A cup half empty
- Adha Cup
“A stylish black and white comedy in Urdu featuring Rez Kempton and Ace Bhatti as Ash and Shahid, two lazy and bored social workers who reluctantly agree to reunite the cast of a legendary amateur Bollywood musical, Pappa Kehta Hain, to be restaged at the Pakistan Centre where they work.
In their search for the old cast members, they encounter a singing barber, a villainous butcher and an over-acting taxi driver, and along way they reconnect with their enthusiasm for life, love and family.
But unless they can track down the elusive hero, Sajid Hussain, the show can’t go on…”
So says the blurb on the Channel 4 website, but before it had even aired, the short film Adha Cup (Half a Cup) was already attracting some controversy. Anyone who has listened to the BBC Asian Network this week will have heard some of the debate on Nikki Bedi and Nihal’s shows. If you haven’t, update yourself: www.bbc.co.uk/asiannetwork
Despite being put off by some of what I’d heard, I bit the bullet and watched Adha Cup on 4OD on Wednesday night. At its heart, it is a very clever piece of drama which manages to convey a lot in 24 minutes. I think that they succinctly and wittily said some very accurate things about Asian communities, the way we function and our unique love of cinema and drama, which I’m sure is unparalleled.
Unfortunately, these wonderful positives just serve to make the poor language skills of the two leads all the more apparent. My reasoning for why that failing makes such an impact on the film has nothing to do with the marketing (although I do believe it was false advertising to call it an ‘Urdu drama’). Everything about the piece wanted us to feel like we were just following these two friends as they tried to do something for their community, peeping in on family life, watching them meet everyday people.
But everything that came out of their mouths felt so unnatural that nothing really rang true. I’d like to draw a comparison that some people may find unfair (and somewhat biased) – but think about how Zainab and Masood talk to each other on EastEnders. English, accented on Zainab’s part, with some Urdu thrown in every now and again. I’m sure that many of us will associate that mix of languages as the natural way we speak in our homes – if the programme makers wanted to cast those particular actors then that’s the format they should have gone for. Otherwise they needed to cast proper Urdu speakers. I only understand Urdu because I speak Hindi as my third language: I can’t imagine what true Urdu-speakers thought of Adha Cup’s linguistic efforts.
I have to commend the premise behind this piece of work, and applaud those who commissioned it – it’s just a shame it didn’t live up to its potential.