Dance Kahani, touted as Pakistan’s first dance themed film finally hit the theaters last weekend.
On the outlook, the film has a fairly simple plot: Madeleine Hanna plays a British-born Pakistani girl who refuses to give up on her true calling – i.e. dance – and fights all odds to make her dreams come true. The ups and downs of her journey and her personal equation, with Shobby (played by Alamdar Khan) – a Pakistani boy whose encouragement and support helps her through times of self-doubt propel the story forward.
Compared (strictly) to the Pakistani movies that have come out in the recent years, Dance Kahani has a very progressive concept. At no point does the script try to belittle the integrity of dance as a form of artistic expression or – more importantly – the integrity of a woman who chooses dance to express and celebrate life.
The soundtrack is pleasant and a few songs remain long after you’ve left the theater. Both the versions of “Zindagi,” sung by the romantic lead, Alamdar Khan compel the viewer to hum along. Dildara is another memorable song that instantly connects.
The dance sequences – again strictly going by local standards – are nicely choreographed. True that the speed of the dancers could have been improved, however their earnestness makes up for the missed beats. Also, how the director ensures that dance remains alive even in dialogue-intensive scenes is commendable.
That said, with all its merits, cinematography and editing unfortunately leave a lot to be desired.
The camera work was shaky in a few instances in the first half. However, even that would have been forgiven had the cameraman captured the full profiles of the characters as they moved around the screen. This shortcoming is especially conspicuous during the dance sequences. Just as the characters break into engaging hip-hop moves, the camerawork fails the choreographer. At times all that was visible on the screen was the faceless upper body of the dancer that (in the absence of his face and leg-work) failed to keep the viewer hooked.
While the editor did manage to put all the sequences in the right order, excessive use of the “dissolve” effect gave away an amateur feel. At times scenes were abruptly dissolved without giving the audience enough time to register the emotions of the actors, which in a cinematic outing is essential to develop a connection with the characters.
Finally, a word on the performances. Madeleine Hanna as the lead does justice to her role. However, since all her dialogues are in English, it might be difficult for an average cinegoer in Pakistan to relate with her. Alamdar Khan, who plays the romantic lead, Shobby offers an earnest performance in a very likable character. Vernin U’chong playing Tipu gradually eases into his role. All the crew members offer entertaining performances, however it is Ramiz Law as Silent Sid whose robotic act stands out even without uttering as much as a single dialogue. Abdul Ghani as Jo at times reminds one of Gulshan Grover from the ‘90s Bollywood – need I say more?
On the whole, Dance Kahani has its heart in the right place. It’s true that improvements in the technical department could have made the film a superior product; however encouragement from the audiences will go a long way in helping indie producers come up with better, more technically sound content in the future.