Friday Classics: Bachna Ae Haseeno, Ranbir is a Sociopath

This was one of many movies from my YRF list earlier this week that it was requested I review. I picked it because, well, I can remember it well enough to review without needing a rewatch. And it certainly doesn’t deserve a rewatch.

This is not a great movie. It’s a star turn for Ranbir and he is up for the challenge, just barely. But besides putting him through his paces, there just isn’t much to it. Not much plot, not much songs, and not much for the other actors to do. Although at least the heroines all have really interesting backstories and characters. The problem being, those backstories and characters never get any real attention or focus, because it is all Ranbir Ranbir Ranbir.

Image result for bachna ae haseeno

But Ranbir is fun! Young attractive boyish stories are fun! This came out in the era when the Khans were really too old for this kind of youthful story. Having anyone young doing a young story was refreshing and exciting. And you can feel that excitement everywhere in the film, the songs are new and different, the dialogue is new and different, and so on.

The whole movie kind of feels like people being excited and seeing what works. It’s more a series of plots than one cohesive thing. Feels almost like they couldn’t decide what they cared about the most, or else didn’t care about any of it enough to make it a movie. And what was left was three almost movies.

It’s modern in content, but that structure is a bit of a throwback. Back to the wild days before bound scripts when storylines were created and discarded willy-nilly, when everyone did everything all at once. So in that way, the title works! Repurposing one of Ranbir’s father’s hits from one of those fun silly 1970s films.

Beyond the fun, and the Ranbir, there are the heroines. Bipasha gets one of her deepest roles, although ultimately kind of sad and regressive. Minisha Lammba surprised me by doing a really good job. And then there’s Deepika. Poor Dips. She got stuck with the least interesting, most standard, role of them all. Her role could have been played by literally any actress, unlike the other two which required something really specific.

Standard issue love song, standard issue heroine

Huh. Now that I think about it, that’s what makes this film feel so strange. Minisha and Bipasha have all the emotional depth and growth, Ranbir really doesn’t sell it in the same way, our “hero”s story is far less meaningful and touching than the stories of the two supporting women. It would be radical and feminist, if it weren’t for the film still saying “Nope, forget Bipasha and Minisha, it’s alllllllll about the selfish rich young man”. And I guess that goes for within the film and without it, Bipasha and Minisha were the most experienced actors, but were pushed aside for Ranbir in his second movie.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Ranbir meets Deepika in Australia and starts dating her, no strings attached. But then he falls in love with her. She reminds him, “no strings attached” and he is heartbroken. So he thinks back to the women whose hearts he has broken. When he was in college traveling through Europe, there was a girl traveling with her cousin who was obsessed with DDLJ. He arranged for them to be left behind together and miss the train, gave her a wonderful adventure, is implied that they had sex, then left her with promises of True Love. And never got in touch with her again. Later, he started a relationship with the sexy woman who lived next door, they started living together, it was great because he got all the sex he wanted and no pressure, just fun. And then he got a job opportunity in Australia and discovered she thought she would be coming with him. Rather than breaking up, he proposed, thinking she would say “No”. She said “yes”, and so he fled the country without talking to her, leaving her waiting at the alter (literally). Ranbir now feels like he understands what he did to them and feels bad. So he tracks down Bipasha, who is now a successful famous model, and she makes him work as her gofer and slave to earn her forgiveness. Eventually, she lets him go and tells him to try to find love, it is too late for her. Next he finds Manisha in her home in Punjab with her husband and learns that, although she is married with two sons, she never fully opened her heart again after he left her. He helps her husband woo her and romance her and she finally believes in love. And then he leaves and returns to Australia to find that Deepika missed him and wrote him a love letter every day, so many that he can’t open the door of his apartment. They are united, Happy Ending.

The problem is, our “hero” is a sociopath, right? He destroys these woman, and feels almost nothing about it. He is only capable of empathy once he experiences a similar experience, once it is about him rather than someone else. And he considers his small unhappiness as equal to their far greater unhappiness. Leaving your long time live-in girlfriend at the alter with no explanation and never talking to her again is not the same as the woman you are seeing saying “no” when you ask to get more serious. Ditto lying and seducing a young woman, giving her her first sexual experience, and then disappearing.

