I follow Sonam Kapoor on Instagram. (What? She wears great clothes and jewellery, and insists on documenting it all.) In the run up to her latest release, she’s mostly stuck to sharing stills from Raanjhanaa, or posing with her co-star, Dhanush (of the Kolaveri Di fame and Rajnikanth family connection). Directed by Anand L. Rai and written by Himanshu Sharma, Raanjhanaa reveals a plainer Sonam than we’ve come to expect, dressed in everyday denim, simple kurtas, minimal make up, and the standard JNU-type jhola slung across her body.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t even remotely curious. It helps that the unassuming Dhanush stars opposite her, and from him, you expect a restrained but incredible performance (spoiler alert: he delivers).
Raanjhanaa takes you quickly from a hospital room, in which it opens, to the holy city of Benaras. Might as well refer to it as the holi city, really, considering how often they celebrate this festival in an under three-hour movie. It is also apparently the city where there’s a lot of getting stalked, slapped and slitting wrists. Fun!
Son of a temple priest, Kundan (Dhanush) first sets his eyes and heart on the daughter of a Muslim professor, Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) when they are both very young. By the time they hit high school, he’s completely smitten by her. He follows her around all over the place and is enchanted by everything she does. All this from afar, till he finally musters up the courage one day to tell her how he feels. She gives him one tight slap. This is a good sign of some sort, clearly, because his whole face is grinning. So she slaps him again. And again. And again. This goes on for weeks till one day she finally gives in and agrees to meet him in private, after first issuing a disclaimer: “Tumhare consistency ki vajai se mil rahe hain, pyaar mein nahin.”
They meet and Zoya discovers that Kundan is a Hindu. Uh oh — she’s Muslim, this love can never be, sorry, bye. Butwaitaminute, Kundan has a blade, guys. He slits his wrist, which jolts Zoya out of her indifference (!) and into crazy, young love.
Their relationship is short-lived, however, because her parents find out about all this blasphemy, and she’s packed off to Aligarh to complete her education. Not ideal for the new lovers, but never mind. Kundan love you long time, he’ll wait it out.
Eight years later, after studying in Aligarh and then JNU in New Delhi, Zoya returns to Benaras
to play holi. Sure, things have changed, even if seemingly only for her. The question is: have they changed for good? Does Kundan get the girl? Does this turn into a love story of epic proportions? Does he cut his wrists again? Do they play Holi again? Does Abhay Deol have a real life girlfriend? Why? There’s only one way to know for sure — reading the rest of this review. I’m kidding. You’re going to have to set aside three hours of your own time to find out.
Stalkee gives in to her stalker. Crazy man in love slits his wrist and gets the girl’s attention. It gives potential harassers and bleeding lovers across the country the wrong idea, of course. There’s a lot you won’t agree with in Raanjhanaa. In fact, you’ll be downright appalled at some of it, and as characters develop over the course of the film, you’ll be switching sides like a road-crossing chicken on crack.
But you’ll also be equally delighted by Dhanush’s performance, surprised that Sonam Kapoor may in fact be able to act, enjoy Swara Bhaskar’s performance as the jealous girl in love with Kundan, and grin widely when you recognise Naman Jain (from Zoya Akhtar’s Sheila ki Jawaani inBombay Talkies), who plays Kundan as a child. Also of note is the music — AR Rahman is the man behind this film’s soundtrack — which is, for the most part, a seamless fit. And finally, hi, Abhay Deol. You make me want to sharpen my own blade.
The film is long, and every now and then you wish things would happen a little bit quicker, but it’s still not unbearably tedious. The drama gets a generous build up, and the film takes its time exploring its characters, which is a good thing. All in all, Raanjhanaa is worth a watch, but I personally enjoy the occasional dose of melodrama (both on and off screen). If you’re entirely averse to that sort of thing, you may want to give this one a miss. If not, prepare to forgive its little loopholes in logic and get lots of popcorn.