Raanjhanaa is a love story. Not a romance and most definitely not a romcom. This one is about the kind of love that doesn’t understand the ‘move on’ way of life. It is not a simple tale but it is told with simplicity. Quite the opposite of the usual Bollywood staple, eh? And then there is newcomer (to Hindi films) Dhanush who alone is a good enough reason to watch this film.
Kundan (Dhanush) falls in love with Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) as a five-year old and falls for life. He grows up dreaming about her and pursues her relentlessly as a teenager. To his delight she finally responds to his advances but the love story is cut short when her parents send her away for higher studies. He decides to wait for her, totally ignoring the love of his childhood friend Bindiya (Swara Bhaskar) towards him. She returns 8 years later but as a young woman who looks back at her teenage love as a passing affair. Kundan vows to win her love again but this time it won’t be easy as she is in love for real – with the JNU student leader Akram (Abhay Deol).
Sounds like the regular story of the hero being in love with the heroine but she being in love with someone else, right? It is anything but. Just when you think that you have the story figured out, comes along a twist that turns the story in a totally new direction. Some scenes are just brilliant and stay in your mind long after the film ends. Bringing freshness to a love story needs genuine creativity and the story/dialogue writer Himanshu Sharma has done a commendable job for the most part.
Director Anand Rai knows his Benaras. He knows its people, its lingo, its quirks. He makes Benaras one of the most endearing characters of the film, so much so that I started feeling nostalgic for it when the action shifted to Delhi in the second half. Delhi too is presented authentically and it rightly remains politically cold when compared to the sunlit warmth of Benaras. However, that is the main problem with the movie. As the action shifts from Benras to Delhi, the tone of the film too shifts completely. Mid-way into the second half, it becomes a different film. From then on to the climax it flounders, and that is the reason the climax fails to be as impactful as it could have been.
Ranjhanaa’s songs are melodious but I feel not of the level that A. R. Rahman’s admirers expect from him. The screenplay is highly effective though somewhat repetitive, which doesn’t rankle so much in the first half as it is mostly fun, but as the seriousness takes over the repetitiveness becomes jarring. The dialogues are another high point of the film – authentic and very impactful. A special mention must be made of the director of photography who has captured North India, especially Benaras, in all its colours and moods.
There is not a single bad performance in Raanjhana. Sonam has never looked more beautiful or acted better. Though she is still one-dimensional as an actor, she brings in the required immaturity to her portrayal of the flighty Zoya. Abhay Deol is likeable though a little low on energy. Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub is just outstanding as Kundan’s best friend Murari. He gets some of the film’s best lines and elevates them even more with his performance. As does Swara Bhaskar. Even the actors in minor roles make a strong impact. And yet Dhanush manages to tower over everybody. Despite the south Indian accent (which is explained through his Tamil family), he comes across as a real Benarasi – the body language, the dialogue delivery, the attitude – and is equally good in the comic as well as intense parts.
Ranjhanaa is not perfect but it is heart-touching and very entertaining. And it is that unique thing – a love story that men will like more than women. Must watch!