Vaada Raha bases itself on a certain patient-bedside story that O Henry wrote. Revealing even the title of that short story would be unfair to the film, but those who're familiar with the piece would be aware of the emotional punch in it - something that only a carefully constructed drama can replicate.
Vaada Raha - I Promise, though irrelevantly named, is very close to being a gentle, effective rendering of that theme. It's a heart-warming film that's endearing to those who don't mind a couple of tears trickling on their popcorn. However, why it will not really work commercially is that, apart from being a little too tearful for a cheery movie outing, it slips into overly simplistic territory at times.
Narrated by Duke Chawla (Bobby Deol), a successful surgeon, the story begins with how Duke is on his way to finding a cure for bone marrow cancer, and has everything going for him, including plans of marriage with his girlfriend Pooja (Kangana Ranaut). Going by the excessive sunshine in his life, the clouds are just round the nearest hairpin bend. So the night he's celebrating his golden moments, he has a car accident that paralyzes his whole body neck-downwards.
The trauma is intensified when Pooja breaks up with him over reasons that boggle the mind of even the characters who are interacting with her in the film. An embittered Duke spews and spews hatred and anger towards his life and being, pleading to be euthanized.
His friend Max (Mohnish Behl) stands by him during the crisis, but the real moonbeam in his life is Roshan (Dwij Yadav), a child from the paediatric ward, who's living there to accompany his cancer-stricken sister. From here begins the captivating chemistry between Duke and Roshan, with Roshan's tireless optmisim thawing Duke down.
Though there's the constant whiff of the obvious message of hope throughout the film, there are a few nuggets of experiential wisdom here and there - for example, in that whole sequence with the father of the perpetrator of Duke's accident. One of the movie's flaws, though, is the fact that the kids have to keep mouthing grown-up dialogues.
The emotional detailing of the lead characters is pretty meticulous. However, Kangana Ranaut's character is not developed at all. It could as well be a voice in the background, without even being shown on screen.
And this has to be Bobby Deol's finest, most involved performance till date. The man bubbles, fumes, weeps and smiles with ease, and it's as though this is just the kind of roles he's been at all along. The kid, Dwij Yadav, is disarmingly spontaneous. Between them both, you could watch out for an award nomination or two this year.
Mohnish Behl is a natural, but has a largely two-dimensional role. Kangana Ranaut's new running-around-trees avatar lasts for but a few minutes, and she hardly has anything else to do. The rest of the cast has some hardcore veteran character actors, with some from television.
The soundtrack is plain fare, and the real engine of the film is the performances. The visual qualities give it the feel of a leisurely TV serial, but the hospital set does not make things gloomy.
This one is among the better of lesser-known films, and if you have nothing else to watch, it's worth a mention in your to-do list this weekend.