PAF Review – “Zoon”
Anshul Jain (Zen)
Good or Bad, First or Last, PAF’s are always so much fun to watch. No wonder it makes us feel nostalgic again and again. So before anything, thank you everyone for putting up the performances, giving us a reason to pack up our work at office and rush for such an entertainment, rather experience. Just a quick disclaimer before I start the review. This is simply based on my personal perception of the performance and hence please don’t judge the review. It’s just scribbling down, my take away from the PAF.
Coming to the first PAF of the season “Zoon”, the meaning of which even most of the participating hostel guys didn’t know (coz I asked couple of them :P). And the worst thing, even the script forgot to educate us with its meaning. Though they brought umpteen Urdu words to our notice, it’s always good to relate the name somewhere in your performance. Being the first PAF of the season, I really found the execution good (as compared to many other first PAFs). There weren’t big blunders be it music, dance, lights, voiceover or acting. But having said that, there were definitely certain sloppy moments which we would discuss as we talk about different categories.
Script and Direction:
Script, I must say, was good and mind you it’s never easy to write an hour long script in any third language. Though there were places where it lost the momentum and the attention of the audience, overall it was a satisfying effort from the hostels. There were high points and punches, especially in the first half of the PAF.
But considering it on a broader level, I felt that the script could have been a little more crisp. Towards the end it really became stretchy and felt as if it was just beating around the bush. Though it is never really required for PAFs to be conclusive, taking any side and they can very well be open ended, but the issue with this PAF was that it never reached a crescendo and left the audience to ask for little more. A mournful video towards the end would work only if it complements the script well, else it would just be a fact provider. Same was the issue with the video in this PAF, though it was well made (except the fact that you don’t end your video by a pause at such a professional stage, a simple fade out is no rocket science), it failed to create the “goose bumps” effect. Connecting media and Kashmir issue was another loose string and by that I mean that bringing the issue of impotent media into focus adulterated the whole plot. So in the end you ask yourself, whether they wanted to bring the deteriorating face of Kashmir upfront or they wanted us to ponder over the inefficient media which is failing to serve us the correct picture.
But as I said, there were quite a lot of places where the script was successful in holding the attention. The street play was well written and it conveyed its message clearly. The court scene was really fun to watch. The best thing about humour is that, if it clicks, people would just sit back and enjoy it rather than making an effort to analyse its aptness and connection with the scene / script. The court scene brought pun on many institute big shots, but they were very well executed and took the audience with them. Certain other places where humour was attempted were successful and helped in gripping the audience. The analogy brought by the conversation of the two kids was really good, but again got stretched at places, especially at the end. Overall the dialogues were well written with overdose of extremely complicated phrases here and there which somehow felt unnecessary and stretchy.
Prod was impressive! The “jhaakis” were well made, specially the execution of Brahmos missile was smooth and clean with sound effects joining with a small lag. Jammu and Kashmir jhaaki seemed very genuine and truthful, bringing the unstable, shaky and disoriented state of Kashmir which was however brought on track by two saviours living up to the motto of the PAF which said ” Act before it’s too late” :P. The main stage prod, the “jheel“, the “shikara” were all beautifully crafted. The backdrop painting was well made. And as I said the prod should transport you to that era / place, well in this case, it did. The snow spray added to the effect, but if that spraying was done in a blackout just before the main stage lights were put on, not only it would have created a bigger impact but it also would have avoided the distraction of two snowmen running all over the alley to spray the foam. The side stage prod were also nicely built. So overall I would say commendable effort from the Prod team, who didnt have any frames to snatch away from any previous PAFs 🙂
Acting and Voiceover
Voiceovers were the best part of the PAF. Absolutely amazing work done in the voice-over box with numerous variations. Most of the voice-overs sounded very apt and going well with the character and mood. They were the sole reason for gripping the audience, be it the light court scene, romance scene of the children or the clash of armymen and the protagonist. And as I always say, audience in PAF is just too far away to connect with actors and thus its only voiceover which helps us know the character.
