Bachna Ae Haseeno - being a Yash Raj Product - embraces formula so enthusiastically, you almost get carried along for the ride. I say almost, because it does get unrelentingly formulaic and unintentionally meta as the film chugs along. Still, the ride is fun for at least the first half, and even if the ham-handedness comes in full throttle in the second, it has the quality of a thought-out premise.
Being as it is a movie that celebrates its Yash Raj-ness thoroughly, the film's formula trappings are something that give it at least (if not entirely welcome) a consistent feeling. The insufferable immoral protagonist we have been used to for umpteen films returns to the twang of Kishore-da
's classic, and unsurprisingly is always amidst chicas.
Raj (Kapoor) (heh, that's funny) being the cad in question. He wines and dines two of three very gorgeous women systematically, and dumps the first two in less than honorable ways. It's when the third dumps him that he realizes his folly and decides to turn over a new leaf by making amends. He decides to apologize to the first two.
Herein lies the problem. The film is a breezy romantic comedy that takes a violent turn into melodrama territory, which as we all might have learned with Ta Ra Rum Pum
, Siddharth Anand can't handle at all. The heavy-handedness of the second half is also incongruent with what we had comfortably gotten into the groove of, and that rankles till the end credits roll.
Very, very surprisingly, this time it has nothing to do with the writing. The screenplay does veer toward the bizarre when the boy turns into a man with claims to forgiveness, but it has depth in characterization, and all characters, like them or not, feel natural in their progression. There are understandable issues with relationships, and while they are wrapped in the masala so much already applied, that still is pretty solid. Given that this is by Devika Bhagat, who wrote arguably last year's best film, Manorama, the very rich writing comes as no surprise.
The real surprise is Neal 'n' Nikki
veteran Anvita Dutt Guptan. The dialog remains fresh and full of understated wit. Tempered with the fluffiness that we take for granted in a Chopra film, the dialog always has spunk in it, and feels real. The film has aspirations to becoming a Gen Y film, and while it is no Jaane Tu...
, it still manages to capture some of the essence in the writing.
Neither does the fault lie in the cast. All three of the girls have solid characters, though you'd rightly pick Mahi (Lamba) as the most over-the-top saccharine. Lamba turns in a decent performance to support that, though, so I can't begrudge her a character written to be not liked as much. Bipasha Basu's confidence in herself has hit new strides, and she easily walks away with the most convincing performance, if not the story arc of the film.
Padukone, as luck would have it, has to play a level-headed girl with career priorities. This sort of a character has always been used as a catalyst to show the worst in women by Bollywood, and indeed Yash Raj, but kudos to the writers in fleshing out a character that is career-minded and comes off as a sensible, likeable girl. You'd think it the most natural thing in the world, but it's rare in Bollywood to admit to real things, especially while clinging to the stuffy masala past.
Which brings us to our protagonist - Kapoor is being shot through cannon here - who is ensconced in the formula of it all and is given two entirely different characters pre- and post-interval. Half-baked as he is, the character is used to great potential by the makers to add to Ranbir's charisma. He definitely does better than his dud debut last year, but his is largely the least of acting jobs in a film where Paintal's son has more chemistry than him.
No, if there is a fault, it lies with the incongruent and loud direction, given free reign by a lazy editor. Ultimately, however, Bachna is a well-made rom-com, and will serve you allright as the afternoon break on a weekend. Embracing the formula as it does, it has a certain joie de vivre
that pervades through. It may get silly as it progresses, but that only brings it down from instant classic to good timepass, and if that could have been said about half the films this year, I wouldn't be as curmudgeonly with this one.