Quick question. How many films will it take before we finally let go of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? After Ishaqzaade and Issaq, we see Bollywood churning out yet another adaptation. It’s clear…Shakespeare cannot escape Bollywood.
True, Romeo and Juliet is an exhilarating story, but it’s not new for our films where forbidden love between enemies has been done to death.
So what do we have here? Ram (Ranveer) and Leela (Deepika) belong to warring clans in a small town in Gujarat. The town is introduced from an outsider’s perspective who is overwhelmed seeing guns being sold openly at roadside stalls.
“Bavaal” between the clans is routine and in this volatile milieu, Ram and Leela meet. Ram, a lout, thinks it’s a rollicking good idea to gatecrash the other clan’s Holi party (ditto Issaq). Their connection looks like lust at first sight. He’s below her home that very night, and they have a mildly physical, playful meeting.
A few such meetings later we are to accept that they are so deeply in love, the brutal enmity between their families just doesn’t matter.
They make-up, break-up, innocent lives are lost, and the talk of peace gets repetitive. The rest you can more or less predict (although there are some nice surprises in the second half).
Sanjay Leela Bhansali loves visual excess, we all know that. And yes there’s visual splendor in every frame – from the rich, saturated colours, to the aesthetic styling, digitally created peacocks, and gimmicks like a kitschy Ramleela procession. But the depth in the visual splendor is not omnipresent.
Take Leela’s home for instance. There’s an effort to create an enchanted courtyard feel, but you get the feeling of a plastic tree and weird lighting. Even a person falling is captured in slow-mo so the hair is softly flying as the person hits the water with a gentle thud. A woman’s swirling ghagra as she’s escaping an attack is also captured in a glorified manner.
But overall, Bhansali achieves his aim of filling up the audience with the beauty, forgetting that they might just get a bit overwhelmed.
The love story starts off implausibly, and develops really fast. But it’s sweet to see the couple tease each other, make lustful jokes, and make no bones about their passion for each other. Their relationship is as grown-up as it is silly; this dichotomy makes it more interesting at once.
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and co-writers Siddharth-Garima make some seriously glaring errors, that they reckon won’t matter. Like the clan celebration that has an item number where the song talks about Ram-Leela’s love story, despite it being such a sensitive issue at the time!
Dialogue has some crackling lines, but it’s unbearable to listen to the characters repetitively speak in smart-alecky, rhyming sentences even in their most dire times.
The film has its faults but it scores in some crucial departments. For one, the film cares deeply about its characters, and makes you care as well.
Ram is as lovable as he is loutish. He is street-smart but has the innocence of a child, and always bats for peace. Leela is a firebrand who kisses Ram on their first meeting and has her own persona. Very passionate, clever enough to lead her clan, and equally loving, Leela is a very likeable character. Sadly, Bhansali does great disservice to this character by making her a sindoor-obsessed woman who even touches Ram’s feet. Since the love story was so interesting because it was between equally zealous and formidable people, these faults take the fizz out to an extent.
As Ram, Ranveer Singh is superb. From bringing in unbelievable energy to the wonderfully choreographed Tattad Tattad, to getting the comedic timing bang-on and bringing intensity in his performance—Singh is unputdownable. He does crack in some scenes, almost as if playing the over-the-top character has exhausted him, but that’s nit-picking in a largely effective performance.
Deepika Padukone owns this role. She lends Leela the power and passion the character demands. Flitting between being playful, hurt, revengeful and loving—this character covers all the arcs and Padukone is faultless.
And how graceful these two actors are! You watch them agape as they lend grace to the most demanding dance steps.
As for the chemistry, that’s the film’s trump-card! Ranveer and Deepika make for an eye-poppingly beautiful couple, and their energy and screen presence complement marvelously. Which is why, despite the implausibility of their instant coffee romance, we cannot help being drawn into their love story.
Supriya Pathak Kapur brings in another masterful performance as a clan-leader who can crack a joke with the same ease as whipping out a gun.
The cinematography by Ravi Varman matches step with Bhansali’s vision, the performances are beautiful, and the chemistry will keep you riveted.
You won’t come out of the theatre texting your friends that it’s a must-see film. But it’s a film where you can enjoy the imagery, the intensity, performances and chemistry, and forgive the excesses. A really good watch!
Rating: Three and a half stars