The way this sequence is handled, it is clearly also Ranbir’s first sexual experience, he does come to feel something real for her and feels a little bad when he walks away. But his tiny tiny doubts and regrets are treated as equal to her 10 years of misery and sexual dysfunction, because I guess a boy feeling mildly guilty for 5 minutes is the same as a woman feeling unhappy for 10 years? Because boys are 10 times as important as women?

The title is “Beware, women!” And I think maybe the writers and directors did not realize how literally that should be interpreted. Ranbir’s behavior isn’t “charming” and “boyish”, it’s the behavior of a true misogynist who just doesn’t see women as people. But, put a pin in that for a moment! The fun of the movie is what is built within the framework.

The jokes about DDLJ and romantic young women in the Manisha Lamba flashback are dead on, and super fun to see the kind of through-the-looking-glass version of the DDLJ romance. The Bipasha romance is fun, seeing the young people in the city. And the Bipasha revenge is super fun, seeing all the wacky things she makes him do. And Deepika has a running gag with multiple jobs all over the city, plus that “so many love letters I can’t open the door” is dreamy.

But if Ranbir had been, say, an international spy who had to seduce women for the good of the country. Or had a dying grandmother who kept emotionally blackmailing him to leave these women. Or ANY reason beyond “I want to satisfy my sexual needs, so I lied and manipulated and destroyed these women’s lives and went on my way and forgot them”, then the film would be a far easier watch.

Now that I look at the list, I think Siddharth Anand (the director) might specialize in sociopath heroes? His first movie was Salaam-Namaste where SPOILERS Saif and Preity are in a committed serious relationship but when she gets pregnant and decides to have the baby, he is furious and dumps her and offers no support, financial or emotional, seeing this as a “her” problem and not a “him” problem. END SPOILERS Then this movie, then Ta Ra Rum Pum Pum where a rich guy wastes all his money and then steals from poor people to make it up. And then Bang Bang, which I ADORE, but in that one at least the hero is consciously a sociopath. As someone who is not a randy young man, I have a very hard time watching these movies where all the non-randy young man characters are used and abused and forgotten while we all cheer, Yay Sociopath!

The weird thing is, this movie gives us enough of a story for Bipasha and Manisha that I actually care about them. But I think I’m not supposed to care about them? Or somehow I am supposed to care about Ranbir sooooooooooooo much more that I can forgive him for what he does to them?

And Bipasha and Manisha’s stories are truly heartbroken!!!! Bipasha was ready to give up everything for love, thought she and Ranbir were together because they were in love, only to be left behind in the worst way possible, not only heartbroken but given the realization that the person she was living with for a year saw her as only a convenient vessal for his sexual desires. Manisha’s first sexual experience was tainted and, it is implied, she was left unable to enjoy sex or believe in love. She married a perfectly nice man and built a life with him but was empty on the inside. For TEN YEARS!!!!! Those are the stories that deserve their own movie, these are the characters who truly suffered.

Instead, Bips is just given a lot of sexy songs. Like this one, which is Ranbir’s vision of her, because he is only capable of thinking of the physical, even related to a woman he lived with for a year.

But no, we just visit those stories, and then we come back to Ranbir and his “wa-wa, the woman who said she wasn’t looking for anything serious was telling the truth” heartbreak. That’s another thing the movie seems to be blind to, that Ranbir set out to hurt these women, but Deepika never intended to hurt Ranbir, never lied to him, he was the one who hurt himself. This is a very false equivalency, Ranbir didn’t just break up with these women, or turn down their love, he destroyed their lives.

The really sad thing is that with Bipasha at least, she is never going to be able to rebuilt her life. I guess because she isn’t married and had sex before marriage and so on, like an “evil” woman. And so she is left to tell Ranbir that her heart is dead and it is too late for her, and she sends him away. It’s terrible!!!! And a terrible message, that sexually active career women are doomed to lonely empty lives. Minasha is a little better, at least she gets to be completely happy and gets to be married to Kunal Kapoor, but she still had all those years of misery, as did her husband. She also deserves a better ending!

Not saying she deserves better than Kunal, because there is nothing better. But better than wasting the first years of their marriage not being truly happy.

