Movie Review: Raanjhanaa

In his modern love story, director Anand L Rai ends up giving us two stories in one - pre-interval romantic bliss and post-interval idealist drama. Not necessarily a complete story

Jas June 24, 2022
  • Direction
  • Screenplay
  • Music
  • Acting

“Ishh, baba he looks like a typical bhaiyya, who will go to see him?” lamented my six-pack ab obsessed friends. Even as I stood my ground of “wait and watch,” the Mister puckered up his lips and scowled on the “no star appeal” of a dark and skinny looking Dhanush. What made director Anand L Rai choose him out of the entire drop-dead-gorgeous industry? Watch “Raanjhanaa,” and you will have all your answers. In fact, the actor will shut you up. Such was his presence and impact, that today if any points are being given to the film, it’s because of the infectious energy, the honesty, the effortlessly endearing simplicity this unassuming star from the southern industry brings to a film that midway lost its key driver: focus. It’s the one element I am constantly on the lookout for. Focus keeps you on track. You lose it, chances are you’ll get derailed. In “Raanjhanaa” Rai, much to our disappointment, gets swept away by an overwhelming wave of unnecessary emotions, socio-political drama, class and religion. Had it not been for Dhanush as the down-to-earth no-holds-barred loveable Kundan, and his equally superb friend, Morari (played by the amazing Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub), we would’ve walked out of the film.

Rai’s delivered two films at the price of one, and that’s where he leaves us confused and disturbed, especially when we had great expectations post his previous film, the brilliant “Tanu Weds Manu.”

His world opens in Benaras, by its ghats, resounding with the jai kaar of Bhole Nath. Rai knows the city like the back of his hand, and Himanshu Sharma brings alive this divine imagery with terrific dialogues soaked in the earthy Benarasi lahza. The lines are witty and rooted, and not once does Dhanush, who plays the son of a Benaras Pandit, lets the language get in his way.

He is Rai’s version of the lovestruck “Raanjhanaa,” consumed by his passion and love for Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) right from  childhood. She is a Muslim, an upper caste too, who is careless with him, casually dismissive of his unabashed display of love for her. Our heart goes out to Kundan when Zoya walks past him, like a stranger at the railway station. But our lover boy is focused, optimistically relentless in his pursuit, so much that he unconsciously burns down everything that comes in its way.

This is where Rai loses the plot, and in its place, develops a mismatched one, the love between Zoya and Akram (played by the dashing Abhay Deol). She is an idealist, a JNU student, and he the student leader, full of ideas and ideals. They make a striking pair together. Rai’s characters, post interval, get darker, even depressing, as they turn into activists, catalysts of change, debating everything left, right and centre. Suddenly, in one stroke, love gets crushed under class, caste, religion and politics. Suicide attempts, honour killing, Zoya’s vehement opposition to “getting married off to a gawar like Kundan,” political games, revenge – “Raanjhanaa” turns into a hopeless battlefield, leaving us in a quandary, wishing Rai would rewind and take us back to “benaras ki rangeen galiyan.”

Rai may be reflecting the love stories of today. Dhanush as “Raanjhanaa” is passionate, obsessive, selfish even, but his heart beats with a single minded devotion, and he literally goes to hell, and back for her. Akram’s loss, Kundan’s betrayal, Zoya’s bitterness, are palpable. Post interval, love is nothing but an act an atonement, begging for penance, redemption and absolution. It’s the last lines in the film by Dhanush that are a saving grace. Like I said, it’s a separate story altogether, which we wish Rai had explored in another script.

What I take home from “Raanjhanaa,” apart from Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub and Swara Bhaskara’s spectacular performances and unforgettable music from AR Rahman and Irshad Kamil. Dhanush, who proves all it takes for anyone to fall in love with you is talent – true, real and earnest.