Potent mix, then, and yet the film turned out to be underwhelming.
The colours are warm – reds and browns. Earthy. We see the lavish home of a wealthy zamindar, home full of treasures and artefacts, several gifted by the East India Company. Post-independence and the End of Zamindari Act, the feudal system breaks down.
It's fascinating for us, as the audience, to witness this historic act affecting the monarch-like zamindars. One such zamindar is Pakhi's (Sonakshi Sinha) father who calls himself a person 'destroyed by the Independence'.
Born and brought up in opulence, Pakhi however has other things on her mind. Like the attractive archaeologist Varun (Ranveer Singh) who's staying at their guest house.
They flirt - she insists on learning painting from him. He agrees even though he'll need to read a 'How to paint' book for that. They discuss painting leaves, an allegory that has more significance in the second half.
The romance progresses but a robbery in the house coupled with Varun's mysterious disappearance breaks the romance abruptly.
It's all downhill from there. Pakhi gets a life-threatening disease and is also nursing a broken heart. From a sprightly, full-of-zest character, she is transformed into just another pessimistic soul, waiting for a sign that it's her last living day.
Varun is the silent charmer always, and we don't quite figure him out. In love with Pakhi but controlled by his uncle who raised him, Varun is spineless and hero-like in turns.
But yes, their romance transcending common morality codes is exciting to watch. Even if it has an other-worldly purity attached to it at all times. Elements of love, forgiveness, holding on to memories, letting go, and moral ambiguity come into play.
A big part of the film is its visual beauty. From the snow-kissed Dalhousie to the dark and wealthy interiors of the zamindar's house, it's all been captured masterfully by cinematographer Mahendra Shetty.
Amit Trivedi's music is lilting but sounds better as a separate element rather than as part of the film.
The '50s are represented in obvious ways - songs of Rafi and Geeta Dutt, high-waist trousers, and conversations about Dev Anand. You might notice a copy of The Illustrated Weekly of India in the background.
The languorous pace (it's what people mistakenly call a 'slow' film) works to its advantage as we soak in the visual beauty and the essence of the interesting characters. Kudos to writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan) for his unmistakably sure-footed storytelling that rarely flinches.
Both Sonakshi Sinha and Ranveer Singh are magical. Sonakshi is quite a revelation, especially in the second half.
Ranveer is self-assured in the way only a few actors can be. And together, this pair is seriously captivating.
Barun Chanda, Adil Hussain and Vikrant Massey offer up superb performances.
The second half could move you or disappoint you. There are morbid scenes like the close-up of a bullet wound and the character proceeding to remove the bullet from it. The dried-up tree symbolism is too cumbersome and gloomy.
For this writer, it was an obvious and emotionally draining adaptation of The Last Leaf. Having seen other more powerful adaptations, this one left me underwhelmed.
Which is sad, really. There is skilled storytelling, a dream cast, visual splendour. And yet, you're not overcome by the film.
Worth a watch certainly, but to be impressed by parts of the film, not the film as a whole.
Rating: 3 stars