Post the Bachna Ae Haseeno track, Raj (a nice hint of sarcasm here, as this character is polar opposite to the romantic Raj in our films) talks to us about his three loves, nicely put out in three sections, titled to the girls' names.
Mahi – 1996: Raj is in Europe, 18, and on holiday. He's surrounded by friends, a bunch of samples (fat; plain; comic) who are all on the lookout for maal. Mahi (Lamba) is a small-town girl, an obsessive fan of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, and while on holiday with her gal-pals (including one with glasses who reads a lot), she's convinced she'll met the love of her life.
Mahi is the ray of sunshine who believes she's incorrigibly lucky and that her filmi eternal romance is just around the corner. Raj and Mahi bump into each other on the train and he turns on the charm that he devilishly calls Rajgiri.
Radhika –2002: In Mumbai, living in a rented place, Raj falls for his neighbour. Radhika (Basu) is a struggling model prone to loud music. Soon, they move in together, and Raj climbs up to become a Microsoft gaming hot-shot along with his partner, friend and sidekick (played tolerably by Hiten Paintal; now expect him in similar roles in a million others). This live-in situation suits Raj just fine till he gets the opportunity to go to Sydney on work. He assumes Radhika will be casual about breaking up, but she's all set to give up her ambitions to move bag and baggage with him.
Gayatri –2007: This time, Raj's rajgiri doesn't work. And typical of our films, the girl he has to pursue the hardest, he falls for the hardest. Gayatri (Padukone), unlike his other girlfriends, doesn't believe in mush and marriage.
She's a B-school student who pays through her education by driving cabs at night. Situations lead Raj to self-introspect, deriving that it must be his past karma that's come to bite him. So he seeks out those he's hurt to apologise and set things right for him and them.
Bachna Ae Haseeno makes a slight dig at DDLJ when Raj laughs that it was a "stupid movie and he slept through it". Is this any different though? The first half fills you with hope that perhaps—perhaps this love story will have something different to say. But towards the end it's as mental and sentimental as the others.
As for the female characters— while one is a hopeless romantic with no other agenda in life, the other is a struggler ready to give up everything for her man, and the third is (at least at first) a focused girl who doesn't melt easily. These three are categories that are too severe, too unreal and one-dimensional for us to really feel anything for them.
Post-interval when we peek into their lives, this straitjacketing is all the more evident. A content marriage with twins and a hi-flying career-bitch who's single—two polar contrasts, as if a woman can't have both. As per director Siddharth Anand's myopic vision, clearly it must be either-or.
Perhaps to be clever, the film incorporates several Yash Raj Films duds into the script. So Raj's friends say something like – tashan mein jaate hain. I am sure I heard the word another time in a dialogue. The four friends, when approaching girls, strut to Dhoom's soundtrack. The boys have a wild party dancing to Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. It might slip most viewers, but these touches have no great effect even on those who realise the writer's attempt to be a winking wit.
Technically the film is a delight. The cinematography captures the nuances of each location. The sound designing is a valuable asset. Styling is superb. Music is about average.
Bachna Ae Haseeno would be a rather ordinary piece of pretence had it not been for the utterly appealing cast. Ranbir Kapoor is immensely likeable even though his character isn't. Minissha Lamba looks lovely and gets the tone of her character just right. Bipasha smoulders on-screen and they've added a sexy song for effect too. Deepika Padukone is impressive and does very well. The on-screen chemistry between the real-life lovers (Padukone-Kapoor) is effortless and draws you in.
It's only for the charismatic actors and a few inspired moments here and there, that Bachna Ae Haseeno is worth a casual, laid-back look.
Verdict: Two-and-a-half stars