Written by Manisha Lakhe on April 17, 2019
Yeh Daag Accha Nahi Hai
A love story set in pre-independence with Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan should have been a hit, but it’s such a mish mash of everything from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge to Casablanca to Lawaris to Bahubali to Camelot and everything in between and presented to you in a language that is so pretentious that it exhausts your patience.
I’m a sucker for romance and the songs of this film stick in your head. It’s a good thing, because nothing else makes you feel good. Varun Dhawan (with lots of Kohl in his eyes a la Shah Rukh Khan in Raees) and Alia Bhatt (dressed for a sequel to Raazi, but is in the film a martyr in mohabbat) romancing should have been a feel good, dripped in honey romance. But their love is wrong on all kinds of levels. Including one that gives you a headache.
So Complicated, The Story Out-tropes The Tropes!
Varun Dhawan is Zafar, an illegitimate son to the patriarch of a rich family (Sanjay Dutt in a perennially unhappy look, but still has a great voice) and a courtesan named Bahar Begum (played by the still gorgeous Madhuri Dixit). Laawaris anyone? Alia Bhatt plays Roop, belongs to a poor family who is made to marry Dev Chowdhry (Aditya Roy Kapoor who looks like he doesn’t know if he’s playing Devdas or Paro’s husband Bhuvan Chowdhry from Devdas) so that her family is taken care of by the husband’s rich family. Dev Chowdhry has to marry Roop because the wife he loves so much is dying of cancer. Sonakshi Sinha plays that wife. She gets relief from this complicated story early on.
But the complications aren’t over yet. Freshly married Roop insists she go to Hira Mandi (the wrong side of their town) to learn music from Bahar Begum. Her husband is devoted to the dying wife and hasn’t even seen what Roop looks like. Considering how far they show Hira Mandi is from the villa where the Chowdhry family lives, the acoustics must be brilliant for Bahar Begum’s voice to carry that far, with words being clear and all… In a Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram Leela style meet cute, Roop meets Zafar with people dancing out a Dussehra story.
Like any Bollywood romance, Zafar is a bad boy who falls in love with a virgin. She has spunk too, and it’s all very ‘do you not have boundaries’, ‘I don’t touch women without consent and I pay them’ type dialog in Urdu, if you please, with several ‘aap’s and ‘ishq’ thrown in to make the whole thing look romantic. It isn’t, because Zafar has a brother Abdul (Kunal Khemu in a wonderful villainous role) who heads a Muslim political party and wants to separate from India…
Oh yes, this is a pre-independence film, and we thank our stars that there is no Bollywood British person who shows up in a blonde wig and speaks Hindi in an awful accent.
A couple of songs later you realise this is going nowhere, so they put in a Wakanda style arena where Zafar fights a gigantic Spanish bull. He has to ride it for seven seconds or something but you don’t care because you are laughing at the computer generated bucking and the totally fake fight where Zafar gets thrown off that cliff and climbs back up. Roop is there too, watching him do this dangerous thing. Wait, why is she there? Presumably because she’s now working for her husband’s English newspaper and is writing an article about people of Hira Mandi. Of course she is impressed by this ‘heart in mouth’ bull fight, and she must get mad at him for risking his life, and he has to observe that she’s getting personal and tells her that he has nothing to live for in his life… She suggests that there is love…
Death By Urdu
While you take refuge in coffee, the love story blossoms in front of Hira Mandi locals. She submits her ‘article’ handwritten in Hindi (her desk has a typewriter) and it is rejected by her husband who is owner/editor. But the newspaper is English… You are past caring.
You have gagged by dialog like, ‘Pyaar na karne ki hazar wajah mil sakti hai bazar mein, lekin dil ko sirf ek wajah chaahiye pyaar karne ke liye, aur mujhe woh wajah mil gayi hai.’ and ‘Aap uska ishq nahi intequam ho Roop!’ You know everyone and their sword will be drawn to keep the two lovers apart. The film is that predictable. Alia is luminous, but everything about her character is so fake…
The Longest Train Platform In The World
Everyone out-martyrs everyone else in the climax and Abdul and his gang of Sword wielding goons make a Gadar like scene mashed up with the Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge train scene, and you begin to wish they’d kill someone so that we can all go home in peace. All this because Alia cannot decide whether she wants to hold Dev’s hand or Zafar’s…
But there’s more! You notice that there has been a Camelot like narration of story to a journalist inserted into the film for no reason at all. He just appears in the middle and keeps taking notes from Roop. Odd? Not at all. Considering the end is so ghastly, the journalist taking notes is like an afterthought. In the end dead characters smile at the camera, characters that are alive speak to the audience, and the audience – weary after watching the 2 hours and 46 minutes long messy nothingburger – just wants to go home, and wash off this daag of a film called Kalank.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com. note: they now rate films out of ten)