Once upon a time, there lived a boy in the holy city of Varanasi. He laid his eyes on a girl and fell haplessly in love with her. He pursued her through thick and thin and then in the 9th standard, he proposed her. She replied with a slap and a smile. The slaps continued till the boy decided to get the case cleared and slit his wrist in an auto with the girl as a viewer. The girl hugged him in agony and disbelief but the boy thought it to be love. Soon after the girl was dispatched off to Aligarh and the boy promised her that he would wait for her. Years later the girl returns and the boy goes to see her at the station but alas! the girl has forgotten him altogether. Thus starts the story of Raanjhanaa.
Kundan(Dhanush) tries every trick in the book to lure the lanky lass Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) but issues like religious differences, status, etc. keep popping up until the H-Bomb is let loose on Kundan by Zoya during what Kundan takes to be a romantic ride. Zoya confesses to him that she is in love with a young politician Akram (Abhay Deol) whom she met in Delhi. After a lot of turmoil, Kundan with a broken heart and split wrist is able to convince her father to marry Zoya and Akram off but on the day of her marriage, something happens which changes Kundan’s destiny forever.
The first half of Raanjhanaa is electric. Buoyed by A R Rahman’s outstanding score which is an eclectic mix of the Indian culture and sensitivity, the love story takes wings like never before. It is a drastic departure from the posh and polished love stories that we are being meted out these days, Raanjhanaa is close to the earth and even closer to the soul. Kundan’s love is one-sided but it’s certainly not one-dimensional. In his eyes, action, and smile, every lover will find a chord that will strike for them. We have all experienced moments of such pure and unadulterated love at least once in our lives. Requited or unrequited, it is this love that has stayed with us through the ages. Raanjhanaa is a celebration of this love which lies somewhere within us. Coupled with Rahman’s tunes, the screenplay raises well above its limitations, and we, the audience, rise with it.
We are still in the buoyancy of the first half when disaster strikes and the intelligent and quirky love story suddenly metamorphs into a political drama. Kundan, still hell-bent on grabbing Zoya’s attention starts getting into some seriously tight situations with political overtones but comes out trumps every time but with little success in winning back Zoya’s love. The game continues well into the climax where another insane twist happens which is neither fathomable nor warranted. Zoya gets politically motivated to burn the gut of Kundan who she thinks is trying to win over her Lover’s seat as well as her body. In her blind fury, she does something which is equivalent to kicking the chair under the audience. Just as somebody great wrote “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s wrath”, but here the fury was more inline with stupidity.
The writing totally destroys what started off as a wonderful and dreamy love story and turns it into a muddled tale of confusion which even the director will find difficult to classify. Halfway through the second half, I lost track of the proceedings and felt restless. The love was out of the love story and I was left holding the empty cone which made no sense at all. There were a few flashes of brilliance towards the end but the amateurish screenplay does enough damage to liquefy their effects and practically nullify them.
Dhanush is awesome. It is difficult to accept that Raanjhanaa is his first Bollywood film. I have seen him perform in gems like Aadukalam, but here he takes on a completely different path and excels. The wonder of wonders is that he looks convincing as a ninth-grader. His portrayal of the emotional scenes is cracking. His every interaction with Zoya is bound to bring about a gamut of expression from the audience. Sonam Kapoor hasn’t looked this beautiful in a while. She totally looks like a girl who could inspire such mad love in a man. Her sequences with Dhanush are the high points of her essay. Her transformation, though unbelievable, is still well enacted. Abhay Deol has a brief role but adds a dash of charm to the film in his brief essay.
Swara Bhaskar as Bindiya, the girl who is head over heels in love with Kundan is apt and so is Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub as Dhanush’s friend Murari. It is heartbreaking to see a film like Raanjhanaa that had the potential of being so much and yet ends up being so little. The electric first half of the film makes a dozen promises that the second half breaks in a jiffy, thus belittling the efforts and expectations of the people involved in its making the audience seated respectively. But having said all that, I still feel that it is a film which should be given a watch for the wonderful first half, Dhanush’s performance and A R Rahman’s exuberant music. Go in with little expectations and you might just be sweetly surprised.
Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)