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When relationships are ‘half-cooked’

Delving deeper into Shahrukh Naveed’s short film

Premiered on October 22, the short film Half-Cooked features the Bol starlet Humaima Malik and one of Pakistan’s highest-paid actors, Mikaal Zulfiqar.

Directed by Shahrukh Naveed, the film opens with Ayat (Humaima) dressed in an eastern attire, walking towards the door to receive her partner Rehan (Mikaal) with a gentle smile as the guitar softly strums in the background. The scene switches to the credits typed in golden-yellow as the camera pans towards the bright paintings leaning neatly against the window, soaking the sun and a shiny wooden guitar laid sideways. The following clip shows the individual interests of the two people, art and music, respectively, as the scene ends with the leads resting their foreheads against each other, portraying the heartwarming act of coming together as one.

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A closer look at the exceptionally directed scenes shows the influence of the constantly shifting light direction occurring throughout the short film. The bright sun illuminates the white walls as the film opens. However, it fades when the scenes grow intense by the passing minute. One detail that makes the original a must-watch, is the incomplete tiny house made of sticks, making its debut once in a while.

The camera shifts its focus on the couple seated near each other. A noticeable tension fills the room to make the monotonous routines a bit exciting. Ayat writes a few questions on sticky notes, skeptically announcing that she’s finished to an irritated Rehan; four days four questions.

The camera zooms in on the two facing each other, wearing black and white-colored shirts, which I think portrays the growing clashing personalities of the two. The first question takes Rehan off guard as Ayat asks about a possible extramarital affair. The tired-looking Rehan gets up to leave as his wife lets out a sigh of relief.

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The light gradually fades as the scenes become more intense, exhibiting the growing clashes between the couple. Ayat eventually stops greeting Rehan at the door or often refuses to acknowledge his presence when his tall figure appears at the threshold. The pair start criticizing their passions as individuals. Rehan pens down a heartfelt piece of music with soft strums while Ayat stares at her reflection in the mirror. The questions continue and result in a heated argument when the female protagonist breaks and expresses her inner turmoil and her partner, chained to his own worries, voices his opinion.

The fight results in insomnia and a trail of anxieties settling within the pair, concluding the dreaded feeling of unhappiness. The scene shifts to a brighter morning, showing how Rehan voicing out his worries has made an impact on Ayat as she dresses up once again to greet her partner with an obvious shift of the dead expression to a gentle smile and the tiny house of sticks, resting whole and intact.

Now, if you read this with a closed mind you might argue about the female protagonist, once again, being the one to fix things. The actual scenario appears to be the opposite. Asking for multiple opinions regarding Humaima Malik and Mikaal’s debut on the digital platform helped me approach the short film rather openly. No dish is ever well-cooked if it’s half-cooked. From a personal point of view, the title of the film portrays how a relationship fails to work with grumpy expressions and dislike for the other’s individuality. Keeping a balance in arguments, shifting sides when the heat grows intense, only then would a relationship of any sort succeed. Ending this review with a comment from Seemeen Naveed, the executive producer, who stated to media that this was a story that many couples would find relatable.

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