Totally did not plan to have this movie re-reviewed the same week as Magadheera! But didn’t that all work out nicely?
Where to start? I guess with Sushant. He is SO GOOD!!! The role calls for “charming, confident, and also young and humanly flawed”, and he pulls it off! I just want to watch him onscreen all the time.
Kriti is…..okay. Not actively irritating. There weren’t really moments where I went “Wow, she just elevated that scene to a whole new level!” But there also weren’t any moments where I thought “wow, she isn’t quite able to handle this scene.” And I loved her look for this movie. She has such a strong look, and this plot works best if she and Sushant appear to be equally strong people, not her as a fragile little damsel and him looming over her with all his muscles and so on.
Speaking of muscles, DAY-UM SUSHANT!!!! That Dhoni bulk is looking GOOD ON HIM!!! Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of shirtless scenes. And wet shirt scenes and thin shirt scenes and just generally good scenes.
Kriti was objectified too, but in an interesting way. She wore her clothes casually in all scenes, bras showing almost all the time, loose fabrics, ties not fastened. It wasn’t that “ooo, I’m accidentally showing skin!” kind of feel that I hate, like women don’t know how to dress themselves, or like clothes are some kind of modesty police with sexiness constantly trying to break through the barricades. No, this was just a “clothes are there to be comfortable, and if it bothers you, I don’t care” kind of feeling.
All of this adds up to a very very good romance. I don’t know what the other reviewers were seeing, maybe they were looking for something different than I was, but I honestly have no idea why they gave it so many bad reviews. This is crazy and over the top and swoony. And also charming and funny and comfortable. It had two characters who aren’t quite the same as anything I had seen before (although Sushant is a bit of a throwback to those 90s bad-boy-charmers-who-love-their-mothers-and-really-just-want-to-marry-the-right-girl types), who have a romance that isn’t quite like anything I had seen before.
And that’s not even getting into the twists! Just the straight up “boy meets girl” part of it is fun on its own, so fun that I kind of wish that had been the whole movie. Mostly because Sushant is a FREAKING DELIGHT, but also because it was really well written and really well directed and just generally very very good.
This is Dinesh Vijan’s first film as a director, but he’s Saif’s business partner, and has co-produced plenty of films, from Love Aaj Kal to Badlapur. And all of that flows into this film. It doesn’t feel like a “first time director” movie, it feels very confident and smooth, and he knew exactly what he wanted in every scene and every shot.
There’s one final ingredient I haven’t mentioned yet, Jim Sarbh. He was the main hijacker in Neerja, that was his only mainstream film role before this. But I just looked him up on wikipedia, and it looks like he has intensive stage experience, including studying at Emory in America. And he is poised to explode, this role is followed by a part in the Sanjay Dutt biopic, and Padmavati.
(Get used to getting excited when you see this face)
And he should explode! He is AMAZING in this! Totally over the top in the most enjoyable and amusing way. It reminds me of the first time I saw Nawazuddin in something, or Irrfan, or Naseerji. That little something extra, a way of delivering a line that no one else could ever have imagined, let alone pulled off.
I just, I don’t know why no one is talking about this film! I think maybe because the trailers didn’t sell it right? If people had gone in knowing it would be a charming rom-com with an over the top melodrama chaser, that it will make them fall in love with Sushant, and their hearts beat faster in the action scenes, and boo and hiss the villain, I think the audience would be coming in, and the reviewers would be giving it a fair chance.
The best lines, the sweetest moments, the most heart-pounding action scenes, all of them were kept out of the trailer! Instead we got some kind of blurry flashes and some love songs. The really selling points of the film weren’t used to sell it.
(this should have been the centerpiece of the campaign, not all the other stuff)
Oh, and one more thing, just like everyone else I saw the trailer and went “Magadheera!” And yes, it is. But very very very very very very loosely. Very very very very. It’s Magadheera like Om Shanti Om is Karz. Or Akele Hum Akele Tum is Kramer versus Kramer. The central idea is loosely there, sort of, but all the details around it are just totally different. In a really interesting way that I will get into in my SPOILERS section.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILER SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Before I can talk about it in detail, especially how it differs from Magadheera, I have to rattle through the whole plot:
Whole Plot in One Paragraph:
Sushant is a player with a new girl every week. Kriti has terrible nightmares every night and takes medication for them. They meet, and are immediately struck with an over-whelming connection. Sushant chases after Kriti, but she makes the first move, kissing him and then sleeping with him after only knowing him a couple of days. They dive into love and within weeks (or days? It’s fast) he has proposed. Kriti isn’t sure, because it is so fast, so suggests a test, first at a party, they both should flirt with someone else and see if they like the other person as much. She meets Jim Sarbh, an odd silent millionaire type. Sushant rescues her and warns off Jim Sarbh, and then suggests another test, he has to leave town for a week for business, they won’t talk for a week, and when he comes back, they will decide whether or not to get married. Kriti meets Jim Sarbh again during that week, and he drugs and kidnaps her, taking her back to his remote island castle, and revealing that he has been seeing visions of her his entire life, just waiting to meet her, and that in a past life they were married. Kriti thinks he is insane and tries to escape, finally jumping into the sea. Where she almost drowns and has a vision of her whole past life.
