Direction: Aanand L Rai
Actors: Dhanush, Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol
Let me begin with an honest confession. As I drove to the preview theatre to watch Raanjhanaa, I wondered how I would spend over two hours gazing at a hero as plain as Dhanush.
Until this film, I had only seen the National Award-winning actor in his blockbuster Kolaveri Di video. But my fears vanished almost as soon as the film started because in the first few minutes, Dhanush’s character Kundan jokingly acknowledges his lack of good looks.
And after the first 10 minutes, I was utterly bowled over by Dhanush’s energy and charm. He’s outstanding as the spirited, street-smart son of a pundit in Benares who is a little boy when he embarks on his epic love story.
The object of his passion is the local Muslim beauty, Zoya played by Sonam Kapoor. This is a love so ferocious that eventually it consumes everything in its path.
But for the first half, it’s also superbly entertaining. Kundan chases Zoya with the ardour of a true devotee. She is artfully careless with his emotions but he doesn’t miss a beat.
The pursuit continues for years. So much so that at one point, Kundan’s closest friend Murari, played by the terrific Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, remarks: ‘Pyaar na hua, UPSC ka imtihan ho gaya. Dus saal se paas hi nahi ho raha.’
The dialogues by Himanshu Sharma are the highlight of the film. The lines are pithy, earthy and wonderfully funny. Snaking his camera through the streets of Benares, director Aanand L Rai creates an intimate and lived milieu. AR Rahman’s music, especially the gorgeous Tum Tak, layers the narrative further.
This love story is fantastical but these are characters we could know. Their emotions move us — so much so that when Kundan finally breaks down and cries, I wept too.
But this is where Raanjhanaa gets frustrating. Rai hits a false note as soon as the story shifts to Zoya’s romance with her college friend, Akram, played by Abhay Deol.
And post-interval, when we leave Benares for New Delhi, the film derails considerably. The actors still move us — including Sonam who looks effortlessly beautiful and gives her career’s best performance — but the plot becomes more and more convoluted. You are neither immersed in the film nor removed from it.
So, basically, I was crying without being convinced by the half-baked political twists and turns of the story.
Unfortunately, Raanjhanaa never fully gets back on track. But despite these flaws, I’m recommending that you see it. Especially for Dhanush who proves that eventually looks don’t matter. Neither does size. All that towers is talent.