Acting was good at places. Court scene was well pulled off by the actors. The protagonist, “Abbu”, Zoya, the talkative tourist and the two love birds did a good job. However there were places which had a scope of improvement. Firstly the opening parade was nowhere close to a 26th Jan parade. I mean how much effort it would have taken to co-ordinate their hand and leg movements. A low decibel instruction of “left right left” from the frontman would have made it look more like it. May be a shout of “Daiyne dekh” would have added energy to the opening scene of the PAF. Small things but they do add the effect, mind it. Street play actors were too loud. Once does not need to exaggerate so much, especially when one is standing so close to audience that we can even read your lips and expressions clearly. This was one of the places where voice-over did not gel with the actors. Also we need to understand that not every statement is portrayed by swaying two hands up and down repetitively. There are plenty of other gestures that can be used. There were certain other areas where acting fell short and could not justify the power packed voice-over. The actors in the main stage crossed the line of light many a times which left audience to just have a look at their silhouettes. The armymen in Jammu seemed too lethargic. They didn’t show the charge or the energy that they should have to control the mob, after all they are there to control agitated groups and not form human chain like the one formed before the PAF to control innocent students who anyways have no interest in entering the OAT quadrangle 🙂
Music disappointed a lot at the beginning of the PAF. A lot could have been done over the marching beat to build the scene because of which a kick start was missing. The whole “jhaaki” scene could have been much powerful than what it came out to be. Just a thought, but as far as I have seen the 26th Jan parade, you always have people from that state etc. walking by the jhaaki waving their hands or dancing around. Now they already had armymen, they also had dance people in proper Kashmiri dance outfits who could have come along with the jhaaki filling up the scene. Also that would have avoided the need of two “saviours” who came to orient the Jammu and Kashmir jhaaki. Republic parade is always supported by a description of the state or missiles etc. which could have been given over the music to lift up the scene.
Anyways coming back to music. So as the PAF proceeded, the music team impressed us with their original compositions for all the choreos in the PAF. Trust me it’s no easy job to have a dance on live music. Commendable effort by both the music and the choreo teams to pull that off. The track for Kashmiri dance, if original, was truly brilliant. Even if it wasn’t original composition it was well executed. The background score within the scenes was nice but nothing extraordinary. Again the execution of music was a little off at certain places. The fade in and the fade outs could have been a little more smooth. Another disappointment was the qawwali. In an original composition if the lyrics are not thrown out loud, the whole composition loses its impact. It was clearly evident that the qwwali was not practiced and the vocalists were not at all confident of it. So overall music was good with their original compositions for the choreos being the high points.
The opening dance with mashaals and Marathi outfits was good and had energy. The Kashmiri dance was amazing, giving a very fresh and different feel. So as far as sync is concerned most of the dances were on it. The effort put on for every dance was evident. As I already mentioned, dancing on a live track is very difficult and requires practice as well as execution. But somehow the number of sequences was a little more than required. The long contemporary dance seemed a bit draggy. The UV sequence was decent but the effect of that dance would have been doubled if people in the voiceover box and light box cared to put of their disturbing table lamps. None of the lights of SAC alley were put off before the performance. A small effort to create darkness could have been made to enhance the UV effect. Another question which pops up is why were those eight contemporary dancers in the quadrangle hours before their performance? I really wonder if one of them actually fell asleep lying out in the middle for so long. Overall a good effort shown by the dance team but could have been a little more crisp and innovative at certain places.
Lights and Costumes
Lights is one area which might not have any high point but if their timing goes off track they can create blunders. But thankfully they did a fairly decent job in this PAF. So light execution was good with moon making it at the right time at the right place and not searching for the actor in whole of OAT.
Costumes for Kashmiri dance were amazing. Costumes for other dances such as mashaal dance and UV were good. Costumes for actors were decent and went along with the theme. Though the costumes didn’t make me feel that it’s a place as cold as Jammu. Sweaters or Kashmiri shawls over kurtas would have been great. Also Kashmiri kurtas are a little different from what were used in the PAF. Those, if used, would have added to it.
So overall the PAF was really a mix of certain well written and executed parts as well as some sloppy moments. The good thing is execution wasn’t bad and almost up till the end there was something or the other which kept the momentum going. But towards the end it lost its pace and attention. Voiceovers and Prod made their impact. The message of the PAF was conveyed but frankly speaking it could have been much better. Bottom-line, this PAF had a lot more potential but nonetheless a good effort by the team of “Zoon”, the meaning of which someone should explain to me soon.
