35mm Reflections: UMA (Bengali – 2018)

Someone had once said, “Great art has the ability to heal.” Where time and circumstance fail to heal past wounds inflicted by life, art often acts as the panacea we crave for. The actual effect of the same is not known–but the illusion of having found a sense of closure for painful memories is what keeps us all going.

Srijit Mukherji’s latest film UMA is all about illusions. In fact, it is, in one sense, a heist film. Heists operate not only on the basis of daredevilry and brains, but also on the basis of the perfect illusions. And what are these illusions here? A young father tries to keep his usual cheery demeanour intact in front of his daughter, who is dying before his eyes. A director, who has fallen on hard times personally and professionally, tries to operate under the assumption that he can still make it work. And then later, both men team up with other committed individuals in order to stage the biggest mirage of all: an entire city engaged in the one festival that defines it globally.

At one level, then, UMA is essentially a father-daughter story. But at another level, it is also a tribute to a city, and a community. It reminds us that at the end of the day, even the most cynical and supposedly-tainted hearts are capable of possessing a modicum of goodness.

The fake Durga Puja recreated in the film seems believable, because every Bengali living in Kolkata knows the ideal Puja checklist. Mohd Ali Park? Check. Mudiali? Check. Dhunuchi-naach? Check. Pandals? Pratima? Check and check. Mukherji takes advantage of this, choosing to focus on the ensemble cast as they grapple with the logistics of creating a fake world for a little girl. You keep cheering on the washed-up director Brahmanand as he marshals the Avengers his production team to come up with the best illusion possible, even as they grapple with their biggest enemy: Thanos Time.

Anupam Roy’s soundtrack is terrific. My favourite remains Jaago Uma, that plays near the climax of the film. Soumik Halder ‘s camerawork is top-notch, but the editing is a bit patchy, especially in the Switzerland leg of the film.

Sara Sengupta and Jisshu Sengupta shine the brightest in the film. But I enjoyed the performances by the ensemble cast more. Abhijit Guha, Sujan Mukherjee, Rudranil Ghosh, Apratim Chatterjee, Amborish are too good. I loved Srabanti in that little role as Mariam Dastidar a.k.a. Fake Menoka. That one scene in the dead of night with Jisshu and her had more chemistry than what Ravi Kinagi could conjure up with them in laat year’s Jio Pagla. And if anyone still doubts Anirban Bhattacharya’s finesse as an actor, they should watch the scene where he breaks down in front of Sara’s Uma when she offers him prasad.

But if the film’s hero is Mukherji, the hero of the film-within-the-film is undoubtedly Anjan Dutt. As Brahmanand, the washed-up cynical who seeks redemption in crafting a “masterpiece” for someone he does not know, Dutt is heartbreakingly real. With Pratim D Gupta’s Shaheb Bibi Golaam, a terrific soundtrack in Aami Ashbo Phirey, and more roles coming up in Ahare Mon, Ek Je Chhilo Raja and Byomkesh Gotro, I think it is safe to surmise we’re all in the middle of the Anjanaissance.

I loved the cameos too. In a post-Zulfiqar world, you expect Prosenjit, Dev and Nusrat to turn up in your film. But my favourite bit was the part where different directors are requested to direct the fake Puja. It reminded me of a similar sequence in Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance, where different actors keep giving hilarious refusals to Rishi Kapoor’s cantankerous producer.

There are so many scenes within Uma that are memorable, and most of them will probably be dissected thoroughly in the days to come. But I loved the film. Arguably Mukherji’s finest illusion since Autograph, Uma is a reminder that, in spite of the Pujas and the yearly date with Salman Khan at the cinemas, perhaps the greatest illusion a person lives and dies for is one that remains off-camera: hope.

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Teaser Breezer: SHAHEB BIBI GOLAAM (THE DRIFTERS) (Bengali – 2016)

 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

How much is a 15-second teaser worth, then? Not much, you’d assume.

