‘Joyland’: Cast & Crew
Director: Saim Sadiq
Cast: Ali Junejo, Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Salmaan Peerzada, Sohail Sameer, Sania Saeed
Available On: BookMyShow Stream
Duration: 2 Hours 6 Minutes
The youngest son (Ali Junejo) in a traditional Pakistani family takes a job as a backup dancer in a Bollywood-style burlesque and quickly becomes infatuated with the strong-willed trans woman (Alina Khan) who runs the show. Will his wife (Rasti Farooq) be okay with this newfound love? Will the elder brother (Sohail Sameer) and his wife (Sarwat Gilani) stumble upon some deep dark secrets of the family? Will there ever be peace in the family? Will all of them ever be able to break out from the shackles of patriarchy and do what they individually want to do in their respective lives? Well, for all that you’ll have to watch ‘Joyland’.
What Ali Junejo has done with his performance takes guts. It’s not easy to play a lead character yet look like the second fiddle in the equation. Not many actors get so immersed in the characters that you wouldn’t be able to differentiate whether they’re acting or just embodying that character. Ali Junejo has done that. The kissing scene and that intense intimate scene with Alina Khan required a lot of self-belief and Ali Junejo performed exceedingly well.
Rasti Farooq’s character is so naturally charming that you’re drawn to her. Right from the way she stands up against the patriarchal norms of society to later feeling the pressure of being trapped in it. The ending scene shows her life before the wedding, and in that one scene, she showcases her bubbly and full-of-life persona so beautifully that you will feel the pathos of her post-wedding life even more. The nuances that Rasti Farooq brought into the character make it so strong and deep-rooted.
Alina Khan being the first transgender woman in mainstream Pakistani cinema comes up with such a powerful performance. It’s so hard to fathom that in real life she is just in her early 20s and yet her persona is so mature that it feels as if she has taken instances of the character from her real life. The character played by Ali Junejo can play the second fiddle only because it has such a strong performance from Alina Khan to match up to. Their onscreen chemistry is pure magic.
Sarwat Gilani may have been seen before only in posh and urban characters, but she manages to show her emotional and sentimental side in ‘Joyland’ even if the character wasn’t exactly the lead character. The performance is subtle, which gives depth to the character, which is of a woman who has accepted her fate in a patriarchal system but also manages to find her own happiness and emotional outlet in other things. Getting that diverse range of emotions perfect was really fantastic.
Sohail Sameer has a really small screen time and his dialogues even aren’t that too many. However, he does decently enough throughout the film, and it’s only in the climax that he shows his true prowess in acting.
The rest of the supporting cast have all played their parts decently well despite having minimal screen time.
‘Joyland’: Script, Direction & Technical Aspects
Saim Sadiq and Maggie Briggs’ writing is a high point of the film. They set up the film in a big city like Lahore but show a part of the city that still is bogged down by societal and patriarchal norms. It shows a dichotomy of opinions, which is so very relatable. The sentiments are so relevant not just in the Pakistani set-up, but even in any of the other countries of the Indian sub-continent that it makes you sit back and wonder as to how close to real-life the narrative is.
Saim Sadiq’s direction makes the film the intense watch that it is. He has taken the perfect cast, which makes the viewing please even more. There are scenes that he does allow to stretch on for a bit too long with almost no background score, which makes it boring in some places, but in others, it brings out the depth of the character’s emotional mindset so perfectly. Taking that call to not chop off the long pauses and keep them free-flowing is a bold move. It pays off in some instances and doesn’t in others. However, what Saim Sadiq’s direction does best is build up the emotional turmoil of three different characters to the point that they burst out together in the climax and that scene is pure bliss to watch. Directors usually let one or, at max, two characters burst out emotionally in the same scene. Saim Sadiq got 3 characters to have an emotional outburst and he handled it so well that neither of the characters looked cheated on-screen time and none of their performances felt forced. Just for that scene, the film deserves the numerous international awards that it's constantly winning at various film festivals across the globe. Also, the way he has handled the intimate scenes so aesthetically that you’re not feeling vulgar but are emotionally drawn to the characters.
Saim Sadiq and Jasmin Tenucci’s editing could have been slightly crisper. Some of those scenes with excessive long pauses could have been chopped just a little so as to not make the audience want to reach out for their cellphones in their pockets.
Joe Saade’s cinematography shows a side of Lahore which feels so natural and it seems plucked out of real life. The lighting of the indoor scenes is so perfect that they don’t feel overburdened. The usage of the overhead drone shots in the climax when everyone is sleeping makes the viewing pleasure grow manifold. There are many such small nuances that Joe Saade has brought to the film that immerses you in the storytelling.
If there was one thing in the film that wasn’t up to the mark, it was Abdullah Siddiqui’s music and background score. While the editing left out numerous long pauses in crucial scenes, the background score could have uplifted those scenes. Sadly, that didn’t happen. The background score was left so plain in those instances that you actually start feeling drowsy.
‘Joyland’: Can Kids Watch It?
As an Indian, the Pakistani film ‘Joyland’ showcases a culture of patriarchy that feels so similar to our own homeland. One look at ‘Joyland’ and you’ll be able to clearly see that the two countries may be divided by borders, but the outlook of people, their problems, their insecurities and their overall lives are so similar to one another. This connectivity to the intrinsic story is what makes ‘Joyland’ a joyride to watch. If you’re not a big fan of Pakistani cinema, do give ‘Joyland’ a shot as it might be slow, but it will definitely change your perspective on the lives of Pakistani people. This is definitely a Must Watch. I am going with 4 stars.