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RAANJHANAA - Perfect example of how a novel love story angle gets diluted in the overstuffed execution on screen. (Review by Bobby Sing)

21 Jun, 2013 | Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / R / Movie Reviews / 2013 Releases

After so many memorable films made in this particular genre, coming up with a new impressive angle in a love story is quite impossible as it seems in Hindi Cinema. But surprisingly RAANJHANAA makes that difficult breakthrough in its offered content and the film surely scores its main brownie points for this very reason alone, unarguably. Having said that, there are also certain stories which make a fantastic read as a Classic novel with some exceptional kind of characters and their changing relationships. But unfortunately the impact one feels while reading them, somehow gets lost in their onscreen execution due to various reasons and that’s where RAANJHANAA falters too, as I felt while watching it.
Its basic storyline has many important twists and turns coming every half an hour which also might (partially) remind you of films such as MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (1954), KINARA (1977) & TUM BIN (2001). Therefore, instead of mentioning any clear spoilers here, I would like to talk about the overall experience of watching RAANJHANAA in the theater (along with its absurdities), as its review in the next paragraphs.
The film starts impressively from the childhood and then enters the adolescence age quickly where the boy gets slapped repeatedly by the girl in a very weird manner. After a brief meeting revealing their identities, the religion factor of Hindu-Muslim comes in and then both get separated as the girl goes to another town for higher studies. Meanwhile an incident of the boy cutting his wrist is also there which the girl easily forgets as she returns back to the town after a few years. Now this whole premise of the boy’s one sided love is both cute and interesting too along with the colourful locations of Banaras. Dhanush’s innocent portrayal of his true to life character is another reason that this initial hour keeps you hooked on to the screen with all its love, drama and songs.

