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    Sunday, 17 March 2013

    Lamha: the moment of self-discovery

    Lamha (Seedlings) was screened in London after its first Pakistani screening in Lahore. Just like it did at the New York International Film Festival, Seedlings left the audience enthralled with beautiful performances. It is unfortunate that the film has not had a nationwide be release in Pakistan, due to a lack of sponsors.

    London-based blogger Somaya Khan, who watched Seedlings in London, writes about it:
    I am generally sceptical of creative output from Pakistan. I have no doubt about the talent in the country, but due to lack of finances and facilities there (and hence, international-level experience), I find myself dumbing down my expectations, which makes it difficult to assess the quality of work, impartially. So, just imagine my surprise when my worst fears were laid to rest and I realised I had no need to dumb down my appraisal.

    Seedlings (Lamha) revolves around three main characters: a married couple — Raza (Mohib Mirza) and Maliha (Aamina Sheikh) — and a rickshaw driver Anil (Gohar Rasheed). All three seem to be in a state of melancholy, grieving over some deep sorrow. As the film progresses, it is clear that Raza and Maliha have been driven apart by an unbearable personal tragedy and that Anil played a very important role in that. Will any one of them be able to forgive one another, or more importantly, themselves? Is there any redemption for a mistake, a ‘moment’ that destroys lives? Is there any way to move forward when your core being has been ripped to shreds? How can you hope, when there is no hope to speak of?

    The best thing about Seedlings is that it does not preach, for even a moment. There is no lengthy dialogue to explain the situation to the audience. It is not an overly complex film, but the emotions it deals with can be difficult to understand. Also, the film does not spend extra energy on making it simple for anyone. It is a journey of self-discovery for the characters and the deepest insights come from short conversations with the secondary characters.

    Customary and redundant words have been replaced with lengthy silences in the movie, aided by a very appropriate background score by musician Usman Riaz. There are long scenes, where nothing happens, but you can feel an over-arching loneliness. This is something which is not seen in Pakistani dramas, wherein shouting is considered a must to express emotions — even that is used very sparingly in the film. Less is definitely more for Seedlings.

    The acting is very mature. While Sheikh has already won accolades for her portrayal of a woman in constant emotional pain, Mirza and Rasheed are excellent, too. They did not overact or cross the lines of believability, throughout the film.

    Unfortunately, what the film confidently achieves in scripting (film-maker Summer Nicks), direction (Mansoor Mujahid) and acting, it loses in production values. The budget is quite apparently limited and that is obvious in some technical aspects like cinematography and sound recording and, at some points, in the editing, too. There is a slight amateurish quality to it all, which makes it less palatable to an audience used to slicker products. I am also curious about why Seedlings was filmed on a 4:3 aspect ratio, a frame which more suitable to an older television format, than cinema today — but honestly, these are all minor issues.

    The lack of sophistication is made up for, by a strong script, a detail-oriented direction and very involved performances. If a case can be made for independent cinema in Pakistan, then Seedlings is definitely a role model.

    Unfortunately, as film-maker Meher Jaffri informed the audience after the screening, finding a distributor to release the film in Pakistan is proving difficult. So yet again, an excellent effort may never see the light of day in its country of birth.

    The writer has an MA degree in Media & Communications from Goldsmiths College and blogs about films as it’s her passion.

    Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2013.

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