Mehbooba movie review : Puri Jagannadh’s latest film starring Akash Puri, Neha Shetty is a giant catastrophe

Hemanth Kumar

May 11, 2018 15:37:47 IST

1/5

There’s a saying that “Films are forever”. But if you believe that films have a shelf life, beyond which they either end up in heaven or hell, based on the mercy of cinematic Gods, I’ve a strong feeling that Puri Jagannadh’s Mehbooba will be placed in a vault, and tossed into the fires of hell, and punished till the end of time for its sins, which are aplenty.

I can’t recall the last time when the chair I was setting on felt like a medieval torture device, because there’s barely anything in the film that is redeeming. If anything, it just tightens the noose to a degree that you are brain dead by the time the end credits roll. To relive this mind-numbing drama, we have to revisit the premise, which has its roots in the Indo-Pak conflict.

In Puri Jagannadh’s universe, there’s no space for subtlety or reality. If he was from the lineage of Thanos, he has, perhaps, crushed all the infinity stones and wiped off half the universe, and reinstated a new order of humanity who are at a primitive stage of intelligence. Mehbooba is one such project from said director. Roshan (Akash), the lead in the film, loves the mountains, and naturally, he loves trekking. He ‘hears’ things from his past, a superpower so strong that it shakes the foundations of two countries. Across the border, in Lahore, there’s a girl named Afreen (Neha Shetty) who also has similar powers, but she doesn’t realise it yet. The rest of this story is about what happens when these two meet each other.

Akash Puri and Neha Shetty in Mehbooba.

Survival is the key aspect of Mehbooba. This is what drives Roshan and Afreen forward throughout the film, because they don’t want to get caught in the conflict between the countries. Just when you are about to wonder why are they so desperate to survive, we are shown a flashback that’s set in the backdrop of Indo-Pak war in 1971. There, Kabir (Akash) is a Pakistani soldier who falls in love with an Indian girl (Neha), but then their romance is short-lived. Cut to present - they meet again and this time, they do everything they can, even if it means bringing the two countries to the brink of war, to be together. They do survive in the end, but the real survivor is you, the viewer, because you were just another lab rat in the grand scheme of things.

If you haven’t guessed it already, Roshan sets a new gold standard for patriotism in this romantic drama. The dialogues in one particularly standout segment in the film reeks of xenophobia and outright racism, which is highlighted under the disguise of reality. It’s cringeworthy that such film writing even exists. But all this pales in comparison to the Gadar-like third act when Roshan goes on a rescue mission to Pakistan with the full-support from Indian public and army. The climax, which is set at a Indo-Pak border outpost, is the final nail on the coffin.

For a debut film, Mehbooba is too huge a burden for newcomer Akash Puri and it clearly shows throughout the film. He’s good in the role of a Pakistani soldier during the 1971 war; however, the constant hamming is jarring. Neha Shetty finds herself in a classic damsel-in-distress zone and there’s barely anything in the film that offers her scope to explore the nuances of the role. The less said about other actors, who are let down by ridiculously bad writing, the better.

Films like Mehbooba are a reminder that your fate finds a way to punish you for your misdeeds and sins. But what’s even more disappointing is the thought that Puri Jagannadh, the director we once knew, has transformed so much that it feels as if he has no control over what he is doing. There was a time when his wisdom, however radical it might have been, gave us memorable characters, but now, it just doesn’t feel right no matter how hard you try to shake it off. Some ideas are best left untouched, or maybe even left buried under an avalanche forever. Mehbooba is one among them.

Updated Date: May 11, 2018 15:37 PM