Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat is Anurag Kashyap’s best in years
Anurag Kashyap’s screenplay is a whammy. Elegant and eccentric at the same time as only the filmmaker can be, the storytelling moves in two separate zones, moods and colour palettes.
Has Anurag Kashyap become mellow with age? Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat (once you see the film you will forgive the unwieldy title) is his most affectionate homage to date to that thing called love …almost! One saw symptoms of approaching tenderness in Manmaraziyaan. But nothing prepared us for the finesse and grace that Kashyap brings to his storytelling in Almost Pyaar…whatever!
Kashyap’s screenplay is a whammy. Elegant and eccentric at the same time as only Kashyap can be, the storytelling moves in two separate zones, moods and colour palettes. In the snowy serenity of Dalhousie, a long-haired intellectually challenged Muslim boy Yaqub chases the underage Amrita from school to home, and back. The two naïve lovebirds decide to elope as Kumar Sanu croons Mohabbat Mohabbat Mohabbat (a tribute, perhaps, to Kashyap’s favourite actor Anil Kapoor).
Here, I will take a break to say, Amit Trivedi’s songs are the backbone of DJ and what-have-you. What would the film be without the songs and music? The best person to answer this would be DJ Mohabbat, played by Vicky Kaushal, all decked up in swag and cool moves, I would say Kaushal serves as a Shakespearean sutradhaar. And serves the film right! As all said and done, this is a Shakespearean tragedy masquerading as a comment on India’s hate campaign known weirdly as Love Jihad.
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Kashyap has two stories of star-crossed love to tell. He leaps from one to the other with a ballerina’s grace, not skipping a heartbeat in the ambient swing as he moves with arrogant confidence, for once not misplaced, from India to London. Aiding him in his leaps of communal/religious faith is his incredible cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca.
The film has two distinct looks…desi snowy noisy sectarian anxiety, and firangi, club-house/Deejay-wala sweltering intimacy. Both the looks come together seamlessly, thanks to Fonseca’s luminous lenses which weave poetry while pretending to be creating prose.
Also the principal performances. The efficacy of the two love stories and their fusion without confusion depended entirely on the lead performances. Both Alaya F and debutant Karan Mehta nail it, she more so than he. Alaya in two key sequences is a revelation. She performs better in the London episodes where she must play Ayesha a lonely spoilt rich brat and an embarrassingly clingy love-smitten creature to a self-absorbed musician named Harmeet who must battle the demons of creative usurpation and an unwanted stalker’s attention, plus male sexual advances. Tough life!
While Alaya is splendid in London as the obsessive stalker Ayesha, her desi counterpart in Kashmir Amrita has her clunky moments, for instance her YouTube avatar never works: the irony of a Hindu girl going viral as a Muslim aunty is way too in-our-face.
Amrita’s elopement with Yakub seems like a homage to Mansoor Ali Khan’s Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, though a lot more impetuous and giddy headed. Also, the rather self-congratulatory swipes at homophobia in the London love story (the club owner played by Sagar Arya suddenly caresses Harmeet’s cheek, Harmeet’s neighbours are two live-in partners one Black the other White, in prison Harmeet gets raped and gives as hard as he gets) seem pointless speed breakers in a love story that is fluid virile and, most important of all, thoroughly engaging.
Miraculously the two love stories come together. The merger is not without its hiccups. Anurag Kashyap’s quest for that elusive thing called True Love takes him through a labyrinth of pain and purgatory. But he gets there. Well in time.
As is the won’t in Anurag Kashyap’s cinema, Love DJ …blah blah has terrific actors in even the smallest parts. Among the supporting cast I especially like Sapna Pabbi as a club singer in the London chapter and Mohinder Gujral as Amrita’s grandmother in Dalhousie. Sadly they come and go before we get to know them well. Just like true love.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based journalist. He has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out.
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