In the past, she was a strong warrior Queen type, and Jim was her king (or fiance? It’s unclear). Sushant arrived at the head of a barbarian horde who wanted to capture the kingdom. He defeated their army, single handed, and almost killed Jim. Kriti, furious at the injury to her husband/fiance, goes alone to Sushant’s camp and challenges him to a competition, if she wins he goes away, and if he wins, he gets the kingdom and her. They agree to race. Over the course of the race, they suddenly fall in love. Sushant leaves her kingdom and takes her with him and they plan to marry. Sushant and she marry, and that night as they are exchanging vows of love, Jim interrupts them, attacks Sushant and kills him by drowning, and Kriti breaks free of the people holding her and leaps into the water after Sushant, dying as well. In the present day, Kriti returns to Jim, and tells him she remembers everything, and is willing to stay with him in this life, so long as he promises not to harm Sushant. Sushant tracks her down at the engagement party and confronts her, and they end up running together from Jim’s goons. He catches up, and the same events occur, only this time Sushant has been training his whole life (without knowing why) to hold his breath underwater and is able to survive drowning. Happy Ending!
So, yes, it is Magadheera. In the ancient warrior romance, in the drowning bring back memories, even in the comet that returns every several hundred years. And in the structure, the modern love story, then the flashback, then back to modern times for a happy ending. And in the image of the seer, in the hero breaking into a palace to kidnap the heroine, in a bunch of other little ways as well.
But it is also really really not Magadheera. The way the love stories play out, both in the past and present, are entirely different. Because in this film, our heroine actually has agency.
In Magadheera, our hero falls for the heroine, but not vice versa. At least not right away. It’s clever and I love it, don’t get me wrong. The idea that he senses their epic connection and is desperately searching for her, while she is just taking advantage of him, because why not? And the whole kind of Dil To Pagal Hai effect of the audience desperately waiting for them to finally realize what is happening and get together.
(Really, watch Magadheera! Super fun movie, very different from this one)
But all of this relies on the hero being advanced ahead of the heroine in understanding. Whereas in this film, they are equals. They are both struck by sudden love in the same moment. While Sushant is the one who chases her, because that is his personality, she is the one who kisses first, because she is feeling it equally strongly.
I love the kiss scene, it’s a great moment of social conditioning and personality being overcome by desire. Sushant has been chasing her hard, waited outside her work, broke up with his girlfriend for her, followed her home chatting the whole time. But Kriti let him. She didn’t exactly encourage him, because that would be crazy, to encourage this guy who showed up out of nowhere. But she also doesn’t firmly tell him to leave her alone, and she smiles at his jokes. Sushant pushes really hard, we have seen already that he is a bit of a ladies man with a line, but this is different, this is kind of crazy what he is doing here.
Anyway, they say good-bye at her door, Sushant pushes to stay the night, then for a kiss, then for a kiss on the cheek, then for a hug, and Kriti laughs it all off, Sushant turns about to leave, no hard feelings, no pressure on her to kiss this guy she just met, and Kriti suddenly reaches out and grabs his head and pulls him in for a kiss. It’s so great! Kriti gets to show her interest and obsession in a way Sushant can’t misinterpret, and Sushant gets to show that he really was willing to just walk away that night after a conversation and nothing else.
And then the next day he follows her home again, this time she invites him in and offers to make him chocolate (because she runs a chocolate shop, which is only a job in movies). And he dances for her to Punjabi pop songs, which is super cute, that he is willing to be so goofy with her and also share his Punjabi background. And then they have sex, again with Kriti making the first move.
The sex here doesn’t feel contrived at all. It’s not one of those movies where I think “did they just put in a sex scene because they think it is hip and modern?” No, the whole point of the romance is that it happens so fast and so naturally, this isn’t a one night stand kind of night together, or even exactly an uncontrollable passion night together. It’s more just that it feels so natural to be together, they can’t stop themselves.
And they aren’t idiots who doubt themselves or break up for no reason! Again, there is a faint in that direction, Kriti says she has a boyfriend. But Sushant follows them on their date and easily breaks them up by just telling the truth (after some maneuvering), that Kriti and he had a thing, clearly she isn’t that into this guy. The other guy argues that they have been friends for 2 years, and dating for 3 months, they know each other, that’s nothing compared to 2 days. But Kriti breaks up with him anyway and then she and Sushant are together, and within weeks (days?), Sushant has slipped a ring on her finger while she was asleep and declares that now they are engaged, why wait?