The best part about the teaser of noted critic-turned-filmmaker Pratim D. Gupta’s Bengali film Shaheb Bibi Golaam (The Drifters) is its ability to hold your attention for those 15 seconds of your time. It’s NOT a trailer, but akin to an appetizer—a swift breeze signalling a fast-approaching storm. Deliciously dark and moody, this storm looks like a spiritual homage to Anurag Kashyap and Sriram Raghavan, the current masters of Indian noir.

There are no dialogues in this clip. But then, you don’t need any. The dimly-lit frames and the gorgeous set design point to a stylishly-poised thriller in the offing. PDG has a thing for shadows—Paanch Adhyay, his first feature film, relied on the constant interplay between light and darkness in portraying the highs and lows of a marriage. Here, the shadows become a soothsayer of sorts, constantly cajoling and teasing you to ruminate on what PDG could have up his sleeves.

Also, it doesn’t hurt with that crackerjack cast lined up. As expected, Anjan Dutt, Swastika and Ritwik receive top billing. However, it’s the other characters that intrigue me more. Vikram Chatterjee, Parno Mittra, Sudip Mukherjee and Sumanto Mukherjee add heft to the cast, leading one to wonder what godforsaken cat-and-mouse game awaits the audience.

For me, though, the teaser stands out not for what is shown to the audience, but what is not shown. A poster that says “Nagorik Convention”. The yellow taxi Ritwik’s character finds Parno in. Parno peeping on someone through a pair of binoculars (a hat tip to Ray’s Charulata) As in PDG’s earlier work, the city of Kolkata literally becomes an all-enveloping character, but unlike Paanch Adhyay and the 8 to 8 segment from X: Past Is Present, she is a lot more sinister. Using a phrase like “quietly explosive” is effectively useless, but there’s really NO other way to describe everything going on in this teaser, with its lethal cocktail of sex, drugs and thuggery.

Small wonder, then, that the film was denied a certificate by the CBFC in January. Whether the teaser points to a cult movie in the offing, is something only time will tell. Though no release date has been finalized as yet, the film will have its world premiere at the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) next month.

Over to you, PDG.

35mm Reflections: BABY (Hindi – 2015)

Neeraj Pandey is probably a rarity in contemporary Hindi cinema. While the “masala entertainer” constantly goes through a lot of churning, becoming more and more outlandish by the day, Pandey’s movies are a solid reminder of how powerful these movies can be, if rooted in contemporary issues. His previous movies A WEDNESDAY and SPECIAL 26 are testament to this.

We also got a glimpse of what Akshay Kumar is capable of, with the right script in hand and the right man guiding him, in SPECIAL 26. This means that, in Pandey’s latest film BABY, you can sense that Akshay feels right at home in the Pandey universe of sharp one-liners and fast-paced narratives.

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Let me be honest at the start–BABY has a great ensemble cast, but everyone else pales in comparison to Akshay, and to an extent, even Danny Denzongpa. Denzongpa, as Feroze, heads the secret intelligence project, codenamed BABY, that is designed to take out enemies without endangering civilians or inconveniencing foreign authorities. Unlike most movies that glorify the police or our armed forces by taking jingoism to unheard-of levels, BABY succeeds in earning and directing our respect for the numerous unknown operatives who risk their lives for us. And it does so, without any fuss or hyperventilation.

The script of BABY is its best weapon. It’s an absorbing spy thriller spanning a number of countries from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, and Ajay (Akshay) is right in the middle of it. Using his brain and brawn, Ajay manages to outwit terrorists and moles within the intelligence wing to great effect. He and Feroze share a great camaraderie, and yet he’s fully aware of the fact that he’s expendable to the Indian government, if caught. This provides for some brilliant action sequences, which are choreographed by Cyril Quenel Raffaelli and Abbas Ali Mughal.

