Verna: A story powerful and lucrative on paper but fails at its execution on screen

Published: November 20, 2017
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Verna is a story of vengeance and political injustice, which is prevailing in Pakistani society. PHOTO: IMDB

Rape is a serious issue that is prevalent in the society. Even talking about rape openly takes a lot of courage, let alone making a movie about it. Shoaib Mansoor is known for making thought-provoking movies on social issues that turn out to be a cinematic delight. His previous movies have been pieces of art for movie-lovers and film students. Verna is his third and recent instalment, so expectations obviously had to be soaring high.

His previous movies starred big names like Shaan Shahid, Fawad Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Imaan Ali, Atif Aslam and Humaima Malick. However, this time, Mansoor does not have a star-studded cast. He only has Mahira Khan and the story itself. But is that enough for it to be a success?

Verna is a story about a woman named Sara (Mahira) who is married to a polio-stricken man Aimal (Haroon Shahid). They seem to be a happy couple who live a normal life together.

Sara, Aimal and his sister, Mahgul (Naimal Khawar), embark on a trip to Hunza. However, their plans change and they instead decide to spend their afternoon at a secluded park in Islamabad. Two men in a car arrive at the park and threaten them at gun point to handover their belongings. They then try to take Mahgul with them but Sara intervenes and tells them that she will go with them instead. The two men threaten Aimal to not to report Sara’s kidnapping to the police or they would kill Sara.

She is returned to them after three days and it is found out that she had been raped. Even though she wants to report it as soon as she arrives, her father stops her so that their image in the society is not tarnished. The rapist turns out to be a powerful man named Sultan (Zarrar Khan), who is also the son of the governor.

Verna is a story of vengeance and political injustice, which is prevalent in Pakistan’s society. The movie highlights and questions the loopholes which we find in the statements of our religious scholars, societal beliefs and cultural practices.

There are times when a plot is very powerful when conceived, and even has the ability to sell itself on paper, but the real test is the execution and how it is presented to the audience. Verna seems to have failed that very test. This movie by no means is a mass entertainer and probably only targets a certain audience. And even though Verna has a strong subject, it falters and starts to sink from the third scene; there are no engaging points in the film for the viewers.

Moreover, the script is mediocre and it could be seen from the immature and senseless examples that the lawyer in the movie gives to defend Sara. The dialogues of the film have a very amateurish undertone and they fail to engross the audience. This is sad because both his previous movies had famous dialogues that are repeated even today.

Mahira seems to still be under Shah Rukh Khan’s influence after working with him in Raees, and that is probably why she acts like him in the last 25 minutes of Verna. Fans of SRK will easily spot the resemblance through her expressions, pauses and dialogue delivery. The exceptional performances by Taapsee Pannu in Pink, Aditi Rao Hydari in Bhoomi and Sajjal Ali in Mom over shadow Mahira’s performance in Verna this year. She fails disastrously to leave a significant mark in any of the scenes in this movie.

The male leads in the movie, Haroon and Zarrar, failed at delivering convincing performances as well– they might need to take acting classes. Rasheed Naz (Sultan’s lawyer), who also starred in Khuda Kay Liye, gives his earnest attempt and is probably the only actor in the movie who keeps the audience engaged.

Most of the songs are played in the background, so they do not make any impact and are hardly recallable.

Verna seems like an undercooked dish that was made in a hurry and the meat was not marinated long enough to give it the desired flavour. There are times when intellectual filmmakers and directors go through a phase where they produce a film which according to them is intended to be a classic but all it ends up becoming is a shock for its viewers, and not the good kind. Verna seems to be that project in that phase of Mansoor’s career.

All Photos: Screenshots

 

Shafiq Ul Hasan

Shafiq Ul Hasan

The author is an avid movie lover and reviews films and dramas regularly. He is a professional digital inbound marketer. He has worked with a silicon valley-based social network as a content analyst. He blogs at www.shafiqsiddiqui.com and tweets as @shafiqulhasan81 (twitter.com/shafiqulhasan81)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Rahul

    Oh well, who knew that vilifying politicians, in-laws and civilian law enforcement with a side dose of Mahira Khan histrionics is not a sure shot sell. Next time, order a side dose of patriotism to cover all bases.Recommend

  • Usman Rehmatullah

    From the very first day I knew it would be a FLOP. Mahira Khan is beautiful but she is not a good actress at all. No emotions in any of the dialogue delivery. Very plain face..Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    People don’t go to cinemas to feel sad and frustrated. They want stress relief, not more stress.

