Like most Bollywood films these days, Raanjhanaa is completely two different films packed in one – pre and post-interval. One is the “politics of love” and the other is “lovers in politics”, and there’s a big difference between the two. As the initial reactions and reviews started pouring in, the verdict seems to be unanimous – first half is fun, the curse of 2nd half strikes yet again. As i stepped into the theatre, i was ready for it. But as i came out of the theatre, i realised that i belong to that minority group which liked the second half more.
First half is easy, you know the tricks, you have seen it many times, love stories in small towns and galli mohalls is not new. It’s charming and easy to like. There’s no way one cannot not like it. Some might argue that it’s stalking and glorification of it, then let me say that you have never been part of any small town love story. It’s stark reality. That’s the way it happens. If you don’t know a friend who has cut his wrist or drank kerosene (sleeping tablets is for metroes), the film might seem a bit stranger to you. But what stood out for me was how ruthlessly selfish the lovers are. Sonam (Zoya) knows Dhanush (Kundan) loves her. And so she uses him in every possible way. It’s the same with Kundan, who knows that Swara (Bindiya) can do anything for him. And he uses her blatantly. It all seems fun and jovial on the surface but scratch it and you realise how cunning their acts are. It’s the politics of love. Their love might be pure but the tricks aren’t.
Some even might point out the physical equation between Kundan, Bindiya and Murari. How can you hit her? i would say this is what “camaraderie” between friends is all about, without being aware of one’s gender. And in the scene when Bindiya says kewal mere baap ke hi kapde phadega, and Kundan backs out, you know that she isn’t the shy kind. If she had protested, these guys would have backed out long back. It’s part of the game, of growing up together.
Now, the second half seems like a completely different film. A death, and the childhood romance of Benaras moves to ambitious student politics of Delhi. Kundan doesn’t know why he is there. He is lost. He is not sure what to do with his life. He has tried every possible option. Is he still chasing Zoya? Yes. Kind of. Does he know why? No. Has he any more hopes from her? No. The simple chasing the girl routine turns into a heavy cocktail of ambitions and emotions. Let’s see how. So Zoya aspires to fulfill the ambitions of her dead lover (Abhay/Akram). But slowly it looks like all these dreams will come true only through Kundan whom she hates now, whom she holds responsible for Akram’s death. It’s a difficult choice to make. Can she accept Kundan now? And even if she does, the world will curse her for being selfish and opportunist who forgot her lover after his death. Between love, life and dreams, she is confused with no easy way out. And then comes an opportunity to turn it all over and conquer it all. She opts for it too but the guilt is too heavy to bear.
Kundan is caught in a similar situation. He is aimless, he is just tagging along and is getting lucky wherever he puts his foot, except in love. And when it all comes to the conclusion, he realises that even if he wins everything, he has lost the only thing he ever wanted from life – love. So what’s the point of living? Someone who can slash his wrist so easily, he has no fear of death. The monologue in the climax wraps it up beautifully. Lovers always claim to be ready to die in love. But only few dare to do it. And very few directors and writers dare to opt for such uncompromised end for a love story. Nothing else was possible. All credit to writer Himanshu Sharma and director Anand L Rai for going the whole hog. And this is exactly why i liked the second half more. It’s complicated, and the makers went for the unusual choices. I think first half is easy to write, and easy to like. Second half is damn difficult to write from the point when Dhanush lands up in Delhi not knowing what to do. I could hear the writer’s voice there – what to do with this mujhe-bus-Zoya-chahiye character? He (character and writer) really doesn’t know what to do now.
Now, the running joke. In a scriptlab where Sriram Raghavan was our mentor, we used to joke that whenever you are stuck at any page, just put a gun in that page. Sriram will like it for sure. Here the formula is slightly different – stuck on the page, opt for the blade. Not once or twice, but three times. Woah!
Interestingly, the entire film is one long montage cut on back to back songs. You can exactly count the numbers of the scenes where the characters talk. But the flavour of the real locations and the terrific acting by Dhanush, Swara Bhaskar and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub makes it look perfectly smooth. Also, it might be a smart decision keeping Dhanush’s dialogue delivery in mind. They have justified his character, and his hindi diction is weird but it’s not jarring to ears. So a big credit must go to its music director A R Rahman. His music is the thread that holds this complicated tale of unrequited love together. Sonam seems to have improved a lot from her previous films but her dialogue delivery is still irritating. And Kumud Mishra is always quite pleasant to watch onscreen.
I never bothered to watch Rai’s earlier films. But going by Tanu Weds Manu (i like it and TERRIFIC album) and Raanjhanaa, i think Imtiaz Ali has some competition finally. Especially if it’s matters of hearts in small towns. And Dhanush, welcome to bollywood.
Watch it. And if uncomfortable, take off your “metro” shoes.