Producer Fizza Ali Meerza and director Nabeel Qureshi team up yet again with a strong message and a powerful cast to deliver a highly watchable film with a convincing flavour of culture, emotion and authenticity.
Load Wedding is the story of Raja (Fahad Mustafa) from Nirali, a small town in Central Punjab, Pakistan, where he runs a wedding decoration shop. Raja has an over-weight sister, Farhana (Faiza Hasan) and as per tradition, he cannot get married before she does. Farhana or “Baby Baji” is refused proposals not just because of her weight but also because of the dowry demands of prospective in-laws. This is not the end of Raja’s troubles as he has loved Meeru (Mehwish Hayat) since the two were children but life and circumstances prevent them from getting together. In the initial part, Raja cuts a sorry figure as he grapples with various problems, ranging from financial difficulties to coping with orthodox, small-town family values. The film is about his struggles to rise above these obstacles and win the girl he loves.
Rana Kamran’s superb photography captures the essence of rural Punjab and Shani Arshad’s music and background score adds to the authenticity of Raja and Meeru’s love story. The dialogues, by Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza (additional dialogue by acclaimed actor, singer Mohsin Abbas Haider), are superbly crafted, intertwining popular culture references, belief systems and emotional and social conflicts found within rural middle class societies.
Mehwish Hayat lights up the screen and doesn’t miss a beat as the girl who becomes a support system for the protagonist. As Meeru, she perfectly balances vulnerability, beauty and elegance and delivers a performance that will make the audience fall in love with her. Fahad Mustafa carries the film on his shoulders. In various scenes where he depicts the crises, dilemmas and failures of an average Pakistani man, bogged down by financial stress, family drama and emotional breakdowns, Fahad is impeccable. Faiza Hasan is hilarious as “Baby Baji”, the temperamental, bitter and childish sister who nevertheless continues to be likeable.
Qaiser Piya as Raja’s best friend, Noor ul Hasan Rizvi as his uncle/mamu and Samina Ahmed as his mother, perform well in their respective roles, especially Piya, who narrates much of the film. The film also pays a due homage to the late Om Puri as Raja’s late father.
The choreography and songs may be slightly borrowed or inspired by Bollywood – but in Load Wedding this is not necessarily a factoid you can hold it against. The lyrics and music are original and fit well within the narrative. The lyrics to Kooch Na Kareen are especially a treat to listen to and the melody itself has a memorable lilt.
While the film has a slow pace, especially in the first half and could have done without some of the morose moping of the central character, the overall message and climax will make you buy into the story. As the audience witnessed in Actor in Law, Nabeel and Fizza’s forte is to bring together various issues and tie them up in a palatable, watchable package that makes you think even as it entertains you. This is evident in Load Wedding too.
The film’s strength lies in its darkest and funniest moments. Mehwish and Fahad share a wholesome chemistry that makes the love story sweet and evocative without being syrupy or corny. The self-parody of reality TV (Fahad himself is the host of a reality game show in Pakistan) as well as the depiction of exploitation, gender bias and justice system in Pakistani society, make the climax hard-hitting. It definitely packs a punch in the second half and makes you shed a tear or two.
Verdict: Load Wedding is a must watch for the Indian-Pakistani diaspora due to its sensitive and relevant context, a tight script and overall solid performances by its lead cast.