Written by Manisha Lakhe on September 7, 2018
First Half Is Awful Romance
Second Half is Awesome Tale Of Love
It’s the love story everyone has seen growing up, our very own Romeo and Juliet. A tragedy made popular and unforgettable. But this pair of doomed love birds are modern, cell phone carrying teens. The gal is meh, so the magic of instant love seems to be missing. But the writing is brilliant and the lad is too. Looks like Imtiaz Ali has got his mojo back.
CELL PHONE TOTING LAILA LIVES IN MAINE PYAR KIYA WORLD. EH WHAT?
Set in picturesque Kashmir, this version of the love story of doomed Laila and Majnu is modern in many ways and old fashioned melodramatic in others. A little bit like India. Laila is gutsy, flirty and not shy at all. In fact, she has the local lads chase her all the way from home to college. Not what you expect from your regular Hindi film heroine at all. Alas, Laila (played by Tripti Dimri) is so ‘meh’ you wonder why all the lads are in love with her. You are alarmed at her bed head scene right in the beginning of the film, but she’s sassy with her dad, and you hope she’ll get better. No. Her makeup is ghastly garish (not her fault), and her dialog delivery is just plain odd. Not that Ranjeeta in the 1976 version was a better simpering miss, but she looked beautiful despite those hilarious Disney’s Princess Jasmine clothes. This Laila just doesn’t make an impression even though the director wants us to be in love with her.
Seriously? She’s got cooing pigeons as she lives her Maine Pyar Kiya fantasy. Then you are forced to look at Kais. The rich lad who is stalking her relentlessly. He’s not a pretty lad, this Kais Butt. In fact, he’s a bit of an Anl Kapoor throwback when it comes to body hair. And he’s peeing on Laila and her pretty sister hiding in the bushes in the intro scene. Ugh! You are not going to like this film.
THE 1976 LAILA MAJNU WAS AWFUL COSTUME DRAMA TOO, YOU KNOW…
So who are we to give up on a love story? We sit through the rather tele-novella type first half. Love birds are separated because Shakespeare ordained it, Montagues and the Capulets shall never meet. Thankfully, the director Sajid Ali concentrates on the proud lad who tells her, ‘If you want me, you will have to come and find me.’ But as love will have its way, Kais turns into Majnu, someone who hankers after his Laila. And this hankering is brilliantly written by Imtiaz Ali. Kashmir plays witness to how Laila makes him wait. How that wait drives him crazy. And you forget the old exaggerated song with Rishi Kapoor and Ranjeeta, ‘Koi patthar se na maare mere deewane ko’ because Imtiaz Ali pens the most amazing scene where Majnu – crazed by his waiting and loving can see nothing but Laila everywhere – asks the men sitting for prayers, ‘I was talking to my beloved. I see no one else. You are praying to your beloved, how is it that you noticed me?’
YEAH, WE NOTICE. AND WE NOTICE. AND WE NOTICE…
This is where you realise that Avinash Tiwary, who plays Majnu in the film is something else. His character just grows on you. He is a find. He is so good, it doesn’t matter if his Laila cannot act herself out of a speeding ticket. He is phenomenal. In fact, this film should be called Majnu. His dance of passion, of madness is marvelous and the music draws you in. Mind you, from the many songs not a line or refrain is memorable, but the music is pleasing to the ears. The supporting cast, especially the bewildered house help, Majnu’s younger brother and friends, Laila’s beautiful sister and Laila’s creepy husband make their presence felt. But the film belongs to Imtiaz Ali and Avinash Tiwary.
(This review appears on www.nowrunning.com)