The 20-year suicide

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EVER SINCE Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), the ultimate romantic comedy of modern Bollywood, filmmakers have been grappling with the genre to take it forward. But the road ahead has not been easy — partly because it is strewn with insufferable duds, but also because no one really wants to leave DDLJ behind. Siddharth Anand takes the ancient formula of  DDLJ rehashed and attempts to stretch it for the cynical, edgy times we live in. And he comes a long way before the snap.

Aakash (Ranbir Kapoor) and Kiara (Priyanka Chopra) meet on a bridge while attempting suicide and enter into a pact to kill themselves after living it up for the next 20 days. What follows is a joy ride of gags and drama that will bring the caper to its expected happy ending. But Anand gets so caught up in meeting the demands of the genre that he neglects the promising story he started out with. If the reasons why the protagonists want out of life seem implausible, it is only because Anand fails to plug them into the very accessible matrix of urban crisis and explore its larger concerns.

Anand does, however, manage to evolve out of the self-conscious ways in which his peers have been attempting to reconcile contemporary attitudes to sex and choices with Bollywood’s traditional moral ethos. Kiara sneers at Aakash’s decision to lose his virginity only to his ‘true love’ and rescues him from being raped. She oozes sexual confidence, drinks for all occasions and only her own gut informs her choices.

But the imagination of content barely transcends to form. Every time Kiara gets a ‘sign’, there is a flashback to remind us of its origins and when Aakash is beginning to fall in love, he stares at his object of desire and looks away when she catches his eye. In a film that tries to chip at the mould, these clichés grate like the croaking voice of a pubescent. But if you tune out the questions of evolution and experimentation, there is enough masala for the indigenous palette. And there is no one quite like the Kapoor to dish it out.

In a film that tries to break the DDLJ mould, clichés of form grate

What really holds this film’s loose ambitions together is Vishal-Shekhar’s score. Music and lyrics take over the narrative to provide all the emotional subtext there is. Ancient science of theatre prescribed this for when words exhaust their potential. As a romantic comedy that wants to take all kinds of ancient prescriptions into the future, Anjaana Anjaani is a reflection of our unique quagmires.

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