There’s a scene in the beginning of Raabta in which Saira, played by Kriti Sanon, stands in front of a mirror and speaks to her dead parents. The first thought I had was ‘Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone‘.
The story revolves around how an Indian chocolatier in Budapest who falls for a fellow countryman who happens to be a banker. Now it is this falling for that is weird. First up, Sushant Singh Rajput’s character Shiv is not a romantic, he is a pervert and a stalker. He is obsessed with women and goes out of his way to ‘get’ them. This guy, like all other Bollywood stalkers, hasn’t heard of the word ‘consent’. What is worse is that the female protagonist, instead of being repelled by his behaviour in the 21st century, falls for him. This after the guy shamelessly hijacks her date with her boyfriend and sends the latter home with a girl he brought along. Time Bollywood got rid of its love for stalking and made something that showed these people as they are: creepy.
Anyway, they fall in love and stuff. Saira is haunted by the death of her parents and meets a seer or something of that sort. The seer predicts the arrival of another man in her life. Enter Jim Sarbh as Zakir ‘Zack’ Merchant, a charming, demented and slightly psychotic liquor baron who wishes to get with Saira because of some punar janam nonsense.
The film has some rather obvious problems:
- The script by Siddharth-Garima is haphazardly written and terribly clichéd. All the main characters are rather unbelievable. There are no real reasons as to why an audience should believe that Shiv and Saira are meant to be together.
- A beautiful song from Sriram Raghavan’s Saif Ali Khan-starrer Agent Vinod (shot beautifully in AV by DoP C. Muraleedharan) is destroyed mercilessly.
- The background score by Sachin-Jigar is loud and irritating
- The punar janam saga is underdeveloped and lifted in pieces from the likes of 300 and Game of Thrones.
- And don’t even get me started on Prime Focus’ extremely shabby VFX. Outlandishly bad is all I have to say for the work they’ve done. Forget complex sequences, they’ve not even done basic background compositing right.
- Rajkummar Rao, weighed down by god knows how much makeup, was wasted in his role. Shameful use of the abilities of one of Hindi cinema’s finest actors today.
Despite the numerous drawbacks, there are also some positives:
- The music is decent, except for that Sadda Move song or whatever it was. The credits song, Main Tera Boyfriend, is senseless yet enjoyable, kind of like Kar Gayi Chull from 2016. The title track is not good at all but Pritam and Jam8 make up with Lambiyaan Si Judaiyaan, Darasal and Ikk Vaari Aa.
- Varun Sharma of Fukrey fame is in a caricatured role as the protagonist’s sidekick but manages to draw a few laughs.
- Kriti Sanon wins some of the scenes with her co-stars, especially a scene with Sarbh wherein she is told why he is so obsessed with her. She has great screen presence and her chemistry with the other two is very good. In fact, it is better with Sarbh than with Rajput, simply because they aren’t expected to look great together.
- Sushant Singh Rajput manages to keep the token Bollywood stalker creepiness out of his character and is reasonably good, though a tad bit over-the-top in a few scenes. It was like he was trying to channel his inner Ranveer Singh, who’d rather stay in the closet than come out.
- Jim Sarbh is easily the best of the lot. Though he is still miles away from pulling off a Khalil, he does his job rather well, considering the circumstances. He gets a rather underwritten character but plays it with such control that you may just forget that the writers did a poor job with the writing. He is charming, menacing and ‘psycho’ (as Kriti puts it in one scene), all rolled together. He also nails the physicality of the character. Watch out for one scene in which he dances around a room with a dress in his hands.
- Martin Preiss does a beautiful job as the Director of Photography. He captures Budapest gorgeously and does a fair job with the Mauritius sequences.
The film is, at the end of the day, the directorial debut of a successful producer. The last time a successful producer turned director, he made the atrocious Kick with Bhai. Dinesh Vijan, the man who put his money on films like Being Cyrus, Hindi Medium, Love Aaj Kal, Badlapur, Go Goa Gone and Happy Ending is the man with the hat on for Raabta. Frankly, with his CV, he should’ve picked a better script. His direction is fairly okay, but he doesn’t exhibit any flair for it. It would’ve been much better had the film stuck to a contemporary storyline instead of going all Asoka meets 300 meets Game of Thrones meets bad VFX on the audience.
As a film, Raabta tries too hard to be a confluence of a lot of things rather than be a solid film based along one or two paths. It’s all over the place. A fantastic example of an interesting premise being screwed up and over for no rhyme or reason. Not a film worth watching more than once, which is still better than Ae Dil.. and Fitoor, both of which I wish I’d not watched at all.
Varun Oak-Bhakay’s Writer’s Block
June 9th, 2017