What’s the difference between a poem and a story? More importantly, how are poems effectively rendered through a medium that uses images to tell a story? This may sound like an unnecessary series of pedantic questions but one cannot help wonder why the creative team of Mah-e-Mir did not engage with these questions while conceptualising the film. These questions become all the more pressing when a film sets out to incorporate a large corpus of poetry into a narrative that explores the professional and personal turmoils of an Urdu columnist. I could be accused of being plebeian or simple minded but a movie is not a poetry recitation nor is it a forum to express domineering didactic urges. If poetry must be mobilised and if it must become an integral part of the film experience then it must find ways of exponentially expressing itself through the rich emotional and visceral encounters of the characters. The poetry must become a natural extension of their existential contingency and not the other way around. In other words, the poetry must annunciate itself through the colloquial urgency of human expression rather than monopolise the distinct voices of distinct characters. Since there are no distinct voices there are no distinct characters. If there are no voices then there is no story. Which brings us to the story, there is no story. What passes off as a story is a disaffected and dispossessed columnist (Jamal) encountering a muse (Mahtab) who evokes from him an erotic supplication of singular union and philosophical inquiries into the cosmological nature of love. More than the character’s evident adoration of the muse is the ‘authorial adoration’ of the poetic-literary tradition of the subcontinent. It is a matchless and peerless tradition, but for the filmmakers to direct the entire story-telling focus towards nothing but the propagandist championing of this tradition is literary fetishism. One cannot help but feel that the film is a smug propagation of ‘high-Urdu littérateur class’ values, this is what happens when a filmmaker forgets that a film should be a democratic centering of ‘lives’ and not ‘ideas’. The transposition of the past and the present in the film come across as inane simply because there isn’t enough dramatic pressure to hold the two references of time together. The lead actor, Fahad Mustafa, does his best to render an effective performance but he is stifled by a lack of believable conflict. None the less he looks relatively comfortable as the lead and is someone to look out for in the future. Iman Ali reprises a role that she has taken very well over the last couple of years but it sadly is a performance that is absolutely indistinguishable from her previous portrayals. The actor (not listed on IMDB) who plays Jamal’s best friend comes across as natural and congenial, I personally wished I could have seen more of her on screen. Everyone else indulges in what I have come to term the ‘Kilowatt Acting Technique’, which is defined as deploying 3,000 million kilowatts of gratuitous and unnecessary acting. Why do good actors feel that they must performatively substitute surgical subtlety for careless caricaturing is an important question to ask; it may be the result of a lack of meaningful character analysis with the director or a lack of artistic preparation. The response to any of these lacks is the ‘Kilowatt Technique’ because it requires no acuity or intelligence. It just requires parodic brutishness. The production value, cinematography and the sound design are relatively decent but that is not enough to compensate for the gaping wounds that inhere in the structural body of this film. Go and see the film if you must, but consider it a master class in absolutely what not to do.