It’s rare to find a film in our culture that is socially conscious and deliver a message that is executed well. It’s even rare to find a movie that not only tackles one but a number of prevalent issues matters in our society, all without being preachy or heavy-handed.
But that’s exactly what director Nabeel Qureshi achieves with Load Wedding — a clever social problem film that is entertaining and thought-provoking but in need of fine-tuning. The film revolves around Raja (played with finesse by Fahad Mustafa) a small wedding decoration shop owner who wants to marry the woman Meerab (Mehwish Hayat) he has loved since they were kids.
However, since his older sister has been unable to find a suitable match (due to the families looking for a large dowry), he isn’t allowed to find a wife until he gathers enough dowry to have his sister be respectfully wed.
But when Meerab’s new husband dies and she becomes a widow in the first days of her marriage, Raja becomes determined to ask for her hand in marriage. Although the plot sounds like that of every other drama, Load Wedding is an exceptional film because it’s not contrived or shallow.
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The movie is perhaps singular in how it accurately depicts marriage for people in rural areas of Pakistan. While many TV series and movies glamorize the concept of marriage and the wedding ceremony, Load Wedding isn’t afraid to dispel that myth and show how difficult marriages can be in parts of Pakistan.
The film also focuses more subtly on other issues, such as how often Raja’s mother (the always amazing Samina Ahmed) shames and chides his sister for the way she looks. The film is also nuanced in the way it portrays how society treats widows (one instance where Meerab is removed from someone’s marriage ceremony lest she is bad luck, is heartbreaking).
Other instances where the movie highlights the misogyny of male characters or their privilege also is important. Then there’s the way the underprivileged people look up to shows like Jeeto Pakistan and what a life-changing opportunity it is, that tugs at ones’ heartstrings.
The movie is a fine showcase for the star power of actors Fahad Mustafa and Mehwish Hayat. Mustafa’s Raja has a doe-eyed innocence to his character and his heart on the sleeve approach to the character really makes Raja likable. Hayat is perhaps the MVP of the film, though she doesn’t have as large a role as the promos would have you believe, every scene of hers is marvelously delivered.
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There’s a certainly tempered ferocity Hayat adds to her characters — the best display of this was in the Geo TV series Manjali — and it is fully on display here. Meerab appears very traditional but she’s also not a complete doormat heroine which is a nice change. Samina Ahmed is likewise good as the worried but often tiresome mother.
Other actors such as Qaiser Piya, Noor Ul Hassan or Faiza Hassan also do justice to the roles given. Load Weddings’ biggest problem is that it’s trying to be too many things all at once. Had the movie remained a small-town story and focused on the marriage angle alone the film would have worked wonders.
But when the movie veers off track by focusing far too heavily on the game show (complete with a mock Amir Liaqat) the movie starts to fall apart.
Even more disheartening is that Load Wedding loses its tight compact structure from the first half of the film and starts needlessly wasting our time with unnecessary flashbacks and long scenes about the couple’s honeymoon. The film also ends up mistreating its supporting characters by not giving them much screen time.
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This ends up making them seem one-note and often annoying especially considering that the majority of the issues that the film is highlighting are ones that affect women more so by not giving agency to the female supporting characters and stubbornly showing us the world through Raja’s eyes alone, the movie misses its chance to be something amazing.
While Load Wedding is a good social problem film with issues that need further highlighting, there are problems with the movie that can’t be ignored. In the end, Load Wedding feels like a particularly long and uneven TV drama but one that should certainly be seen because of relevant it is in our country.