In a different (worse) movie, Kriti would be doubting herself and sad and guilty and blah blah blah, while Sushant was all active and convincing her and stuff. But in this movie, they are right there on the same page. Maybe Sushant is slightly quicker to jump into stuff, but Kriti doesn’t really resist. It’s just so refreshing! I am so sick of the man pursues-woman gives in kind of romances.
I am also sick of the “woman can’t see the clear danger” trope, which is also avoided! When Jim Sarbh shows up, he seems mostly fine. A little slow to talk, but otherwise just like anyone else. And kind of funny and nice and you can see why she likes talking with him. No real reason for her not to accept a ride home from him, and dinner.
What I really love, both about the past and present version of the story, is that Jim is the “safe” choice, the reasonable one, the guy she has a lot in common with. But Sushant is the one that makes her happy. And that’s okay, to choose the one who makes you happy, even if there is no “good” reason to be with him.
I found the past love story FANTASTIC in that way. I was all set for Jim to be lying, that they weren’t really married or anything. And then even when it started, I kept thinking I must not be recognizing the actors correctly. Because here is this nice guy, who she seems to get along with fine, and she is really upset when he is injured, and all that. And here is this other guy, who is a brutal warrior only interested in conquest. Clearly the hero is the “nice guy” not the other guy.
But, no! Right at the start, we see her mildly irritated with the “nice guy” because he tries to protect her when she doesn’t feel she needs protection. More importantly, the first meeting with the brutal barbarian “bad guy” immediately sells me on the romance.
(Okay, Sushant goes a little heavy on that “head tilt means animalistic” thing that actors do, but otherwise he was great!)
In the “present”, I thought their immediate connection was because they had that past romance. But no! They had that same immediate connection in the past. That is just who they are, people who meet and immediately just know. And it really worked! At least for me. Writing it out, it sounds stupid. She comes into camp ready to kill him, he is not interested in her at all, and then they race through the forest, occasionally tripping and wrestling with each other, and by the end of the race they are in love. What????
But it totally works! At least for me. By the moment at the end of the race, when they are both climbing trees to reach the knife that is the goal, it didn’t occur to me to even be surprised when Kriti started to fall and Sushant caught her. Because of course he would catch her. Even though they started this race with the idea of killing each other. And her line at the end, that she wants him to kill her, because she cannot stay here and she cannot go home again, made total sense. This few minutes together has changed her forever and she can’t be happy with her old life any more.
And why not? Why can’t she go with the man who makes her happy? It’s not even disloyal to her people, he agrees not to attack her village, so they are safe. And Jim is there to be the ruler in her place. Maybe it is breaking some kind of promise to Jim, but doesn’t she have the right to make that decision? Even if the other guy is less “good”, he is the one who makes her happy, and that is enough.
Such a refreshing argument in an Indian movie! The epic past love isn’t just “taboo” in a titillating way, it’s actually wrong. Well, wrong-ish. It isn’t totally immoral, but there are more moral choices. But it doesn’t matter, because they are in love, and that is the highest morality.
What I also like is that it puts some added meaning in the reincarnation. In the past, Sushant had sins and issues, he was a brutal warlord. And Kriti was struggling with leaving her fiance/husband and her kingdom. Not that these aren’t things they could overcome, but in the present they came back with clean slates.
In the present day, Kriti is allowed to date without huge commitments. One of my favorite things is that her boyfriend is treated with the exact right amount of seriousness. Yes, she feels bad for sleeping with this guy she just met, that was wrong. But only a little wrong, she’d only been dating this other guy for a few months, it wasn’t that serious. And that’s all right, you can date a guy for a few months and then break up because you found someone you like better. No need to “sin” when you fall in love, because you aren’t promised to someone before you are really able to make the decision on your own. You can shop around.
And in the present day, Sushant doesn’t have to be a warlord to conquer the world, he can be a banker who travels from Amritsar to Budapest (LOVE THE HUNGARY SETTING!!!! I’ve been to most of the places they visit! Super cool!). And his natural aggression and urge to conquer can be used peacefully by flirting with women and making money.
This time, when they meet and immediately fall in love, they don’t have to upend tradition and leave kingdoms and so on and so forth to be together. They can just move in together and get engaged and then get married. It’s easier in the present day, they can have what they want without harming anyone else.
Well, except for nutty Jim Sarbh. My theory with his character is that since he died while angry and tormented with jealousy, he was reborn in the same way. While Sushant and Kriti died in a moment of pure love and sacrifice and were reborn purer than before.
So, yeah, I liked this movie! Great refreshing modern day romance, very different kind of past romance, heroine with tons of agency, and really very very different from Magadheera, in a way that made me want to rewatch Magadheera, not feel like I had just seen it all over again.