More than midway into the turbulent take on the destiny of star-crossed lovers on the run, the Uttar Pradesh ki Juliet, aka Julie, who has been raped by her sexed-up finance is told by her father-like elder brother to calm down.
“I shouldn’t be saying this. But my sister, you are so pretty. Any man would get carried away,” giggles Bade Bhaiyya Priyanshu Chatterjee anxiously, unwilling to break an alliance that means huge political gains for him and his family.
This is normal procedure in a section of the Cow Belt. Make the daughter a sacrificial cow for your personal gains. And when she shows more spirit than that bottle on the table, kill her. Family honour, you know.
This is one of the more disturbing moments in film that’s plotted like a wildly cascading stream toppling and tumbling across a craggy path before crashing to a halt in a state of exhausted exaltation. Mirza Juuliet is love saga on constant heat. Its protagonists are not afraid to discuss sex. And it’s refreshing to see the heroine (Pia Bajpai), a sexed-up version of Parineeti Chopra in Habib Faisal’s Ishaqzaade, bluntly asking her renegade Romeo (Darshan Kumaar, gentle yet persuasive) if he has ever had sex.
It’s also refreshing to see a Hindu-Muslim love story where the lovers’ religious identity is never really an issue. Their social status is.
The sexual bluntness of the film is a major asset. It gives to the otherwise-modest narration a voluptuous fulsome look. Mirza Juuliet is like a land-rover ploughing through a muddy bumpy road in pursuit of a dragon that needs to be slain before it turns around to devour the film’s energetic overtures indicating minds that want to leap higher than conventional love stories, but are not always able to negotiate that chasm that separates Will from Target.
Director Rajesh Ram Singh has done an original sometimes vigorous, otherwise limp and sagging, take on the Romeo-Juliet/Mirza-Sahibaan sagas. He mixes and matches the two love legends with wild creative aspirations. Sometimes the blend of the familiar and the unexplored is glaring in its mismatch. The film’s ever-horny villain-clown played with over-the-top gusto by Chandan Roy Sanyal, never knows when to be the jester and when the rapist.
Darshan Kummar, memorable as Mary Kom’s compassionate husband and the honour-killer brother in NH10, brings a quiet strength to the role of the troubled Muslim youth who is tired of being used as a political pawn. Pia Bajpai is all over the place. She is brash and bawdy. Not the kind of girl you would want to invite to your daughter’s wedding.
The line between bacchanalia and crime are blissfully blurred in the Indian heartland. Goons go on a shooting rampage laughing their heads off and blowing each other’s brains off as though Quentin Tarantino and Anurag Kashyap has just signed a deal to promote tourism during times of heartland crime. One of the heroine’s brother gets his finger blown off at the start. That accident remains an ongoing joke for all the characters.
They don’t watch much of Ekta Kapoor’s serials for entertainment. The men plot and plan political perversity as ladies, in newly-purchased cotton sarees in gaudy shades, hover around looking like mannequins in the flee market.
Nonetheless the film is well crafted. And it builds up to a thoughtful and thundering climax where Mirza and Juliet get their comeuppance. Mirza Juuliet is fun while it lasts. It has a certain celerity in its narration and the cocky confidence of the kind that Kapil Sharma displays when he speaks English although he is not fluent in the language.
The film is sharply written with characters who are real enough to look menacing and yet not quite the stuff the people in Avinash Das’s Anaarkali Of Aarah were made of. A bedrock of artifice underlines the attempts to forge a compelling Mirza-Juliet fusion. But the film’s characterizations and some of the performances are strong enough to withstand the lashes of fakery that make welters all over the narrative.Even the rustic songs are not interesting in any unique way.
The loud colours, the flamboyant storytelling and characters who have no respect for the law of the land have all been seen before. Mirza Juliet is still fun to watch. Give it a shot.