But actually, there are too many absurdities and unconvincing liberties taken by both the writer and the director in their script, which don’t let you fall in love with their characters completely. To be precise, in a traditional city like Banaras, a young School Girl (in her school dress) slapping a Romeo boy several times (right in the middle of the road), not causing any panic in the people around was quite unbelievable, keeping in mind the social structure we have been living in. Secondly as the boy and girl meet for the first time in a lonely place, in that first meeting only a young girl of 9th standard (coming from a conservative Muslim family) straight away puts her hand in the boy’s open shirt to find his “Jenau” was again highly absurd for me and strongly disgraceful too. Thirdly, it was really funny to see that the girl, returning to the town just after 3-4 years is simply not able to recognize the same boy who had slit his wrist only for her when she was in the 9th standard. Certainly we don’t have such a weak memory power in our minds, forgetting our own golden adolescent years full of love and energy so fast.
Thankfully, just when the boy-girl love angle starts becoming too long and monotonous, comes Abhay Deol to save the film, but then he also falls in the same trap of absurdity in the next few scenes and disappoints. Now the highly weird scenes featuring Abhay Deol includes the one wherein a sudden kiss on the cheek is given by the girl right in the middle of the campus (a girl who comes from a traditional Muslim family of Banaras). And why she kisses Abhay on the cheek, all of a sudden? That’s because she strongly wishes to prove her point that all people are not equal on this earth and some are special. No doubt quite an innovative idea to make a point and bring in the romantic feel by the writers indeed! Next the same Muslim family members of Banaras who are very particular about the religion, make no investigation about the boy, ask nothing about his family background and have no questions to ask before announcing the marriage of their beautiful daughter to him in a hurry, as if the writers have kept a gun at their back. Interestingly the boy, i.e. Abhay Deol is a Punjabi in reality and not a Muslim, so here we have the much needed PUNJAB angle also brought in as per the latest trend.
However, this is where we have the major twist in the plot, which happens to be the only worth mentioning feature of the film as stated in the beginning of this write-up. The twist has a novelty of its own, which sadly gets lost as the story moves further and the director misses to use the factor of guilt, love and emotion in it in the later part of his film. But wait the ‘Memory Loss’ absurdity re-surfaces once again here when the main hero, Dhanush forgets to attend his own marriage after getting dressed for it in the tailor shop and so does his dear friend who was most interested in getting him married in order to get out of this silly love-mess. Surely the lead characters here need to be treated for their repeated memory loss fits by their creators (writers) urgently.
Post intermission, we have another shocking twist and then suddenly the love story takes a major, social political turn bringing in the ‘Safdar Hashmi’ element into its execution. Now we have our lead characters fighting for the rights of the common man, cleaning the roads and even contesting for the elections against some big established leaders. Seriously, I don’t know in which part of the country it is so easy (in just a few weeks) to be in politics, but that’s how it is shown in this so called thoughtful project titled RAANJHANNA. Towards the climax, the absurdity syndrome enters again when the now grown up girl decides to double cross the ruling leader of the party like a piece of cake, but in the process forgets to take her own lover boy in confidence (before the planned social meeting where he is going to be attacked). As a result, the girl wins the game but the boys loses it all since he is supposed to end the film like that as thought of by the writers.
In short, keeping the absurdities aside, it’s the first half of the film which makes an impression but the second half pulls it down completely giving it a political angle unnecessarily. Too many unrelated subplots inserted post interval, dilute the overall impact of its fine love story and the viewer loses the interest once the film crosses its desired length. Further, due to the above mentioned reasons, the pure and innocent love of Dhanush doesn’t touch the viewer that strongly and he more or less remains just a character on the screen facing a constant pain till the end. Also I found the director’s vision quite confusing here since at one end he gives great emphasis on the ‘Street Plays’ and the Communist thinking of the student group and on the other makes fun of their collective intellect in a scene wherein Dhanush is taken as a thief.
Looking from a brighter angle, cinematography plays a major role in making an impression capturing the local ambience of the city beautifully and the dialogues make their presence felt in few enjoyable scenes. But the music (including the background score) turns out to be a quite less than expected from the maestro A. R. Rahman as I felt personally. A subject like RAANJHANAA would have been a lot different with some memorable songs by Rahman, but sadly they are not there to support the film as desired except “Aisey To Na Dekho”. Frankly this also forces me to think that if a big production house hires a composer like Rahman for their major film to be directed by a young director. Then what happens when that young director (following a different vision), doesn’t like any of the tunes made by the master for various songs. How he conveys his disapproval of the tunes to the master and how the master reacts to this rejection by a young director for his work done to the best of the ability. Surely, that’s an interesting point to be asked to the concerned parties.
In the performance section, the film totally belongs to Dhanush, who makes a strong impact as an actor particularly in the second half. He wins over the viewer first with his innocence and later with his acting skill in the final hour of the film quite strongly. In fact such is the impact of his ‘boy next door’ act that the film possibly would have been nothing with any known Bollywood face playing the role, in place of Dhanush.  Sonam on the other hand, seems to be in a continuing mode from her previous films like DELHI-6. Though she emotes well both as a school girl and the wing leader in the college, yet I couldn’t find anything new in her act honestly. Abhay Deol once again delivers what is required from him in a small special appearance. But why he accepted such kind of miniscule role remains a mystery. In reality, it’s the supporting cast here which makes a more important contribution, wherein both Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Swara Bhaskar are truly brilliant as Dhanush’s childhood friends. Plus Kumud Mishra, Vipin Sharma and Sujata Kumar simply excel in their few but important scenes in the first half.
In all, focusing only on its core issue of a one sided love, its mistakes and the guilt factor, RAANJHANAA could have reached a different level altogether in this particular genre. But in its present avatar it just remains an above average love saga with a difference. And you can watch it once just for Dhanush’s sincere act to say the actual truth.
Rating : 2+1 / 5 (Including an additional 1 only for Dhanush’s honest act and the novel twist in its story line before the interval)

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21 Jun 2013 / Comment ( 0 )
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