Ho Mann Jahan- quite the whimsical, fantastical title. I walked into the cinema thinking little of it. Just another romantic, feel good, colourful flick. I was about to be sucker-punched.
Loosely translated, Ho Mann Jahan would be, “where your heart is”. And just like that, three words transport you into the world of the contemporary Pakistani young person. A young person spreading their wings at a crossroads between religion and culture, between what is socially acceptable and the inviting whisper of roads previously unexplored. A young person turning round and round, pulled this way and that by obligations and family and relationships. A young person finding their place in the eye of the storm that is their life. In all this- where is your heart? Where is the one compass that will unerringly point you home? The title was not whimsical or fantastic at all. In fact, if there is one thing you walk away with from this film, it should be the title.
The film speaks to the soul of an artist. The colours are rich, warm, eastern, a treat to the senses. The setting, the wardrobe, the cityscape, the décor, are almost too perfect. I fell in love with Karachi all over again, and rightly so. The colours spoke to me, and seemed strangely symbolic to the different pieces and themes the film scatters and then attempts to gather back together at the end. The theme of change would be the bold red- the Pakistani Way is evolving, flowing, gaining momentum and the ultimate victory is with those who learn to swim. Religion, and family, and marriage, and friendship, and career- different things that make the Pakistani Way just what it is, are changing, flowing, moving. Ho Mann Jahan breaks stereotypes, and it does not apologize. It boldly shines the spotlight on the kaleidoscope that is Pakistani culture, and tries to show how each colour, each broken bit of glass is important to the beauty of the whole.
On the face of it, the second major theme of the film would be how music and art are the bread and butter of any progressive society. Yes. But what truly blew me away was how the film uses these elements to explore the theme of self-expression. The sheer joy the artist carries around with her- not a cosmetic necessity, but her genuine state of being- is the one constant throughout the film. The script packs in quite a few punches at unexpected moments; strong, clear messages of peace, tolerance, exploring self. Spare some prayers for people in the other camp. Live. What harm can you do one who has no pity for himself? Ho Mann Jahan- follow your heart. The story itself is a lesson in speaking up- say the wrong thing, at the wrong time, but don’t hold back. Sing your heart out. Paint your heart out, and to hell with anything except being true to YOU. Go forth with all guns blazing.
We didn’t entirely do away with the whimsical and the fantastic, however. The film has its fair share of clichés- there are after all only so many ways romance can go wrong, and they’ve all been tried and tested a hundred thousand times. Throw in Pakistani mothers in law, age-old social norms and class conflicts, and the very real struggle of discovering where your heart actually is, and you have some very predictable outcomes. Moreover these predictable outcomes line up one after the other in a particular part of the film. Watch, and go ahead and roll your eyes. I certainly did. We are, after all, not about holding back.
While the guest appearances (also one after the other!) can be a bit overwhelming, and a film so promisingly rebellious does not look pretty throwing in a royal wedding, those are not the impressions I walked away with. Foremost on my mind were the powerful questions it raises. Who is the average Pakistani young person? Is work truly fruitful if it lacks passion? What do we owe ourselves and what do we owe those who are close to us? How, really, do we center ourselves and how best do we move with change? How do we not hold back?
Like I said- if there is one thing you take away, let it be this. Ho Mann Jahan- follow your heart. It will take you home.