Does the “Urdu problem” lie with Mah-e-Mir or us?

Published: May 11, 2016

Criticism from most viewers had something vile about it. For most viewers (and now reviewers), the only saving grace in the film was Iman Ali, and any talk about her also focused solely on her elaborate costumes and how mysterious yet seductive she looked. Iman Ali’s impeccable dialogue delivery was hardly mentioned.

This Mother’s Day I took my mother out on a date to watch Pakistani cinema’s latest flick Mah-e-Mir. Luckily, it has not been banned as yet.

I am not a movie buff per say, but I do end up going to the cinema every other week to take a break from reality. So, I hardly ever read movie reviews before watching movies. I like to watch a movie with a blank mind, having nothing to compare it with and judge it based on the entertainment value.

I went in judging from the title that Mah-e-Mir would probably be based on the life of one of the Urdu poetry giants. The first 15 minutes passed by and my mother nudged me with a big sarcastic grin on her face and whispered,

“Can you understand what they are saying?”

I just nodded with an embarrassed smile.

The script was filled with beautifully crafted sentences in daqeeq (pure) Urdu and most dialogues took place through an exchange of poetic expression. My Urdu has always been fluent, but the last time I read anything in Urdu was probably in high school and that too did not involve a lot of Urdu literature.

The film follows the life of a young, modern day Urdu poet and columnist. He is a literary rebel and is struggling because he doesn’t want to concede to the demands of the market-oriented world of literature and journalism.

In all honesty, I had to really concentrate to make sense of the dialogues since I wasn’t familiar with the intensity of the language. It made me realise that I was quite uneducated in my national language. I always thought I was most comfortable with Urdu, but watching Mah-e-Mir, made me cringe from within.

Nonetheless, the issues discussed resonated with me because of my field of study and profession. It highlighted the frivolities that contemporary columns and poets wrote about and cashed on. It also talked about battling internal chaos, love and longing, and the strong reliance and legitimacy that is sought from classics in the literary world.

However, this is not a review of the film. It is perhaps a review on what I witnessed during the interval and as I left the cinema. It would be safe to say that the hall was dominated by youngsters; college and university students. As the interval approached, I began thinking about the movie and could not understand what exactly was happening. But this was not just in reference to the language, to the content, theme and the nonlinear projection as well.

Criticism from most viewers had something vile about it. For most viewers (and now reviewers), the only saving grace in the film was Iman Ali, and any talk about her also focused solely on her elaborate costumes and how mysterious yet seductive she looked. Iman Ali’s impeccable dialogue delivery was hardly mentioned.

The male audience were laughing over how pathetic and love sick the protagonist was over a girl, without having to even talk to her or approach her the ‘regular’ way. As I came home, I read some of the feedback on social media that mainly revolved around how boring and slow the movie was and how almost half the hall left within the first half of the movie. Some even went to the extent of calling it “pathetic” and “disgusting”.

  • Omer Khan

    I think people calling it “disgusting” also have a problem of not understanding English language.Recommend

  • Salma

    The movie has an innovative plot. Fascinated by the link made between what motivates art that lasts over time. If people could not follow it, they are the poorer for it. No Bollywood movie in recent time seems to explore an innovative subject such as Mah e meer.Recommend

  • Rahul

    Urdu is a language of Indian Muslims from UP. Pakistanis will never be any good at it because it is not their mother tongue. Urdu is part of the schizophrenia Pakistan suffers from.Recommend

  • Silver Black

    Here is Express Tribune living up to the expectations of ditching a Pakistani movie and even if Bollywood movies suck big time especially the bazari language they use, every one should watch them. That is the message everyone will receive after reading movie reviews on express tribune.Recommend

  • Zainab M

    I was sold when u mentioned the daqeeq urdu. I’m also one of those who haven’t read urdu or studied that sort of urdu but I have always been fascinated by my beautiful mother tongue and strive to make sense of it when I come across some difficult words. Nevertheless thanks for the candid review I will have to watch it soon .Recommend

  • Egg Zack

    @disqus_RtkECbclTy:disqus totally agree with you bro..Recommend

  • Egg Zack

    Shanel Khaliq.. burn your LUMS degree Recommend

  • usman778

    Rahul, when we don’t appreciate urdu – we are considered bad to urdu-speakers, when we appreciate urdu, we are schizophrenic. maybe it is our neighbors that are obsessive compulsive!Recommend

  • Jor El

    “Urdu is a language of Indian Muslims from UP.”
    When did Urdu become a language of muslims … urdu is a pure hindustani language …Recommend

  • FSA

    Here is a commentator living up to the expectation of forming and blurting out an opinion without putting any effort in reading (facepalm).Recommend

  • gp65

    There are many innovative stories explored in Bollywood – Queen, Piku, Bajirao Mastani, Friend, Kahani, Mary Kom, Highway, Special 26, My Name is Khan, Aarakshan, No one killed Jessica are just some examples of movies that were off the beaten path.Recommend

  • Frank

    Well said, but the Hindustani language is not the mother tongue of most Indians either, which probably explains India’s schizophrenia too.Recommend

  • Frank

    The Hindustani language and its poets are nothing to do with Pakistan. Why should we be able to understand it? I want rights for my language, Punjabi. Hindustani can fight for rights in its own land, Northern India.Recommend

  • Exactly! Disgusting and pathetic are adjectives Pakistanis use when they don’t have the words to express themselves in a more specific and less reactive way.Recommend

  • vinsin

    rang rasiyaRecommend

  • Egg Zack

    did you see mah-e-mir before giving your opinion.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    What will the children of the British understand ? lolRecommend

  • GulSher

    Voting given above answers the question that it’s not the language of the movie that was off-putting, rather it was too artsy for modern Pakistani viewing. This is the result of decades of watching mindless, linear plots from Bollywood.Recommend

  • GulSher

    Urdu is really a language of very small minority of Indian Muslims. Modern day Hindi is simply a form of Urdu, lacking in pronunciation and grammar. They are trying to revive the language in India but it will be hard due to Hindi script missing alphabets to make sounds of HAA, KHAA, QAAF, AYN, GHAYN etc.

    Most of literary work in Urdu has naturally come out of Pakistan since Urdu has essentially become the Pakistani language. You probably have seen some of the latest Pakistani dramas.

    Zaban-e Urdu-e Mualla.Recommend

  • Usman

    Can’t really say whether it was just your plain ignorance of Pakistan, blind hatred or just bad English which made you write what you just did. Recommend

  • Common Man

    8% of Pakistanis speak Urdu as their mother tounge. Also in Punjab its been a official language since the British ruled. Thats why some of the great Urdu poets of the modern era like Iqbal, Manto, Faiz, have come from that region.Recommend

  • Salman Ahmad

    typical silliness from an indian on a Pakistani websiteRecommend

  • Farooq

    the film was great, lot of positive reviews. But cannot blame people who didn’t understand the movie because of its urdu. Even Shakespeare movies have a very low audience turnout and lot of the English also don’t understand his literature today

    The crows today want movies like Jawani Phir Nahin AniRecommend

  • Marzia Raza

    Lol. Ayyan’s ‘impeccable’ dialogue delivery? She couldn’t even speak basic Urdu words correctly.Recommend

  • Silver Black

    Same applies to you read through my post again and this time try to use the grey matter if you have any left. Express Tribune is always reflecting all Pakistani movies in bad light and that is my perception and i am entitled to express it just like the author.Recommend

  • Ahsan Khan

    A logical indian is an oxymoronRecommend

  • Uroosa

    Well said Recommend