Beautifully shot with some entertaining performances, Balu Mahi is worth a look – just be prepared to overlook a somewhat weak storyline. Verdict 6/10
Balu Mahi is a breathtakingly beautiful film. Whoever made the decision to hire Saleem Daad to do the cinematography – well done. The success of that decision, and the fact that the producers have obviously poured money into this film, is evident from almost the opening scenes of the film all the way to the end. There are some mystifying places where the lighting is weird and continuity is lost between wide shots and close-ups but 95% of the film is an absolutely stunning visual treat. The sad part is that the story and the script have let the cinematography down.
I have long believed that a powerful story can be told on any canvas: it can be shot on an Iphone and shown on youtube and still be a runaway success. And this is what makes the story – and the story telling – the most critical part of any film. In Balu Mahi, the story is a bit weak and the story telling is somewhat disjointed and drags. Balu (Osman Butt) and Mahi (Ainy Jaffri) meet when Balu turns up at her wedding, trying to convince her of his love one last time. Only when he actually sees Mahi’s face (she’s all covered up) does he realize that this isn’t the girlfriend that he has come to woo and that he is in the wrong wedding. Mahi, on the other hand, doesn’t want to be getting married in the first place and decides that Balu is her ticket out of disaster. They run away together, kicking off a chase that starts from Lahore and goes up north, including to the Shandur Polo festival. Mahi’s father is a senior police official and her grandfather, played by Shafqat Cheema, is a force to be reckoned with. Balu’s side of the family is held up by his grandmother, played by Durdana Butt. Together, Durdana Butt and Shafqat Cheema deliver very well in their roles, as expected.
Osman Khalid Butt, on the other hand, is quite disappointing. He’s a plastic hero, looking far too effeminate most of the time and seeming a bit too comfortable in his dance moves. His face is often lacking expression and the dialogue delivery is flat, barring a few places. Ainy Jaffri Rehman looks good and was a great fit for her role. She played it well, struggling with the dialogue sometimes but her body language and spontaneity was spot on. It did, however, make her co-star seem even more rusty and forced. The best performance of the film came from Sadaf Kanwal, in her role as the sultry Sharmeen. She had some pretty bold lines and difficult scenes but she knocked everyone’s socks off. Fantastic stuff. Muhammad Jamal, in his role as Mahi brother, was a very convincing villain and most of the time, it was hard believing that he’s not a career actor.
Sahir Ali Bagga has done a good job with the music and in fact, the music carries the film quite well. I only wish that Haissam Hussain – and the script writer – had chosen some other way to incorporate the film’s title track. It’s the most forced element in the entire film.
All things considered, Balu Mahi is not a bad way to spend two and a half hours. The film could easily stand to lose 12-14 minutes of runtime and I’d be happy to tell the director/producer where to cut those. Although it’s too late now. Get through the first half and the second half of the film improves considerably. I’ve heard people saying that Balu Mahi grossed 32 crores on its opening, and I’m taking that with a pinch of salt. 3.2 maybe, 32 certainly not. But do watch it: watch it for the amazing locations and beautiful lighting, as well as the fantastic work of more than half the cast. And be prepared to overlook serious script writing issues and you’ll come away entertained.