Ranoo Phaddaybaaz (2002)
Cast: Megha, Saud, Nazo, Nayyar Ejaz, Sardar Kemal
Director: Akbar Bukhari
Nutshell: Launchpad and vehicle for Megha, cousin of ex-siren Mumtaz in which she plays the title role with aplomb and more than a little vigour.
Ranoo is a typical Lollywood village belle; feisty, brave, outspoken, stunningly gorgeous, fast talking and all the usual ingredients. She and her six devoted dwarf friends spend their time idling away the hours playing pranks on unsuspecting people and indulging in all sorts of playful mischief for kicks. The most common diversion for Ranoo and the dwarves is when they pelt someone about to eat their lunch with stones forcing them to run away and then converge on the food having a little party of their own.
Ranoo may seemingly lead an utterly frivolous and carefree life but when push comes to shove, she stands for no nonsense in her village and stands up for her rights as well as those of her brethren. She also displays an amazingly magnanimous attitude towards her enemies, thrashing a woman in broad daylight in one scene only to be saving her from a rapist a few days on. Similarly, she has a falling out with the town’s Strongman and gives him a good thumping too, but days later when he is struggling to put together the entry fee for his competition, it is Ranoo who comes forward with the money forgetting their previous beef.
Ranoo has a heart of gold and wears it proudly on her sleeve but alas she seems smitten by a podgy and decidedly greasy creep (Saud) who after singing a delightful song to his curvaceous admirer, arrives home to the news that his mother has been murdered and worse, his sister’s honour has been compromised.
And now, the film that has barely started to make any sense lurches into the familiar territory of violence and revenge – that endless cycle that pretty much describes the Lollywood Punjabi genre in a nutshell. The film was produced as a vehicle for the then upcoming starlet Megha whose main claim to fame other than her alluring looks was that she was a cousin or niece of one of Lollywood’s most enduring sirens of years gone by, Mumtaz.
Ranoo Phaddaybaaz was the film aimed at launching Megha to similar heights of success and popularity and yet fate has been cruel to the budding actress as the film bombed horribly barely lasting a week in the few cinemas that it was screened at. 2002 was a time that Lollywood films had plunged headlong into its death throes. It is a film which has no pretensions to any sort of artistry or elementary ability to tell a story. The film is a hastily jumbled together hack job of monumental proportions with no semblance of shape or cohesion. The film is a colossal mess and looks as though it’s been to hell and back appearing as though it was shot in 1802 rather than the digital age of 2002.
The second half of the film focusses on Ranoo’s war against the dreaded Pohdurr that has started to ravage her community. Even a bunch of her good friends are tempted to try “just one toke” and are soon addicted to the evil stuff. Ranoo, as ever, has to bail them out after which they promise never to fail her again. Ranoo slowly gathers her forces including the towns Chaudhary who also happens to be an arms dealer and starts to target the heroin smugglers by raiding their stash and setting fire to it. The drug Mafia responds with an all-out war against Ranoo and anyone who tries to hinder their trade and a gruesome blood bath ensues but worst of all Ranoo’s mother is assaulted after having her “guth” (braid) chopped off mercilessly, rendering her insane. The chopping off of a guth for a woman being a fate far worse than death. Ranoo discovers the chopped braid and holds it up to Allah swearing revenge for the great dishonour.
A mighty battle flares up with Ranoo in the midst of it. Will Ranoo be able to avenge her mother’s chopped Guth and destroy the heroin Mafia or will she end up as another corpse littering the scorched paths of this cursed community.
The bullets fly as the blood bath reaches a crescendo. Ranoo is down but not yet out, her mission almost accomplished as her bullet riddled body struggles for survival. In a blistering finale, good finally overcomes evil but at devastating cost. Megha’s Ranoo Phaddaybaaz stumbles to its blood-soaked conclusion amidst great excitement, thrills and chills.
Megha shines in the title role but alas the film failed to deliver at the Box Office and died an ignominious death within the first week of its release. Megha never turned into another Mumtaz and faded away to raunchy stage shows before fading away entirely. The film is another horribly botched attempt at some sort of storytelling ending up instead as a nightmare glimpse into the fabric and value system of modern day Pakistan. Not a pretty picture.