"Akal ke parde peeche kar de", says a line from one of the countless tracks in Raanjhanaa. As if it's taunting the audience for having kept their own blinders on! "Aakhri mein kyon gadbadagayi, Zoya?" goes another dialogue towards the end. More aptly, what happened to the entire second half of the film, Mr Director?
Not that the first half wins any awards from my stable, but at least it was an attempt at creating something different. An audacious plan to cast someone who defies all definitions of a romantic Bollywood hero, and who, like his Kolaveri Di, uses nonsensical antics and exploits an instant connect to the millions of uneducated, jobless, tapori youth of the country, to try and draw the crowds to the theaters. A story that glorifies a selfish obsession, with no care or concern for the safety and well-being of the other, as love and passion. But at least it felt like an honest attempt at something different. The ghats of Varanasi, the dusty bylanes and roof tops, the railway tracks provided locales that haven't been seen before. AR Rahman's music provided some melody, although the repetitiveness of the tunes and the picturization with the over indulgence in Holi colors quickly becomes unbearable.
Two grossly overgrown "school kids" fall in love - one the son of a brahmin, the other a Muslim - their interactions consisting primarily of the girl slapping the guy hard every time he holds her hand in public, sending him into a monkey dance of ecstasy. Sixteen times. Morale of the story - no matter who you are, how you look and what you do, persistently following a girl, holding her hand in public, and getting slapped will land you your prize. They finally meet clandestinely by the banks of the river and kiss, just before she finds he is a Hindu and runs away. Away from town, only to return 8 years later, as an educated and driven girl, who doesn't even recognise her childhood friend (although, the grossly over grown kids have stopped growing since, and look exactly the same as they used to...) and wants to marry someone "more like her" - the guy she's fallen for for in college. More antics follow - and with the unkempt look and the ill-fitting wardrobe, it's easy to appeal to the masses in the theatres. Add a few silly one-liners, and you have the next Himesbhai ready to be served on a platter.
The hero decides that if pleading doesn't work, violence will. So he slashes his hands, threatens to slash hers, and even callously dumps his scooter into the river- with her screaming on the back seat... and it doesn't stop there. The story quickly starts hurtling towards more mayhem. Her Delhi-waala politician boy friend (Abhay Deol in a role he will regret for the rest of his life) makes an entry, gets killed by our hero when he "exposes" him for being the Hindu that he is, then the scene shifts to Bhatta Parsaul in a amateurish and senseless sequence where our hero uses his Tamil with the Tamilian SP leading the police force against the protesting farmers to prevent a police shootout. Our hero becomes the most sought after political leader, while leading a gang of a dozen odd students, usurping the "throne" of the slain Abhay Deol, and pissing off his lady love further. The CM of the state woos him, pretty college girls fall all over him, while he serves chai out of a kettle to his "team", and sweeps the courtyard... he has to continue to appeal to the masses, you see? How much can you manipulate the audiences? As much as you want to! Where is a simple dash of reality? What's that? Goaded by the CM, the girl decides she wants to use the hero for political gains... she dresses him up in her dead boy friend's sherwani, and puts him on stage to be killed... but he survives the bullet, wins her heart, and finally, the credits roll.
Movies should be about pure entertainment, or a social message. Sadly, Raanjhaanaa not only fails in the former, but worse, passes on some very dangerous messages... It's rare that I go for a movie with low expectations, and come back having seen something lower! Ranjhaana was one of those moments.