a dimly lit lesbian bar in Chelsea, discussing the film and our lives which after a few drinks and a joint from her pocket seemed to somehow blend together. I had just taught her what the word “lamha” meant and she thought it sounded so much more poetic than its English equivalent. I should add, she was on her fourth beer by then and had also commented that New Jersey had a breathtaking skyline.
‘You know what!’ she returned with two more bottles of Heineken ‘Enough sulking over my break-up. This will be my “lamha” to move on and embrace the pain. I wont cry and get angry anymore… I will just start the next chapter in my life.’
‘Good…its about time you forgot about her.’ I chugged my drink and ran my eyes across the bar for a handsome man….any man. There were none. Just a room full of handsome women and Indigo Girls on the juke box. Ma would be so proud of me!
‘But that’s where you are wrong.’ Dori added ‘Its not about forgetting…its about forgiving. Tonight taught me that. Thank you Padash.’

I was glad I could help. I had gone to the film to watch a local, independent film from Pakistan. However, the movie surprisingly brought tears to my eyes and left me with an uplifting feeling of optimism. For my friend, it was just what she needed to find closure in a difficult time in her own life and move on.

And she did! I woke up on Saturday morning with a text from Dori.
‘Thanks for the film, Padash…life is looking good…I just met a girl who looks exactly like Demi Moore.’ The message was followed by a picture of Dori with her arm slung around a very butch woman. I squeezed at the picture hard. The girl’s only resemblance to Demi Moore was probably from a bad still from the film G.I Jane other than that, I didn’t see the resemblance. But hey…it was Dori’s ‘lamha’ and I wasn’t going to ruin it.

The next message from Dori came just a few minutes after. “Disregard my last text. I was very drunk. But anytime you want to go watch a Pakistani film again….I am SO there.”

My reply: =)

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