Pakistani cinema’s uniqueness is gradually finding a footing. With London Nahi Jaunga, it may have cemented it. Armed with powerful dialog and some relevant themes, London Nahi Jaunga is a family entertainer with the right amount of humor and important social messages thrown in. Set between rural Punjab and urban England, this Humayun Saeed, Mehwish Hayat and Kubra Khan starrer will steal your heart without you even realizing it.
Directed by Nadeem Baig and written by Khalil ur Rehman Qamar, the film begins with a similar set up as Punjab Nahi Jaungi. Rural feudal landlord Jameel Qamar (Humayun Saeed) is trying to be a confirmed bachelor (we aren’t told why, maybe his heart broke once upon a time?) and avoiding an engagement with the perfectly beautiful and lovable Arzu (Kubra Khan). Enter Zara Tiwana (Mehwish Hayat) who turns the tables and Jameel Sahab has fallen head over taanga in love. What happens after is a juggernaut of emotions and simple but effective plot twists that keep you wanting to root for Jameel’s hapless love story.
The supporting cast is no less to be credited for a well-told story that is so deeply Pakistani in its elements and themes. Sohail Ahmed is fabulously on point as the funny but powerful patriarch. Salman Shahid punches in his one-liners while snorting on his huqqa and Saba Faisal as the Chaudhrayen is always gloriously and plushly decked up and always ready with a perfectly delivered snark. Jameel’s best friend, the goofy but supportive Bhatti, played by the talented Gohar Rasheed, has well-timed dialogs too. Jameel and Bhatti’s adventures traverse from dog races in Punjab to cricket matches in England. None of this is boring. That’s the win.
Hayat lights up the screen with her luminous and fierce presence. Unlike her role in Punjab Nahi Jaungi, she has a much larger background to her character. In many ways she is at the center of the conflict. She dances gracefully and delivers her anger fueled monologs with a quiet but uninhibited energy that is sure to shake many a patriarch.
She shares a lovable relationship with her ‘British’ pal Harry (the ever-hilarious Vasay Chaudhry) and a tender and significant one with her mother (Saba Hamid). Her chemistry with Humayun Saeed continues to stand the test of time as a simple scene with just the two of them looking at each other in the rain is enough to make you want to push them together in an unending embrace.
Kubra Khan has a small but important role that adds to the emotionality of the film. She seems perfectly comfortable in her rural avatar, delivering a performance full of pathos and sweet innocence. In one particular scene, as she attempts to be the woman for the man she loves, you can see the heartbreak visible in her tear-filled eyes and even though you know she’ll never be the girl for Jameel, there is enough for you to root for her anyways.
But make no mistake, she’s not a hapless damsel. She’s in charge of her emotions, high-powered as they may be. She cries and sobs but it’s not a cry for help. It’s a broken heart. And we all know they can never be helped. Just held.
The king of the film is Humayun Saeed, hands down, who has continued to prove his mettle for all the years of him reigning at the box office. What is it about this simpleton of a character that he always seems to completely nail? Is it the deadpan delivery, the kindness in his eyes or the gentle tone that every girl wants to hear when a man communicates with her? Isn’t that why we have loved all romantic heroes? They want you badly but aren’t going to scream and shout and harass. Their anger is completely directed to the bad guy.
For you, all they have is love. Humayun Saeed’s charisma fills up the big screen, owns it naturally and whatever he makes look simple isn’t simple at all. It’s years of being loved by a loyal audience and it’s a consistent effort in staying kind. All of that emanates from his eyes and Jameel Qamar, with all his faults, is a darling because of Humayun Saeed. No other actor could have made Jameel the adorable Romeo who will travel the world if he has to, to find the love of his life. Humayun’s Jameel has all the great Punjabi elements.
His love for tradition but his ability to love and break tradition for love is so much stronger. This old school way of chivalry, kindness, truth and sincerity is what is missing from the overly slapstick nihilistic tiktoker hero of today. Humayun Saeed is magic on screen and much of that is the reason why he will probably continue to reign supreme for another twenty years.
Nadeem Baig’s vision is clear and precise from the word go. He knows he’s telling a Punjabi tale, he doesn’t attempt to turn it into a back and forth. London is an element, sure, but the tale is as Punjabi as it gets. Important social messages are dramatically poised. Khalil ur Rehman Qamar has written a surprisingly feminist film with a lot of self-referenced jokes and a plethora of winning one-liners that will keep the audience entertained throughout the film. My favorite one, perhaps, is delivered by Sohail Ahmed. “Ye toh aanan faanan feminist hogaya hai!” (“He has become a feminist overnight!” This will stay with me for days.
The music is fabulous, Ve Pardesiya being one of the most beautiful tracks we’ve heard this season. Inserted like the crown jewel in the film’s lavishly decorated dramatic tiara, this Sohail Shehzad’s soulful melody should be on everyone’s playlist. The costumes will set wedding trends and Khalil ur Rehman Qamar’s hilarious dialog and already-much-loved verse ‘Jahan pe tum ko rakha tha wahan per heart hota hai, mohabbat science hoti hai bicharna art hota hai’ is already a hot favorite. With pitch perfect performances, picturesque Pakistan and England, memorable dialogs and entertaining music, London Nahi Jaunga offers the audiences a perfect package of entertainment, depth and escapism.