Technically, BABY is a visual treat. Sudeep Chatterjee’s lensing is fast on its feet, especially during the action sequences, and again during the Saudi leg. This, coupled with Shree Narayan Singh’s deft editing, ensures that you don’t even want to bother getting up from your seat during the interval. However, Pandey needs to learn ASAP how to use sound properly. Sanjay Chowdhury’s background score is good, but also jarringly loud. It’s almost as if the emotional quotient of a particular scene is being hammered into the heads of the audience, rather than letting it seep through.

BABY has a great cast, but the problem is that so many talented actors get so little- screen-time. Kay Kay Menon as Bilal, Rashid Naz as the Maulana and Sushant Singh as Wasim Khan are all superb as antagonists. Rana Daggubati, Taapsee Pannu and Anupam Kher are also excellent, but they are all side-players in what is essentially the Akshay and Danny Show.

As a result of some lapses, BABY is a Neeraj Pandey film that is thoroughly entertaining but also forgettable after some time. A WEDNESDAY and SPECIAL 26 were exceedingly good, because you felt emotionally invested in the characters. BABY, on the other hand, serves as an excellent showreel of Akshay Kumar the actor, as well as Neeraj Pandey the storyteller, and nothing more. It’s always worth a watch.

35mm Reflections: CHOTUSHKONE (Bengali – 2014)

2014 seems to be the year of the “movie-within-the-movie” narrative as a form of cinematic storytelling. A few weeks back, Karthik Subbaraj’s acerbic-yet-entertaining masterpiece, Jigarthanda, critiqued and demystified contemporary Tamil cinema on multiple fronts. And this week, we have Chotushkone, Srijit Mukherji’s sixth film, that uses the same concept to tell a tale of love and betrayal.

Chotushkone is a highly-polarizing film. Regardless of how much money it makes for Reliance Entertainment and Dag Creative Media, it is bound to provoke a lot of debate. During the 3.10 pm show today at INOX City Centre Siliguri, the first half provoked mixed reactions. Some people hated the slow, languorous and disjointed first half, and therefore walked out of the auditorium within the first 30-40 minutes; others loved it and therefore stayed back. The only other Bangla film I remember that elicited this sort of reaction was Q’s Tasher Desh.

Frankly speaking, Chotushkone, just like Jigarthanda, is pretty impossible to review without giving the story away. But there are three ways of looking at the film.

Since Chotushkone revolves around the premise of four directors, each with different cinematic sensibilities, coming together to make four segments of an anthology film, the film is filled with so many references that the discerning film buff would happily lap ’em up. 36 Chowringee Lane, Mr and Mrs Iyer, Troyee, Rupkatha Noy, Ghare Baire, Mayabazaar, Talaash…the list goes on and on. Literary references abound too, with Shakespeare, Kafka and Agatha Christie taking the cake. Parambrata, who plays Jayabrata, one of the directors, makes hilarious digs at his own real-life filmography. I loved that line he uses at a very crucial point in the film–“Ebar ektu hawa-bodol hok!” #win

Then there are the references to Srijit’s own career. Never have we seen so many direct shout-outs to a Bangla filmmaker’s previous films. Besides Autograph, whose shadow looms large over this film, there are subtle (and not-so-subtle) references to Baishe Srabon, Hemlock Society and Jaatishwar. From a certain angle, Chotushkone may be seen as a deconstruction of his previous films, wrapped as a sly tribute.

Secondly, Chotushkone may be seen as a real-life tale of revenge and destruction masquerading as a collaborative effort of creation. The “movie-within-the-movie” format is used in this regard to propel the story forward, as the creators of celluloid get trapped in a tight real-life web of their own making.

