Gunning for the top

Daniyal Zahid thinks the film does deliver some strong performances – within a very specific, limited context

Gunning for the top
For those who might not know it already – regardless of whether or not you’ve watched the film by now – Parwaaz Hai Junoon isn’t just the poor man’s Top Gun. It is the very poor Pakistani man’s Top Gun.

For, you truly and absolutely not just have to be Pakistani to extricate any inkling of joy from the film, you also need to be a ‘patriot’ in the narrowest interpretation of the word. And considering that a significant chunk of our population is precisely that, it is little wonder that PHJ has done rather well at the Box Office.

However, let there be a disclaimer that PHJ is, under no stretch of the imagination, a failure. It’s just that it works in a particularly customised setting, and while many of us would fall under that particular umbrella, had the filmmakers give a little more consideration to other aspects of the film, it could have catered to a wider audience.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the film, similar to many of the recent releases, is that it wants to be too many things at the same time. That has meant that in what is essentially a film about the lives of soldiers, romance takes up a significant chunk, with a lot of the music not from the ‘patriotic’ genre.
While the film takes ambitious shots at air combat, it clearly does not have the technical backing to pull off the scenes with the desired effect

Even so, ignoring the blending of the genres, the storyline itself is so multilayered that it needed to be handled with much more care than it eventually was.

Sania (Hania Aamir) fulfills her promise to the love of her life and signs up as a cadet with Pakistan Air Force. The beau in question is Hamza (Hamza Ali Abbasi), who is a GD pilot with a penchant for showboating.

This is the first layer of the storyline. The second layer has Zain (Ahad Raza Mir) who wants to outdo all other cadets in the academy and just simply be the best.

Merging these two layers together is the greatest problem for the filmmakers, and what they end up creating is a disjointed movie that, in addition to forcibly putting together these diverging plots, also looks to ram in additional details about characters that at the end of it all would have little sway on the final product.

While the film takes ambitious shots at air combat, it clearly does not have the technical backing to pull off the scenes with the desired effect. Hence, even while the cinematography works on many instances, on others it is the basic camerawork that has gone pear-shaped.

One strength of the film are the performances. Hania Aamir as the budding cadet delivers the goods, while Ahad Raza Mir successfully deals with a complex, nay contradictory character – even if he isn’t at his absolutely best.

Hamza Ali Abbasi won’t ever play a character as close his actual self as he does in PHJ. Little wonder that the character has been named Hamza as well. But if you want a stereotypical nationalistic movie centered around the armed forces, with an additional romantic plot, Hamza Ali Abbasi is your go-to actor.

Farhat Ishtiaq’s writing is what is required by the film, even if the requirement itself can be questioned, given that eventually the film had more than it could carry. Haseeb Hassan’s direction similarly moves in synchrony with how the film is panning out at any given moment.

When we say that Parwaaz Hai Junoon is the poor Pakistani man’s Top Gun, it is not only because of the theme and feel of the movie, but many of the scenes have been recreated as well – with limited success. But given that the billing of the film is ‘tribute to Pakistan Air Force’ – spelled out on the banners more than just playing it out – it’s very obvious what PHJ strives to be loudly and proudly.