Dhanush, an established Tamil actor makes his Hindi film debut as Kundan in Arvind L. Rai’s second film Raanjhaana. Playing the the son of a pandit/Hindu priest, living in Banaras. Kundan As a child he sees a girl, Zoya, and instantly falls in love, and spends his years growing up trying to woo her. Impressed by his consistency, she gives him a chance, but her family doesn’t approve and sends her away to Aligarh to live with her aunt. Eight years later, she returns to Banaras, barely remembering Kundan, and in love with someone else (Abhay Deol), but Kundan is still madly in love with her, and is determined to get her to feel the same.
That’s not even the whole plot line of the first half of the movie, but describing any more would be a major spoiler. It’s an old fashioned Bollywood formula to have a light first half and a dramatic second half, and while this doesn’t feel formulaic, the shift in tone is fairly drastic. I think it’s meant to maintain the romance element, but even that gets a little lost along the way. It’s not a criticism of the film, as much as a comment on the choices Anand L. Rai makes to tell the story he wants to.
Dhanush has been acting for many years in Tamil now, but I think acting in a language that you don’t know/ comfortable with is quite a challenge, and he does well considering. In places it’s evident that his Hindi isn’t strong. In fact the character of Kundan suited him so well that not for a single moment you get a feel that he’s the same “Kolaveri Di…” guy who took the nation by storm. Clearly his acting over powered the whole “Kolaver Di…” impression. He commits so fully to his character that his performance is quite endearing. On the contrary, Sonam Kapoor was again a dissapointment. She’s looking good, her expressions were also pretty good but as Zoya and a girl who grew up in the streets of Banaras and Aligarh, there was no innocence in her diction and pronounciation. She still has some learning to do when it comes to acting and dialogue dilivery. But then many ‘actresses’ who are much worse than her have gone further, so at least she’s doing roles that expect something of her. Another actor who stole the show was Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub; if there was an actor who left an impact apart from Dhanush was him. His effortless acting and brilliant dialogue dilivery along with priceless expressions were just what the doctor ordered.
The music is by Oscar winning A. R. Rahman, and while the background music and the album are good, most of it sounds a little like his other work. ‘Tum Tak…‘ and Raanjhanaa are really the only two songs that stand out. And I hate when my favourite songs come too early in a film, but at least they’re well placed here. The film looks great, particular the first half, as it has a really desi-film feel to it.
Despite the unexpected turn it takes post-interval, I quite liked Raanjhanaa. It’s not your typical love triangle, or Hindu-Muslim love story, and that’s good, but it ends up being almost two different stories, which isn’t necessarily as good. I would be better with one singular and clear purpose, but it’s a good watch as it is, mainly for its performances, and the lovely shots of Banaras. A Hindu boy, a Muslim girl they fall in love and the story goes on…naa, it has been done to death in Bollywood, and from the trailer Raanjhanaa seemed to be a sweet, possibly fun, version of that template. But thankfully, there’s more to the story than just the issue of a inter-religion romance, however it’s not just sweet and romantic either. There’s much more to the plot than the promos let on, and for that alone, the film deserves a chance, but it’s also quite a satisfying watch.
Rating: * * * /5