Dhaani: Video Review

Song: "Dhaani"
Artist: Strings
Director: Jami (Jamshed Mehmood)
D.O.P: Zain Haleem

After "Anjaane", "Dhaani" is a truly inspired effort for the title song of Strings' last album. The Strings-Jami collaboration is in full force after the rather disappointing "Chaaye Chaaye". Sorry guys, but after gems like the beautifully stark and ruggedly textured "Duur" video and the absolutely mind-blowing "Anjaane" that has the closest attention to detail one has ever seen in video making, "Chaaye Chaaye" was something of a disappointment. "Dhaani" more than makes up for it. Jami has come up with another winner for Strings.

This is the most exciting gender bender one has seen in a long time that has nothing to do with drag queens. There are (thankfully) no hijras here, a concept that has been beaten to death now. We are not talking men tarted up to be women. We are talking about a surreal world where the most common joints are being run by women. In "Dhaani", women are reincarnated as barbers, paan wallahs, truck drivers and waiters at dhabas with no make up and wearing ordinary dhotis with kurtas. Yes there is the stray girl in jeans riding a scooter with her shades perched firmly on her nose, long hair trailing behind her. A fresh faced waitress at a dhaba who takes the order from Faisal and Bilal with a smile playing on her face. Dhaani indeed!

Strong on concept and content, "Dhaani" has an imagery that is very dignified and real despite being so rooted in fantasy. This owes itself to the fact that Jami has never really relied on glamour. The girls are not styled to death, and that is absolutely fine because it makes "Dhaani" all the more effective. The girls appear more beatific somehow. They have an ethereal quality to them and retain their femininity in the woman's world that Jami has created. With a slew of videos when everyone is either trying to outdo each other in terms of style, but have zero to offer in terms of content, the simple but effective and refreshingly non-cliched visuals of "Dhaani" are a gust of fresh air.

One is a tad bit tired of women dressed as gaon ki goris or either America returned nymphets acting all coy when the man (often the lead singer) is wooing them. Full credit goes to Strings for staying far away from cliches when it comes to videos. And reinventing women in a society where their roles are so clearly defined is no easy task. Hats off to Jami for coming up with a video that creeps up on you and takes you by surprise.

I even like Zeba Bakhtiar's guest appearance as herself, as she peeks through the studio. It is simple and effective and will remind the Indian audience of the Henna girl who caused such a craze when she became an R.K. Films heroine over a decade ago in 1991.

The video has been playing regularly in India and one is so very proud of it. Gender bending is something India has done before, but they haven't done it like this. "Dhaani" is running on many Indian channels and Strings are touring India once again. They have been there before and have acquired a cult following. There is a cult in India and Pakistan that buys alternative music. These are people looking away from Bollywood looking for an alternative to the love songs that the film industry has to offer. This is an extension of the cult in Pakistan that prefers Strings to Abrar, only that the Indian cult is much bigger. "Dhaani" is one hell of an option for them and they appreciate it. And so do we. In a land where most entertainment comes from foreign lands and most concepts are borrowed from the West or inspired by happenings across the border, originality we can call our own is greatly appreciated

As a director, Jami has built up a rapport with Strings that he doesn't seem to have managed to have with any other artist. There is a point when creative minds jive together and the Jami-Strings alliance is proof of this. Also, the Strings have always done what they wanted to do. From "Sar Kiye" to "Dhaani", these guys have come a long long way, the eight year break in between notwithstanding.

Muniba Kamal
June, 2004
The News International, Pakistan