    Most producers don’t understand this and that is why the industry will always revolve around Salman and Shahrukh.

    Amir Khan does produce such movies but his message is always motivational and upward looking.

    People come out of the cinema watching an Amir film feeling good not bad.

    But then Amir treads on a fine line – he’s learnt to mix bad stuff with good stuff just the right amount – which no other film maker can replicate.

    Make shaadi bia and funny movies and watch your wallet explode.Recommend

  • Jamshed Mir

    good and honest review watched it yesterday Verna was a painful watch esp. the dialogues, cheap and third-grade.Recommend

  • Salman

    Very poorly written review. I am no fan of Mahira, but this reviewer seems to have let his hatred for her cloud the actual movie. Is the reviewer an expert in film-making? or a renowned critic? Unfortunately, poorly written pieces like this get to be published.Recommend

  • Aqeel Lakdawala

    The movie is exceptional and well crafted, and shows how the cancer of feudalism that exist in our country are destroying and running the country as if they own it.
    The topic of rape is rightly and openly discussed and how getting justice is an endless torture for the victim which ultimately results in giving up. The current news of how a woman was paraded naked shows the same mentality that is shown in the movie.Recommend

  • Mansoor Jahangir

    Being an avid fan of Shoaib Mansoor, I had very high hopes while heading for the cinema… but I regret to say Verna did not meet my expectations as it should be… If Khuda ke liye is a perfect 10, and Bol is 9.5 then, Verna is a mere 5.5 to 6… I would still definitely recommend it, as Shoaib Mansoor’s 5.5 is a more than 20 compare to the other stereotype Paki directors… like Syed Noor, Ajab gul, mehreen jabbar, Bilal lashari, Yasir nawaz, Faisal bukhari, Asim Raza etc … the most significant problem with Verna is that I find it so hard relating to Sara (the rape victim) during the entire length of the movie…. instead of brave, courageous, rational and fathomable… she comes across as a wildly stubborn, madly self indulgent, privileged lady with continuous tantrums… Sara signifies herself as a woman without substance who is totally indifferent about the impact of her decisions will have on everyone around her… However the last part of this movie looks much like a theme of Psycho Sharukhian movies with thrills and chills galore… which is something I doubt ever happen in real life anywhere … Basically a strong message, poorly conveyed :)Recommend

  • fayza

    Haven’t seen the movie as yet but can feel the writer’s sentiments as the trailer itself appeared so bland. The topic might be very good and relevant but that itself doesnt make a good film. Its execution and the actors performances coupled with dialogues etc make a film. Just because its a Shoab Mansoor film dealing with a relevant topic doesn’t mean that it has to be perfect and liked by all. We’ve had dramas portraying rape and abuse, some good some bad so its not that the movie is dealing with something novel, its the treatment, the direction and acting which is going to make it a big film.Recommend

  • Quratulain Akbar

    Right when ,a director in Pakistan industry comes up with something though provoking and social issues. The reviews star pouring in OH MY GOD such bad deliver of script, such lose cinematography, such loop holes.
    You know what we can always fail to be a nation towards better ends. The movie should have been banned right ? you deserve those silly politicians who are doing this to the country.
    You will love too see some English dark core movie but when revival of Pakistan cinema is happening you want all the glitz and glam , sparkling dances , designer clothes , extended locations.
    Can we become a bit educated to learn to cater an art movie , real one.
    These rape cases are more dangerous when it comes to rich families.
    He has shown some aspects which are society that doesn’t want to accept.
    Stop making only comedy movies your relaxant pills, do something for your country, if you cannot raise a voice atleast appreciate.
    I would disagree if you see an art movie on the aspects of how the display is, how the dialogue is, what lacks in graphic, cinematography , loose script , raw dialogues.
    The reviews given by each one are vague and pointless or did he make a mistake of giving you a voice to raise on some authentic social issues.Recommend

  • Ahmed Ata Khan

    One of the best movies I have seen. The person reviewing it seems to have a strong bias against Shoaib Mansoor. A typical critic and cynic, certainly would love the cheap thrills of Na Maloom Afraad 2. You really need to learn to appreciate serious cinema. Recommend

  • Ahmed Ata Khan

    The review is more a cynic than a critic. ‘A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing’ There are so many bold and strong messages in the movie, but they are for grownups, not childrenRecommend