But perhaps it is the third angle that is refreshing. The disjointed narrative of Chotushkone works best as an astute allegory documenting the highs and lows of Bangla cinema. The ego-clashes and romantic relationships between actors, the failed real-life relationships of directors in love with their own work, fly-by-night producers (or “chit fund producers” as everyone now knows them as), producers who fell prey to the tantrums of their lead actors, conflicting sensibilities among filmmakers and actors alike—nothing is sacred in Chotushkone. In that sense, this feels like a refreshing and in-your-face reboot of Autograph. The scary part is that we see those realities in Bangla cinema even today.

There are some flaws in this story. The revenge angle is set up beautifully, but I feel Srijit gives the game away about 10 minutes too early. The Payel-Indrasish-Rahul track should have been more seamlessly integrated with the main story. The sub-plot involving Koneenica and Anindya Chatterjee could have been fleshed out more. And Barun Chanda’s presence in the film is similar to that of Pankaj Kapur in Finding Fanny—he’s good in that limited screen-time, but even when he’s not there in the film, you don’t miss him.

Still, these are minor glitches in a film that is technically top-notch. Sudeep Chatterjee, whose previous credits as DoP include Chak De India and Dhoom 3, is in crackling form here, as he runs riot with the color scheme of the film. Reds, blues, greens and monochrome are interspersed freely with a muted palette. Anupam Roy’s score is expectedly good, with Boba tunnel, Bawshonto eshe gechhe and Shetai satyi used in the film.

Doing a film like this requires a tremendous amount of guts, and it is to Srijit’s credit that, in spite of that middling second act, he pulls it off. Of course he has a hugely talented cast helping him here. Parambrata, Aparna Sen and Goutam Ghose are expectedly excellent. Neel Mukherjee, Arpita Chatterjee, Debleena Dutt, Sumit Samaddar, Shantilal Mukherjee and Tridha are all excellent in their brief screen-time. Anindya Chatterjee, whom I had last seen in Bapi Bari Jaa, is good as Dipto’s son. Kaushik Ganguly knocks it out of the park in that cameo. And Koneenica Banerjee shines in that Boba tunnel sequence, where her eyes and body language convey so much, even with brief dialogues.

But if somebody has to be anointed the Man of the Match in this film, it has to be Chiranjeet Chakraborty. As Dipto, the alcoholic actor-turned-director, who shares a difficult relationship with his son, and still harbours feelings for Aparna Sen’s Trina, he shows remarkable restraint—a far cry from his “bou harale bou paoa jaayre” days. I really hope he gets more roles like this in the near future.

Chotushkone is a refreshingly original ode to Bangla cinema. Like Bhooter Bhobishyot, this is a film that would be ruined if remade in another language. However, it’s a polarizing film not many would love. If you want to see something that breaks all conventions of storytelling and is entertaining as hell, go for it.

35mm Reflections: HIGHWAY (2014)

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Once in a while, every director makes a film that stands out as a marker—a cinematic lodestone, if you will—of how his thoughts and his control over his craft are ready to move on to the next level. This film may not do well commercially, but it signals a definite change in his technique. It means he is ready to introspect on his craft, almost as if the filmmaker is ready for the tag of an auteur.

Every filmmaker has that film, lurking somewhere in that filmography. For someone as celebrated as Mani Ratnam, that moment of truth came way back in 1986 with the release of the Tamil film MOUNA RAAGAM (Silent Symphony), after four back-to-back movies that did not do so well commercially. MOUNA RAAGAM had all the quintessential elements of a standard romantic film, and it had a winsome Revathy as the bubbly, sprightly Divya, but Ratnam combined all these elements into a film that critiqued the social norms governing marriage and teenage love. It showed everyone the first glimpse of a director who was willing to treat cinematic story-telling as an art, and not as a business proposition.

Gautham Menon, another celebrated Tamil director nowadays (half of whose Tamil filmography seems to have been remade in Hindi), had his moment too in 2010, with the twin movies based on the same story, VINNAITHAANDI VARUVAAYA (Tamil) and YE MAAYA CHESAVE (Telugu). The stories were the same, but both films had two different endings. With VTV especially, audiences found a filmmaker willing to push the envelope and completely upturn the notions of a typically-soppy romantic film. Unfortunately, when Menon wanted to remake the same film in Hindi, the film backfired. (EKK DEEWANA THA, remember?)

