Sunday, 30 June 2013

Raanjhanaa: a short review

Let me first point out that my main motive behind watching any film is the story. If the story is too simple (read non existent story) or too complex (read mind boggling), the movie doesn't work for me. As an example, I did not like Avatar because the story didn't have anything new. I watched the 2D version because it was not the technology that dragged me to the theatre. So, my review would be more story centric. I would try not to reveal the complete story of the move but discuss a few scenes to deconstruct it. Essentially, this would be what one might call 'a social scientist's review'.

Raanjhanaa: return of the 'you and I' hero
So, with that basic information (bias) let me proceed to the new Bollywood movie Raanjhanaa. In the first instance I think I would have to accept that just like its name the movie seemed a bit long, which also translates into the fact that the story did not hold throughout. However, Raanjhanaa did somewhat succeed in transporting me to the era of Amol Palekar and Farooq Sheikh when heroes used to be real men. They did not sport six packs and slick hair.

Kundan (Dhanush) is a simple boy next door. The son of a Tamil Brahmin, now settled in Banaras, Kundan runs in the streets, playing Holi. He drenches himself and others in colour, just like you and I would do. He never tears his cloths off, just like you and I wouldn't. He falls in love, is jealous and angry when the girl loves someone else, just like you and I would be. The chink in the armour of this boy next door, 'you and I-like' 12 year old Kundan reveals itself when he falls in love with Zoya, a muslim girl living nearby. Religion is such a strong divider in any society (more so in Indian) that a Hindu (or a muslim) boy may like (or love) a Muslim (or a hindu) girl but would think a 100 times before approaching her. Bollywood, which has been unifying India for about a 100 years now, intervenes here. Kundan seamlessly approaches Zoya and professes his love. This is not something you and I would easily do.
Hindu Kundan professes his love to Muslim Zoya

However, after this reality strikes. The girl's parents find out about their puppy love and the ugly face of our social fractures is revealed. Zoya is send away from the boy (mainly for falling in love with a Hindu). Their 'paths of love' diverge for ever. After this Zoya and Kundan meet each other at several instances in the movie but their love never does. The story continues on a very realistic path meandering here and there. The screenplay writers have done a decent job bringing in references of some recent social and political movements. As I said before, the story did not hold throughout, but did the job mostly. Dhanush, I thought, was very good while Sonam Kapoor was midiocure. Both Swarna Bhaskar (Bindiya) and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub (Murari) were excellent. Abhay Deol had a comparatively smaller role so I would refrain from passing a judgement on him. The streets of Banaras were excellently shot complementing Dhanush's small town charm.

Let me now talk about a few specific scenes that I found very interesting:

The superiority of English
Zoya encounters a drunk Jasjit (Abhay Deol), the leader of JNU student union at night and questions his commitment to the cause he fights for. His answers make Zoya angry and she fights back, now shifting from hindi to english. This is very close to reality. In our daily lives whenever we try to establish our superiority or try to prevail over someone, we start speaking in english. Obviously, english still holds the position of superiority, a higher pedestal in the Indian society. Knowledge of english means learned, educated, cultured, elite etc. This bias that is now highly engrained in the Indian society came out well in this film.

Kundan wields the power of grounded thought
The power of grounded thought
Kundan slowly becomes a part of the political movement at JNU that Zoya is leading. But he rises rapidly making friends and connection among all sections of the society. He easily connects to people from farmers to police men. How does Kundan, who at one point in time was reffered to by Zoya as "jaahil ladka" (uncultured boy) does all  this. In my view, it his grounded approach, his street smartness, his small town-ness, his common man-ness, his learning of the Indian life (that may make him look like a 'jaahil' to some) that make him connect to everyone, at least everyone who is also a commoner like him (i.e. a farmer to a common police man). I think what make Kundan succeed are the same qualities that made Laloo (the Bihari Politician) succeed. It is their natural connect to the common people that propel them. This for me is one of the greatest qualities of India, its society and its democracy. It may backfire sometime but in my view this is also what keeps India going.

Those are my two main reflections from the film. Here are a couple of dialogues that caught my attention:

Murari, Kundan's best friend remarks on his constant pursual of Zoya
"pyar na hua UPSE ka exam ho gaya, pass hi nahin hote"

Bindiya, Kundan's friend (also loves him regardless of any reciprocation) on his constant pursual of Zoya and her (Bindiya's) constant pursual of him
"vitamine humse khao aur ashiqui inse ladaao"

All in all I would rate this movie as Watch.

(as a qualitative researcher my ratings had to be qualitative: 'don't watch', 'could watch', 'watch' and 'should watch')

Oh! Did I say, the climax is fantastic!

Photos: courtesy Raanjhanaa official facebook page


  1. Very very engaging review. Haven't seen the movie yet but hope to change that soon.

    And I can see how the social science bent of mind is making its presence felt :) I realised recently, that now I can't read a book or watch a movie without analysing it. It is a comforting and slightly alarming thought!!

    1. thanks for that Chandni.

      indeed it is comforting (for the social scientists) but certainly alarming because it creates fractures with the 'others'.....

  2. Nice Review Ankit!
    To me the story looked close to realism (leaving some scenes in the climax - character of zoya). However, what you said 'Kundan seamlessly approaches Zoya and professes his love'is not completely correct, as he has been following her for many years and his peer pressure makes him behave like a 'filmi' hero, which he does due to his ladakpan.
    The small town boy becomes a greater politician, and(incidentally)there were no other leaders in the group left (after abhay). Anyways, atleast there are many things to think and discuss in this 2 hr movie unlike others.

    1. thanks for the comment Anuradha. Glad you like the review.
      My comment on Kundan seamlessly approaching Zoya relates to the Hindu-Muslim dynamic. He never gave that much thought. However, your point about him following her and thinking about her for several years is correct. But that I think is more about the general boy-girl dynamic.
      Yes, the small town boy quickly becomes a politician but you must also see that this is about a very small party. This for me is highly symbolic and tells a lot about the potential of India.
      Indeed this is one of the better movies of the year and I like how you think about it :)

  3. Saw it and read the (great) review again. Completely agree with your points especially about the use of English by Zoya which is to prove how 'smart' and 'intelligent' she is. Yup, definitely a 'watch'.