Stars: Ali Junejo, Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Salmaan Peerzada, Sameer Solhail
This rich family drama, the supremely confident debut from writer-director Sadiq, has already caused a stir in its native Pakistan due to its examination of taboo subject matter. Haider (Junejo) is a handsome but meek unemployed married man living in a townhouse in Lahore with his make-up artist wife Mumtaz (Farooq) and their extended family. Haider’s imperious and conservative wheelchair-bound father (Peerzada) and his alpha male brother-in-law Saleem (Solhail) deride him for his seeming contentment as homemaker while his wife goes out to work. When a daughter is born, Haider must find employment while Mumtaz looks after their child. He meets Biba (Khan) a diva-ish Trans woman who performs in an erotic theatre group who offers Haider a role as a backing dancer in her act. Haider keeps his new job a secret from his wife and family telling them he is a stage manager, but as he and Biba draw closer, and Mumtaz struggles with her newfound domesticity, cracks begin to show. Cinematographer Joe Saade’s lush warm photography imbues a luminous glamour in the theatre scenes and a lovely sequence where Mumtaz and her sister-in-law enjoy an evening at the titular fairground.
Director Sadiq ably juggles the multiple narrative strands, while the script is even-handed and empathetic, even Haider’s boorish patriarch getting a sympathetic hearing. Most refreshingly, the wronged wife, usually the most sidelined character, is the most compelling here, thanks in no small part to Farooq’s sensitive performance. The drama is tempered throughout with wry humour, particularly the cheeky shot of Haider transporting a cardboard cut-out of Biba through the city on his motorcycle.David Willoughby
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