'Carma' was a herculean undertaking and it shows

‘Carma’ was a herculean undertaking and it shows

by Pakistan News
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The music producer’s directorial debut offers a gripping storyline incoherently weaved together


KARACHI:

Quentin Tarantino once said, “I steal from every movie I ever made,” and anyone with even half his wit and a third of his skill would attempt to do the same – and fail. But as Tarantino also said, “The good ideas will survive,” thus, there may be room to suggest that Kashan Admani’s “Tarantino-inspired” Carma, as he put it while announcing the film’s trailer, might have a chance.

The music producer’s directorial debut offers a gripping storyline incoherently weaved together, presenting riot, revenge, and a blurred sense of righteousness – themes often touched upon in Tarintino films – alongside a taste of localised Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega. As cringe as that may sound, we find television mainstays Osama Tahir and Navin Waqar trying their best to channel the revered Pulp Fiction characters on the big screen. But make no mistake, Carma is no Pulp Fiction spin-off.

It sees Admani and screenwriter Fawad Hai, successfully demonstrate in a budget-friendly manner how gory, gruesome viciousness can be translated onscreen without relying on action-heavy sequences requiring stunt doubles. But in the process, they miss out on the finer details.

Villains and more villains

Carma flaunts a motley crew of degenerates – Hashmat (Paras Masroor), Jamal (Umar Aalam) and Abdul (Vajdaan Shah) – led by the villainous Sasha (Sarhadi), who kidnap Hamza (Tahir), and sever his finger to get him talking about his in-law’s virsa (heirloom). This heirloom has been passed down from generations to his wife, Maria (Waqar), who is initially his psychiatrist.

'Carma' was a herculean undertaking and it shows

While the first half of the film sees Tahir struggle to express himself in a less performative manner, the second half propels the performer out of him. He fits Hamza like a glove and proves to be a natural sycophantic. His poignancy, however, does not seem to come naturally, and his pre-intermission performance needs more depth and feeling.

'Carma' was a herculean undertaking and it shows

Sarhadi as Sasha, on the other hand, plays the good-girl-gone-bad out to avenge herself through unlawful means. She does not offer remorse and her penchant for retribution allows her to make multiple enemies along the course of the film. Sasha’s childhood trauma being presented as her origin story comes off as a justification for her presence in a gang, though. Because how else could a woman be badass, right? But Sarhadi’s pokerfaced, monotone interpretation of Sasha, does not make it easier to empathise with her.

'Carma' was a herculean undertaking and it shows

Waqar’s character motives are also driven by betrayal and she takes the same tone as Tahir while acting; scurrying through moments of weakness when expressing her attachment to Hamza, only to later, comfortably convey her flirtatiousness with Hashmat. Shining in the second half of the film, her character Maria oozes femininity and girl power, proving that revenge is best served hot.

'Carma' was a herculean undertaking and it shows

Carma also stars Adnan Siddiqui in an extended cameo, playing Hamza’s father, while Khaled Anam plays Maria’s dad. The prior has a pivotal role that is more or less executed with the same expression, adding little value to Siddiqui’s appearance.

Ride or die

Over 80% of Carma is shot inside cars – no surprise there. Characters opt for car romance, facetime counselling, drive-in theatres and conceive murder plots on the go. But shooting inside cars clearly leaves little room for camera movement. And because of that, even for a film shot on the road, Carma struggles to gain momentum.

'Carma' was a herculean undertaking and it shows

While extreme close-ups are signature Tarintino, and Farhan Golden’s cinematography warrants praise for getting up-close and personal, the aspect ratio of the film seems better suited for television. And at times, the cramped-up space also makes these close-ups seem more like a compulsion than a creative choice.

'Carma' was a herculean undertaking and it shows

Shooting from the rear and sideview mirrors adds character to certain shots, making sequences like the car chase, coupled with admirable VFX and commendable music, a winner. Among its technical glitches, however, are sound design blunders too. Score overlaps, a repetitive music loop that becomes overbearing towards the end, absence of certain foley mapping and in places, miss syncs, do not boast well for Admani, whose film is curated under the banner of Dream Station Productions – his sound studio.

'Carma' was a herculean undertaking and it shows

The story also jumps back and forth far too often in its attempt to present events that lead up to the present moment. The non-linear narrative and constant transitions make keeping up with the subplots a task. On the flipside, Admani’s decision to preserve certain scenes, especially the splattering bloody images – be it from a severed finger or a stabbed eye – makes his film less PG13 and more unpleasant to watch, which is a good thing for a crime thriller.

But while Carma makes a statement with its sheer audacity to subscribe to a legend, especially through elaborate and jarring monologues towards the end, it was a herculean undertaking by amateur filmmakers, and it shows, as Admani and Hai attempt to create something out of the box and fit it inside a car, however possible.

'Carma' was a herculean undertaking and it shows

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not retaliate? The villainy you taught me I will execute. And you’ll be lucky if I don’t outdo my teachers,” delivers Hamza, quoting Shakespeare. The scene is reminiscent of Jules from Pulp Fiction, who ritually recites what he describes as a biblical passage: “I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

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