Girl or a rocket will take you anywhere - from Banaras ki galiyaan to rough and tumble of politics and to guilt trips. Love is like the UPSC exam that you cannot clear even after ten years. And love will make you forget that it is your wedding day. Even after watching Sanju Baba give it all away in Saajan, Kundan still chooses to walk the same path. And then, all this running after your unrequited love tires you out and puts you in a mood where you choose to close your eyes and hope to start all over again, back where it all began - in the Banaras ki galiyaan.
Raanjhanaa is a love story set in Varanasi between a Hindu boy Kundan and Muslim girl Zoya. The premise is perfect as Dhanush plays the character of son of Tamilian priest family who were brought to Varanasi 200 years ago. Smitten with Zoya right from childhood, Kundan gets slapped 15 times before he gets to know the girl’s name and a date. Not because she likes him but for his consistency. Choice of Sonam Kapoor as Zoya is perfect again and she gives another creditable performance.
The first half breezes through as Kundan pursues Zoya with his friends Murari and Bindiya providing support ranging from hilarious to downright touching. The skirmishes and banter among the three friends provides the best dialogues and scenes. You start to like Kundan’s enterprise, brashness and his honesty pursuing the love of his life to prove that Banaras’s boy chance of snagging his love is not usurped by doctors and engineers.
Kundan’s hopes come crashing down when Zoya giving ‘girlfriend feeling’ on his scooter tells him of the boy she has fallen in love with during Delhi college days. Kundan drives his scooter with Zoya into the Ganga as the story hurtles into betrayal, revenge and devastated lives. The age of innocence is lost as the film moves from Kundan’s Bal Kand to Lanka Dahan.
The second half delves into politics and romance takes a backseat. The political track is clairvoyant as events here mirror the happenings in Delhi later. The CM sounds eerily like a former CM. The political landscape provides the perfect foil as political wily games play out in the realm of personal lives with revenge foremost on the mind. And all this while, the events unspool to turn the innocence of love into hatred and betrayal. The sledgehammer shocks come rapidly as the script carries you on a roller coaster of emotions and feelings finally culminating in release and freedom of spirit called love.
Varanasi provides the perfect backdrop for the film. The ghats, the lanes, the crowds, the grime, the fort overlooking the Ganga makes you fall in love with India’s oldest city that you loved to hate not so long ago. You want to join Kundan on his next outing as he goes out to woo Zoya again.
The soundtrack is scintillating. The songs carry the story forward conveying the exuberance, loss and longing of love. All songs are gems and after you are done watching the movie you would want to watch the songs play again as they bring a smile to your face after the wrenching climax.
Dhanush is perfect for the role and impresses with his first outing in Hindi Cinema. He carries the movie on his lean shoulders. His unconventional looks works as his greatest strength as you identify with his character and soon Kundan charms his way into your heart. You feel for Kundan and root for him. Kundan’s guts and gumption make you wish that you could have done something similar instead of just ruing about the lost chances. Okay except the part of slitting wrists with sickening regularity.
Sonam has her moments too. And just like in the fantastic Delhi 6 and the much derided Mausam that you loved, here too Sonam plays Zoya well and looks pretty and dainty as always. The lead pairing might have seemed odd but here in the movie it looks fresh and realistic and the casting looks like a coup.
Swara Bhaskar who is Kundan’s neighbour is simply amazing as Bindiya in love with Kundan. Effervescent, vivacious and pretty, she lights up the screen professing her love for Kundan and in the end as she breaks down you feel for her as another lifelong love goes unrequited. Hope to see more of her in future. Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub is another promising actor as Kundan’s friend Murli with the best comical dialogues and provides Kundan with the emotional support.
Aanand L Rai, the director in his second outing after Tanu Weds Manu has again chosen the backdrop of hinterland town to negotiate the tricky and crowded human emotion lanes of love, heartbreak, hatred, betrayal and atonement. Lot of movies of 2013 have brought a lump to your throat and Raanjhanaa surprises you and even goes a step further. Rai is a director to watch for and takes his rightful place in a now growing list of exciting new generation directors.
Nietzsche argues that indispensable to the lover is his unrequited love, which he would at no price relinquish for a state of indifference. Kundan would have chosen unrequited love over indifference any day. Love is not easy and Raanjhanna makes an honest effort to convey a refreshing take on human emotions. Even though everything is fair in love but Mother Ganga, as the person on the ghats tells a repentant Kundan, will not wash away the ultimate sin. Just like Ghaton mein Ghat Banarasiya, Raanjhanaa is a love story among love stories seldom seen in Hindi Cinema. Watch it for the pure cinematic and emotional - both heartwarming and heartwrenching - powerhouse show.