Director Anand L Rai who made a confident debut with Tanu Weds Manu is back with his second offering. He returns more self assured, with a larger scale and a complex story to tell. As a result, Raanjhanaa is an accomplished old school love story which gets an overhaul due to its unpredictable storyline.
The first thing that catches your eye is the realistic and authentic look given to the film. The cinematography beautifully captures the ambiance of Benaras city and it is presented like never before.
The first half of the film completely mesmerizes you. It is akin to a roller coaster ride with twists and turns at regular intervals. The romantic scenes between the lead pair are sweet and fresh and bring a smile to your face. The hapless lover manages to win you over completely so much so that you find yourself cheering and rooting for him. There is not a dull moment in this half and the script completely keeps you hooked in the proceedings and the sequence just before the interval leaves you thirsting for more and curious as how the story will proceed.
It is here that the film starts to dip. How one wishes that the director could maintain the same tempo as he succeeded in creating in the first half. The story moves forward to ones satisfaction but the proceedings lack the punch which was expected from them after an exhilarating first half. As soon as the film changes gear from the love angle to active politics the film loses its sheen. There are long portions of some interesting and some not so interesting sequences which stagnate the principal story and just add to the length of the film.
Even with its shortcoming the second half is not a total washout. There are several sequences which are expertly handled and will catch you off guard. Just when you start to think that the film will succumb to usual Bollywood conventionalism the climax brings the film back on track and delivers just what is expected from it. It may find many detractors due to its debatable ending but it somehow feels a fitting finale to the complex saga.
Director Anand L Rai deserves full marks for his treatment of the subject. He ingeniously uses the garishness and colorfulness of a small city to bring a unique feel to the narration. The characters that he has created seem absolutely real and are one of the most complex yet pleasing and memorable characters seen in recent times.
The film is embellished with towering performances and it is these performances which make the few blemishes in the narrative almost unnoticeable. It takes time for you to accept the plain looking Dhanush as the hero of the film but ten minutes into the film you realize that there can be no one better to play to play this part. The way he exudes charm and portrays the angst required by the character is just amazing to watch on screen. His eye speaks volume and conveys even the most difficult emotions.
Sonam does an equally brilliant job and proves that given a strong character she can do complete justice to it. Swara Bhaskar and Zeeshan Ayub are absolutely brilliant in their roles. One hoped that these characters were not so ruthlessly forgotten in the second half. Abhay Deol in a small yet important role is as dependable as ever.
Dialogues are another mainstay of the film. They are rustic, crude yet immensely enjoyable and in perfect sync with the ambiance. The music by Rahman plays a major role in elevating many sequences and is pleasing to the ears.
There is not a doubt that Raanjhanaa is an extremely well made film. Even though it is not perfect, the film becomes a must watch for its electrifying first half, superb performances, great music and above all a strong script which does not stop to amaze.
Starring: Dhanush, Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol
Director: Anand L. Rai