Marriage – how does one define the actual act of living it? Marriage is a bond between two people, a bond that brings two different individuals with different thoughts, beliefs and desires together and allows them to share their lives with one another. “Share” being a key word, highlighting the importance of communication, honesty, respect and empathy. In South Asian societies, often, a man and woman are thrown together into a marriage and are not taught how to care for that marriage, how to build a strong foundation and allow it to grow over the years. The basis of “Prince Charming,” which is Sheheryar Munawar’s directorial debut, is post marital depression, which is something that many women (and men) can fall into when feeling neglected and undervalued. The short film is a tribute to poet Ahmed Faraz and composer Shigeru Umebayashi, who are credited for inspiring the piece.
In “Prince Charming,” which is a simple, short, eleven-minute short film, we are introduced to Sheherzade (Mahira Khan), a homemaker who has settled into her life as a wife and a mother, but has fallen deeply into depression. Her daughter inquisitively asks her if she is unstable, repeating the question she heard from a friend’s mother. We are offered insight into Sheherzade’s desires, which are simple – she wants to be swept off her feet by her perfect husband…..who has become a husband, father and “responsible family man.” Is she asking for too much or is she simply chasing the man she married – her prince charming?
The story is simple enough and the way it has been presented gets the point across perfectly in a concise eleven minutes. The message behind this story is beautiful. We, as a society, chase that dream of marriage and are taught that post-marriage, we will have our entire lives to enjoy love, romance, happiness, a “fulfilling life.” But marriage takes work and a woman must feel valued in a marriage. The mundane reality of marriage and the “practicality” of it can come as an unwelcome shock to many. It’s easy to see that the only thing Sheherzade wants is her husband’s love and affection, dreaming of him in the way she wishes to see him.
It’s hard to believe “Prince Charming” is Sheheryar Munawar’s first time directing. The use of camera angles, the background score, the way the shots have been edited and put together – it’s all on a different level of praise-worthy. Mahira Khan is outstanding as Sheherzade, giving one of her career-best performances and really proving how much she has grown as an actor over the years. She has always been a wonderful performer, a natural, but she always seems to be pushing the envelope to do better for herself – and it’s working. Zahid Ahmed is her perfect counterpart, an actor who can effortlessly switch between “dull and practical” and “carefree and exciting,” two aspects of his character’s personality that have left Sheherzade at odds with herself. Can Zahid Ahmed and Mahira Khan please be signed together for a full-fledged drama or film, please? This chemistry deserves a much longer story. Overall, “Prince Charming” is a meaningful piece of art with brilliant performances and a strong message – nurture your relationships and care for the ones you love.