Thursday, June 8, 2023

Dobara Phir Se Review: the film we’ve been waiting for

Dobara Phir Sey is a strikingly different production for the Pakistani film industry – and a refreshingly good one too: verdict 8/10

A simple story about the imperfections and complications of modern-day love and relationships, Dobara Phir Sey (DPS) is very, very different from the kind of films being produced in the local industry right now. As simple as the story may be, it is a powerful script, executed beautifully by the ensemble cast.

The ensemble cast do a brilliant job
The ensemble cast do a brilliant job

Adeel Hussain, Sanam Saeed, Hareem Farooq, Tooba Siddiqui and Ali Kazmi absolutely shine in their roles, making the viewer wonder if the roles were written for these actors or the casting was just that good. Shaz Khan, Atiqa Odho and the young Musa Khan have amazing presence on the screen – overall, the cast feels very well put together and more importantly, very real. The story revolves around Hammad (Adeel) who plays a bachelor living in New York and is friends with Samar (Sanam) and her boyfriend Vassay (Ali). Through Samar, he is introduced to Natasha (Tooba) and Zainab (Hareem). Zainab, an illustrator by profession, is in a troubled marriage. Hammad struggles with his feelings for Zainab and his relationship with Natasha. The end is predictable, but Mehreen Jabbar makes it fun to get there.

DPS takes time to develop and moves at a slower pace than most films. However, the combination of Andreas Burgess (Cinematographer) and Mehreen Jabbar means that the film is so beautifully lit and shot that it doesn’t feel like its dragging its feet. You feel the change of pace, yes, but only at the very end of the film do you get the feeling that maybe a few minutes could have been shaved off in edit. The locations used – both in New York and Karachi – are beautiful and relevant to the story. There are no elements in the film that feel like they’re there to add ‘production value’ to the film – no grand dance performances, no overdone aerial shots. The musical numbers fit seamlessly into the narrative and the scene setting feels natural. Mehreen Jabbar keeps the camera rather close to the characters for the most part of the film – only using wide shots sparingly – but perhaps this is to create a connection between the characters and the audience. And it works.

The songs fit seamlessly into the narrative
The songs fit seamlessly into the narrative

With the good comes the bad – the soundtrack lets the film down somewhat. It’s a soft, soothing track which is nice – but that’s just it: it’s nice… could have been great. And while we’re talking about the sound, something should have been done about the ambient sounds and foleys. They are far, far too loud and often end up distracting you from the dialogue. Every footstep, every clink of cutlery, every shuffle was echoing around the cinema and that should simply not be the case.

The film has a natural feel
The film has that natural feel you’d expect from Mehreen Jabbar

The integration of various brands is done well – specially QMobile and Closeup, which were nice and subtle. Not so subtle was Oye Hoye and McDonalds, but we have seen much much worse. The presence of certain very Pakistani brands in New York feels a bit odd and it was noticeable enough for people to mention it during the premiere.


All things considered, DPS lives up to the expectations I had from Mehreen Jabbar when I entered the cinema. The issues with the soundtrack and the sound itself are off-putting, but these issues pale in comparison to the excellent performances from the cast and a very well written script. DPS is a bold film – not so much in its content but more in terms of what it is: a film that seems to challenge the norms of the ‘commercial’ film category. There are no forced songs, no items numbers – just a simple story about a young couple in love, a single guy, a divorced woman and her son – and the tangled webs they manage to weave around themselves. The theme of women’s empowerment also plays out in a subtle way, with Hareem’s character being strong and successful despite the difficulties in her life. The characters don’t feel plastic – their tears feel real and their laughter is contagious. You smile with them and you feel for them – and that’s what great story-telling is all about.

Ali Kazmi and Sanam Saeed in Dobara Phir Se
Ali Kazmi and Sanam Saeed in Dobara Phir Se

I hope that DPS does well in the box office – it would serve as great encouragement to filmmakers who wish to break away from the conventional mold. Having said that, I do worry about the film, because it lacks that masala factor that seems to propel a film to success in the local market. In my book that’s a plus point but will Mehreen Jabbar’s honest and beautiful approach to story-telling take off? Let’s hope so, because it would be wonderful to see more productions like this.


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