Thursday, June 27, 2013

NEW: Raanjhanaa: Perhaps the oddest combination of things I’ve ever seen

Synopsis: Kundan (Dhanush), son of a Hindu Tamil priest (thank goodness they explained that accent of his), goes about Benares making trouble. And then as a child, he happens to spot a Muslim girl named Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) who he falls head-over-heels in love with for the rest of his days. As a teen, he commences the stalking typical of Bollywood movie love, which causes Zoya’s family to exile her rather than have her love a Hindu. But eight years later, Kundan is still there, still as madly in love with Zoya as ever, though she doesn’t recognize him at first.

So. The first half of this movie is what you see in the trailers: upbeat, funny and pretty darn adorable.

The second half turns into politics, murder, guilt, sadness and oh did I mention SADNESS? Lots of that.

I’ve seen some films that truly fall under the “curse of the second half” label, but this one is damn near bipolar. It’s not so much a curse of the second half — because the second half would be fine on its own — as it is too big a leap between halves.
Which half did I prefer? The first.

It was remarkably funny and just had a lot of things that flat-out made me smile.

The Holi scenes made me smile. They are beautifully done.

Yes, Kundan’s got that whole stalking-for-love thing going on that I tend to hate, but Dhanush is fabulously off-beat and silly about it in a way that just seems to somehow work. Let’s just say that it comes down to a (not-quite-literal) fight between him and Abhay Deol’s character for the affections of Sonam Kapoor’s, and for once I could not side with Abhay Deol. That is a remarkable feat. And when Kundan breaks down crying because Zoya is set to marry someone else, well, I may have teared up a little. Maybe.

Sonam Kapoor is admittedly not the best actress, but when most of what she has to do is be followed around, laugh and get angry... Well, there’s not much to screw up, is there?

Her character, though, is essentially a total bitch from start to finish, only getting worse in degrees of bitchyness. First, she gets angry at teenage Kundan for lying about his religion. Then she comes back into his life and doesn’t remember the guy who got her sent away in the first place. Even though she slapped him every day for a month. Then she basically rebuffs that same guy without a thought once she remembers him. EVEN THOUGH SHE KNOWS HE’S BEEN SUICIDAL OVER HER IN THE PAST. Then she ENLISTS HIS HELP when her parents try to arrange her marriage — all the while knowing it’s TO MARRY SOMEONE ELSE. And then... SHE GETS ENGAGED TO SOMEONE ELSE.

How can you not love this guy, ma'am? He is frigging adorable.

Basically, this bitch expects the world to be at her beck and call. None more so than the man she knows loves her in a completely crazy, self-harming way. Zoya, honey, the world don’t work like that.

And then it gets even worse. *SPOILERS* Kundan actually finds out that Zoya’s appropriate Muslim finace Akram is in fact A HINDU. The little kutti says she can’t be with him because he’s a Hindu... then just gets engaged to another Hindu. Oh, but we’re not done yet. After Kundan outs Akram-Jasjeet (who is really Sikh?), Zoya’s family severely beats the would-be-husband and leaves him for dead — though Kundan comes to his rescue and gets him to a hospital. Yet after being labeled stable, he goes home to his family... and dies. Ever the lover boy, Kundan decides to take Zoya (herself now recovering from a suicide attempt) to see Jasjeet, but, well, he’s dead — and Kundan takes all the blame. DESPITE THE FACT THAT JASJEET HAS EXPLAINED HE CHOSE TO BE OUTED AND NOT SAVE HIMSELF. And Zoya, instead of saying, “Naw, man, it was my family’s fault. They don’t even want to see me now.” She’s just like yup man IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT. I didn’t make him lie instead of eloping or anything. My family isn’t part evil or anything (and not a terrible portrayal of Muslims at all, y’all). You, oh self-sacrificing lover, are at fault.

"This storyline is gonna suck? That's cool. I'll just be here being awesome the whole time."


… waa, waa, this heroine, y’all! Whatagal. Basically just gets everyone who loves her killed. Perhaps the real message in this one is “beware of girls such as this.”

Really, it just defies belief.

And the poor lovable guy whose only real crime was loving a girl a bit too much pays for it dearly.

Poor Bindiya.

But then let’s talk about his female counterpart in the film — no, not Zoya. Bindiya. Bindiya (played by Swara Bhaskar) is in love with Kundan about the same as Kundan is in love with Zoya. One-sided. Desperate. Laughed-at (Kundan and his friend put her through a lot, physically and emotionally). And what she gets for her love is being left at the altar, to see Kundan excommunicated and then, y’know... the end.

So, yeah... The second half of Raanjhanaa is about as unfun as the first half is fun.

Let's all wear black and call ourselves a political party, shall we?

And this gargantuan gap I’m describing ignores all of the political complications that basically have almost nothing to do with the first half. Jasjeet is an aspiring politician who walks on the scene with some serious swag. He heads up a party and is an ideas man. That’s about all you know in the first half. The second half is 90 percent about politics, and Kundan and Zoya’s political activities with the political party. (The other 10 percent is about forgiveness.)

So, yes. The halves are an odd combination.

The comedy + the politics are an odd combination.

Dhanush + Sonam Kapoor is an odd combination.

Dhanush + Abhay Deol is a REALLY odd combination. (Though it does oddly work in their one real scene together.)

Basically, in the end, I came out feeling like the movie was a bunch of things cobbled together that shouldn’t have been cobbled together.

Pieces of it were great. But the combination did not do any of the pieces justice. The story arc least of all.

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