Rich, spoilt Tamilian boy salivating after the new Audi, falls for pretty North Indian “NGO-type” girl. Plenty of potential for contrasting emotions, friction and an unconventional romance, but sadly, it’s a wasted opportunity.
Take the carelessly put-together characters for instance. One has been branded an “NGO-type” so the director has crammed all possible cliches into this character. So Dia (Kareena) shouts anti-corruption slogans, directly questions politicians, participates in candle marches, feeds strays, makes documentaries about sex-workers, objects to littering, wants to build an orphanage, and takes up the cause of a village bridge. Phew!
There’s no depth or layering in this character that is straitjacketed into the ‘activist’ mould. So she’s always agitated, never has any fun, and has no other interests.
On the other hand is Sriram (Imran)—the poor little rich boy who boasts about having several girlfriends to his new fiancee. The fiancee (Shraddha Kapoor) loves someone else and requests Sriram to refuse the proposal. But our man has developed a fondness for her smile, and refuses! His totally barf-inducing behavior on several occasions (what kind of a hero marries a girl against her wishes?) is totally unbecoming for the leading man.
Then, we’re transported (through several flashbacks) to the time when he was in love with Dia. Hardly the stuff that’ll pull at your heart. The romance is simply improbable. Sriram never shows any interest in Dia’s work and often makes fun of her efforts. Dia on the other hand is always chiding him about his material ambitions. A match made in hell!
The film shows that Sriram falls for her spunk and he seems to find her activist efforts cute. Why she falls for an over-smart brat who calls her team the ‘behenji brigade’ is curious. A man who tells her, “Why can’t you be normal?” because her opinions differ from his. With a boyfriend like that, who needs the khap panchayat, eh? Anyhow, this loosely stuck together romance then goes through its ups and downs. You don’t really care much.
Dia’s Punjabi mother shrieks on the phone about how she regrets giving her “itni choot” (a lot of leeway, despite being a girl), while the South Indians are also hopelessly caricaturized.
And this is interesting. The film is as regressive as it attempts to be subversive. It takes one step forward and then two steps backward! So director and co-writer Punit Malhotra moulds a heroine who’s a real firebrand, but in the end, she gives up and sobs only to make way for the lazy hero to save the day.
They mention that the heroine has a gray hair, but we never get to see it. The film mentions that Dia is slightly older than Sriram but the dialogue hammers it in too many times, instead of treating it as a non-issue. Also perhaps this scene was meant to be funny, but I found no one laughing when Sriram asks for Dia’s hand by describing her as a “tension ki machine” and “defective saaman” (defective goods) to her own parents.
The village portions also lack in depth. The villagers (all the men dressed in grubby whites) are mostly buffoons who follow Sriram around, come together for synchronized dancing and applause for our hero.
The idea of two diverse people falling in love is interesting but the story is all over the place. It will remind you of Swades, Lagaan, Jab We Met all at once, with none of these films’ essence.
As the leading man, Imran Khan gives a performance that’s too restrained for its own good. Puzzling as his character is, one reckons that it is bound to affect the actor.
The only thing the film has going for it is Kareena Kapoor. With her tremendous screen presence, she gives a marvelous performance where she displays great conviction even in her flawed role.
The affected storytelling is surprising coming from Malhotra who made the breezy ‘I Hate Luv Storys’ a few years back. Strangely, even the sparkling Kareena-Imran chemistry that was so interesting in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (also produced by Karan Johar and directed by Shakun Batra) is missing.
With severely cliched characters, a glaring lack of humour for a rom-com, and a muddled love story that does not hold your interest, the only upside to the film is Kareena Kapoor’s crackerjack performance.
Rating: Two stars