When he made a quiet entry into the big bad world of Hindi cinema in 2005 with SOCHA NA THA,  no one thought much of Imtiaz Ali as a filmmaker. The film did average business, but achieved a sort of cult following, thanks to its numerous reruns on TV. Besides being a launchpad for Abhay Deol and Ayesha Takia, it was a refreshingly original take on the confusion surrounding commitment and the institution of marriage. But above all, it was a quirky, romantic film, made from the heart.

After that, Ali’s fortunes as a filmmaker rose with every successive film. With JAB WE MET in 2007, LOVE AAJ KAL in 2009, ROCKSTAR in 2011 and COCKTAIL in 2012 (which he wrote, but didn’t direct), Imtiaz Ali became a byword for frothy romantic films that tried their own deconstruction of popular notions of love. These movies had big stars, catchy soundtracks, snappy dialogues and memorable characters.

However, somewhere that honest, fearless voice we’d last seen in SOCHA NA THA had got lost. Until today, that is.

HIGHWAY, which opened today, is unlike anything we’ve seen from Ali. The core idea, obviously, comes from a similarly-titled telefilm he had directed for the RISHTEY series on Zee TV in 1999. But the telefilm had a sort of rushed closure befitting its limited length. The 2014 version, however, has no such compunctions.

Veera (Alia Bhatt), is an upper-class Delhi girl, daughter of a business tycoon and getting ready for her own wedding. Feeling claustrophobic because of all the wedding preparations, she sneaks out on a midnight drive with her fiancé Vinay. However, everything goes horribly wrong when both of them get inadvertently embroiled in a shootout at a petrol pump, and Veera is taken hostage by a gang of Jat criminals, led by the gruff Mahabir Bhati (Randeep Hooda). Realizing they’ve taken on the entire system by kidnapping Veera, Mahabir and his gang try to drive her away, but she always keeps coming back to them. The funny part is that Veera enjoys tagging along with them, wherever they go.

It is a strange scenario, but Imtiaz Ali crafts a tale that uses a mix of Veera’s monologues, Mahabir’s reticence, long silences and the forever-changing North Indian countryside, in order to portray the odd relationship between kidnapper and hostage. Both have endured abuse they’d like to forget about, but by being in close proximity, both open up to each other. And this is really where HIGHWAY takes off. Where other so-called romantic films would harp on the concept of “happily ever after”, this film dares to delve into the effect of love and understanding on an emotionally-scarred individual, setting up for a positively moving finale. It is a very polarizing film—many people would balk at the idea of a hostage falling for her kidnapper—but if you have some semblance of patience, it is a very moving film.

Ali may be the captain of the ship here, but his technical crew is in fine form here. Anil Mehta shows why he is one of the best cinematographers around—the sort of shots he takes on digital is worth savouring. Coupled with Aarti Bajaj’s languorous editing, it makes for poetry on screen. A.R. Rahman’s score is sparse, only accentuating the silences in the film. Casting director Mukesh Chhabra comes up trumps in this film too, casting actors in memorable avatars.

But if HIGHWAY belongs to anybody, it is the two leads. As Veera, Alia Bhatt delivers what many might term as a career-defining performance. Vulnerable, yet stubborn, Alia’s Veera obviously brings back memories of JAB WE MET’s Geet; but then, Veera is a more layered character. Other actresses would’ve messed it up with a lack of spontaneity, but Alia Bhatt pulls it off. Randeep Hooda effectively underplays Mahabir, but he portrays himself as a hardened guy who cracks every now and then.