Prod: 8.5 / 10
Music: 8 / 10
Dance: 7.5 / 10
Acting: 7 / 10
Voiceover: 9 / 10
Lights: 7.5 / 10
Costumes: 8 / 10
Script: 7.5 / 10
Direction: 7 / 10
Overall: 7.5 / 10
PAF Review- “Zoon”
Vipul Hirani and Arvind Kumar Singh
Zoon: Zoon literally means moonlight but in the context of the PAF it meant the last ray of hope. Now that this mystery is clear, let’s move forward with the review.
Theme and story: The issue that hostels 3, 5 and 10 tried to tackle with their PAF was the often discussed, highly complicated and controversial Kashmir issue. It dealt with the plight of the Kashmiris who have been stuck in a war zone and for whom; conflict has become the style of life. The underlying subtext that the PAF tried to touch upon was the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and how its potential misuse by the army has made the life of an average Kashmiri miserable; devoid of the basic rights to life. The issue was raised in a very stereotypical manner, the way it has been raised time and again. The entire situation was portrayed in a very black and white manner while the ground realities fall in the realm of grey.
Voiceovers: The voiceovers, as expected, were quite up to the mark. The intensity, voice modulation and diction especially of the Urdu dialogues were impressive. Although, one got a feeling that the characters were framed on the strong points of the voiceover artists and versatility was a bit of an issue.
Music: The music acted as a saving grace for the PAF otherwise marred with inconsistencies. The original compositions were very good except that the lyrics failed to connect with the audience majorly due to the language issue. An impressive fact was that the music for the entire PAF was live except for a few sound effects. One problem with the music was that the vocals, particularly male vocals, were getting drowned in the intensity of the music which was evident in the qawwali sequence.
Acting: The sync between the voiceovers and the actors was very poor. In quite a few scenes, the intensity of the actors did not match up to the vigour of the voiceover and the requirement as per the scene. However, the street play was a redeeming aspect which kept the audiences hooked for the first half an hour. Although the content of the street play and the issue raised in the PAF were no really connected.
Dialogues: The seemingly impressive dialogues with a lavish helping of ‘Khalis Urdu’, though appreciable, did not go down well with the audience. The comic relief provided by the ‘Fatte’ was appreciated as it provided a break from the monotonicity of the scenes. At times, the humour was cheap and stale, especially in the court room scenes.
Choreography: The good part of the choreo was that they tried to incorporate a variety of dances such as folk, contemporary and UV but problems with synchronisation, especially with the UV dance, clearly showed a lack of practice. Also, the relevance with respect to the notion of the PAF was lost on the audience in most of the choreos.
Lights: The lights were not utilised to focus on the site of action on the OAT. A lot of diffused light was present most of the time which deviated audience attention away from the scene at hand. Another issue was the use of lights on the OAT stage scenes, case in point – the scene depicting the confrontation between the army personnel and Kabir with them in the dark for majority of the scene. A certain lack of presence of mind was evident with the moon taking into focus the hapless choreo people standing in the quadrangle in the preparation of the next sequence.
Prod: Hostel 3 and 5 being quite a formidable force over yesteryears in terms of prod and tech in prod, the anticipation in terms of prod was quite palpable which was aggravated by the tall claims made about the prod in the preview video. The autonomously moving replicas of some missiles were very good but were there only for a cameo appearance and so was the precariously standing prod which seemed to be a temple. The other prod was meant to serve the basic function of the script but was not really spectacular as claimed. The FA components were well executed with a beautifully painted main back drop. The lake in the centre of the quadrangle was aesthetically pleasing. The major issue was the placement of the prod with respect to the light. Most of the prod in the quadrangle was away from the focus of the light and hence took the emphasis away from the scene. All in all, an average prod.
As has been the case over the previous years, the first PAF of the season majorly fails in terms of the execution and Zoon was no exception. Though not the worst PAF that we have seen over the years, it left a lot to be desired in terms of doing justice to the highly sensitive as well as done-to-death issue that they dared to take up. Overall, it was expected that if such a controversial issue is taken up we would expect a fresh treatment and a yet unseen vantage point which would be a tall order. Nevertheless, the audience was left unsatisfied.
Photo Credits: Akvil Sakhare and Sankalp Agarwal