HIGHWAY ain’t everyone’s cup of tea. You’ll either love the movie or hate it. But if you have the patience and the willingness to enjoy some different, you might just enjoy Imtiaz Ali’s latest. I just think he may be ready for that auteur tag now. I end this review with Devansh Patel’s terrific tweet:-

35mm Reflections: MISHAWR RAWHOSHYO (Bengali – 2013)

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It is a truth widely acknowledged in West Bengal that nobody in Tollywood can quite make those slick, urbane Bangla movies the way Srijit Mukherji does. With a hat-trick of critically-acclaimed hits (Autograph, Baishe Srabon, Hemlock Society) behind him, Srijit, along with other contemporaries such as Mainak Bhaumik and Kamaleshwar Mukherjee, has ensured the return of the urban Bengali middle-class to the cinema hall/multiplex. However, some people (including me) felt that Srijit’s writing had suffered in his bid to rake in more moolah, and thus the original and refreshing voice of Autograph was somehow lost in the din of too much rhetoric in Baishe Srabon and Hemlock Society.

With Mishawr Rawhoshyo, however, Srijit cuts out the pretensions, and squarely brings back the focus on the story. Based on the much-loved 1984 Kakababu novel by the late Sunil Gangopadhyay,  Srijit weaves a crisp, taut screenplay that really takes off from the civil uprising in Egypt and comes alive on 35mm. It’s clunky at a few places in the narrative, but Srijit manages to transport the urgency and the unfettered spirit of the original story from page to screen. MR is essentially the story of how Kakababu (Prosenjit Chaterjee) and Santu (Devdaan) manage to travel from Kolkata to Egypt (with a brief stopover at JNU) in search of the key to a mysterious set of Egyptian hieroglyphics, which has probable links with a decades-old legend. While Satyajit Ray’s Feluda franchise had innocence and wonder in abundance, things are much more urbane and realistic in the Kakababu-Santu universe.

Of course Srijit’s trademark witty repartees and his dry humour are present throughout the film. It’ll take me a lifetime to forget how Kakababu sits in that room in JNU composing a tweet, “Just reached Delhi”, gets shot at by an assassin, and then, on his way to the nursing home, adds something more to the tweet—“Having a blast.” However, what stops this rollicking Bangla potboiler from becoming a classic are a few inconsistencies in direction, as well as some other aspects. Indradip Dasgupta’s score for MR has two diverse shades to it—while the songs work well as situational fillers, the background score, though apt, is unusually loud and sometimes drowns out dialogues. Also, the editing is uneven, especially the second half of the movie, where scenes (with the background score intact) get chopped midway for no rhyme or reason. That said, Sonu Nigam’s rendition of Hani Alkadir Gaan, and Srijit’s picturization of the song, is sure to give you goosebumps. And if you love the gorgeous frames of MR, the full credit should go to Soumik Halder, who seamlessly integrates the expansive grandeur of a Red One camera, with the intimate jerkiness of a DSLR.

Acting-wise, it’s a mixed bag, really. Prosenjit (as Kakababu) and Devdaan (as Santu) are expectedly good, and complement each other really well. Neel Mukherjee, Swastika Mukherjee, Tridha and Rajesh Sharma are effortless in their respective roles. But it’s a real pity seeing the veteran actor Rajit Kapur hamming it up as Al-Mammoon. And shooting and prancing around makes Joyraj’s assassin act look more like a cross between Gandu’s Rickshaw and Twelfth Night’s Feste.

But where this film truly scores is in the political stand it takes. It is refreshing to see a film that dumps the political correctness out of the window and takes a strong anti-Mubarak stance with regard to the Egypt uprising, While the link may seem tenuous, it works largely because of Indraneil Sengupta’s knockout act as the mysterious rebel leader Hani Alkadi. Emoting largely with his eyes, Indraneil brings gravitas and intensity to Hani Alkadi, tinged with a slight note of self-deprecating humour. Watch him in that scene where he debates with Kakababu about right and wrong, even as he attempts to kill a traitor. It’s a role that comes across rarely in Bangla cinema, and Indraneil sinks his teeth into it with relish. Indraneil’s Hani Alkadi can truly be called the director’s voice with regard to the Egypt uprising.

Mishawr Rawhoshyo thus throws in a compelling narrative with a fresh bit of pizzazz. It’s rough at the edges and slightly disjointed, but it’s not a bad watch at all. The way it has been directed and mounted on such a large scale, I really hope this movie does well and recovers its budget. The success of MR can only spur Bangla cinema to become bigger and better.

P.S.: Don’t miss out the small cameo by Kamaleshwar Mukherjee, whose mere presence is enough to remind us that another Bangla biggie is coming up—Chander Pahar.

35mm Reflections: SHUDDH DESI ROMANCE (2013)

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One thing any avid watcher of Hindi films will tell you is that it is useless to underestimate Yash Raj Films, because you never quite know what Aditya Chopra has up his sleeve. Either the experiment can go delightfully right (the Dhoom series, Band Baaja Baaraat) or horribly wrong (Dil Bole Hadippa, Aurangzeb and other crap). You just never know with the brooding Mr. Chopra.

Yet his latest offering, Maneesh Sharma’s Shuddh Desi Romance, takes all those chiffon-clad, Lata-crooned, Raj-Simran stereotypes so painstakingly crafted by his late father, and just dumps it out of the window like the garbage in the morning. Because this film dares to question those same notions of love and relationships so happily espoused by YRF over the years. Sharma, along with maverick writer Jaideep Sahni, crafts a narrative questioning the very ethos of Indian marriages, and the hypocrisy surrounding the entire “marriages are made in heaven” idea. Sahni’s crisp writing ensures that the film steers clear of being preachy, and yet holds up a mirror to our preconceived notions about relationships and commitments, reminding us that we live in a  country where the question of love is problematic and sexual encounters are more frequent than we’d like to admit.

The film kicks off with a short crisp monologue by Raghu (Sushant Singh Rajput), who deconstructs and disses the entire notion of the “arranged marriage” and the question of commitment, followed by a flurry of shots of Jaipur and its varied love-struck couples, set to Divya Kumar’s sprightly “Chanchal mann ati random”. On his way to get married to Tara (Vaani Kapoor), Raghu, an experienced baaraati­-on-rent himself, meets Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) and sparks fly. Ten minutes later, we see that Raghu has escaped (read ran  away) from his own wedding, has got cosy with Gayatri and has started living with her. From here onwards, the film becomes a never-ending game of pakdam pakdai that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Nickelodeon, if not for Sahni’s racy script and dialogues. The best part of the plot is the entire Raghu-Gayatri romance in the first half (featuring the delightful “Tere mere beech mein kya hai”). The dialogues are lively—ranging from the snarky (“Na jaan na pehchaan, free mein ho gayi santaan?”) to the profound (“Pehle ek doosre ke pichhe bhagte ho, phir ek doosre se door bhagte ho….Ab bhagte hi rahoge, ya thehroge bhi?”)

Such a crackling script deserves convincing performances, and SDR possesses those. Sushant Singh Rajput is utterly believable as the lovable, bumbling rascal Raghu, while Parineeti Chopra adds equal doses of rebelliousness and vulnerability to her portrayal of Gayatri. Rishi Kapoor is lovable as veteran wedding planner Goyalji, while Rajesh Sharma is efficient in a cameo.

But the big mystery of the film remains newbie Vaani Kapoor. She does turn in a decent performance as the jilted Tara, but her character remains just a sketch, and nothing more. All we know is that a) she is jilted at her own wedding by Raghu, b) she wants to confront Raghu about this and c) she loves cold beverages. Wish the audience knew more about her.

Do give SDR  a watch. It’s not a classic, but it’s not unwatchable either.

STATUTORY WARNING: You may never look at a bathroom the same way again after watching this movie.