Heck, even Deepika deserves a better ending! She didn’t want a romance, and then Ranbir left and her heart broke and she discovered she did love him and was miserable and heartbroken. Punished for…nothing? For being a woman who exists and has opinions that are sometimes not convenient for the man who is her current sexual partner?

So yes, this is a story of “women, look out”. Look out for Ranbir’s character, look out for Siddharth Anand’s view of the world, look out for an Indian mentality in which once a woman gives up her virginity, she becomes a less-then-person and nothing you do to her really matters.

Boy, I had a much stronger opinion on this movie than I remembered! I may have to reconsider my stand of “Ta Ra Rum Pum Pum is the one Indian movie I truly totally hated”.

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14 thoughts on “Friday Classics: Bachna Ae Haseeno, Ranbir is a Sociopath

  1. The only good thing about this movie is Kunal Kapoor and he is in it for approximately 10 minutes. Ranbir is a sociopath and overall horrible person. You don’t need to get your heart broken to realize that you are being a giant misogynistic douche! I also hate the way live-in relationships are portrayed in this movie. Living together does not equal unlimited sex!!! And I equally hate Ta Ra Rum Pum and the second half of Salaam Namaste for many of the same reasons.

    I do love Bang Bang. Maybe beause Hrithik isn’t isnt a playboy misogynistic jerk in that movie. It would be interesting to compare Bachna E Haseeno, Ta Ra Rum Pum, and Salaam Namaste against Bang Bang. Because if you look at Bang Bang on the surface, he technically drugs a girl multiple times and kidnaps her. Yet, it never feels creepy, or sexist, or stockholm syndrome-y. Just feels like a fun action-romance.

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    • Maybe it’s just that Siddharth Anand has no feel for relationships? With an action movie, you can just sketch in the relationships and not even pretend to care. But his other films have real real relationships in them, marriages and live-in and all kinds of things, and he just can’t handle them in a way that doesn’t feel scummy.

      Yes to the live-in relationships! It’s always phrased as “you lucky dog, you live with your girlfriend and have unlimited sex!” instead of being seen as just the same as marriage. Fights over groceries and so on. That’s one think Befikre got really well. They fall in love and do crazy things and have sex, and then they move in together and start fighting over the stupid things that come up when you live together. Plus, live-in is always seen from the boy’s side, like “oh wow, I tricked a woman into living with me, lucky me!” instead of looking at why the woman wants it.

      I just watched Luv Ranjan’s new movie and he handles live-in way better than this even, it is the woman he wants it and pushes for it because she doesn’t want to commit to a marriage until she is sure. That makes sense!!!! Ranbir charming Bips into moving in with him and thinking their relationship is still casual, that makes no sense.

      On Fri, May 24, 2019 at 8:04 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. So, even though I like Ranbir much more than many folks here, this movie will stay firmly on my list of “Watch the songs cuz they’re fun but no need to watch the movie” movies. šŸ™‚

    Also, your photo captions are on fire in this post and I LOVE it!

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    • Or, you save this movie for when you really need a hate watch. I need confirmation that it is as horrible as I think!

      I guess that’s where it is different from Ta Ra Rum Pum Pum. TRRPP is so bad in everyway, not even entertaining, that I object to people watching it and giving it views. This movie is at least entertaining and everyone worked hard on it, so I’m not actively angry at the idea of folks watching it. Just at the idea of folks liking the central character.

      On Fri, May 24, 2019 at 9:02 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Wasn’t minisha lamba brand new to Hindi film when she did this movie? I recall her having a significant but short career. I like her in this movie and the few others I saw her in.

    I saw this movie in the theaters contemporaneously. I remember enjoying it for its entertainment value but not enjoying the storyline, though while watching, I thought it was going to turn into a black comedy, where all the women exact a joint comedic revenge. Instead it turned out to be mote similar to High Fidelity. I also was skeeved out by Bipasha’s ending. They could have at least given her an arjun rampal ala preity in kank.

    Analogous to your post about overlooking sexual innuendo, I think at that point I was so resigned and inurred to imbalanced male behavior /female pain in Hindu cinema that it didn’t phase me in this film then as much as it would now.

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    • I’m thinking more and more about doing a discussion post or something on the sociopath hero in this era. I agree, I was innured to it too. I honestly didn’t think about how disgusting this movie was until I started writing the review and had it written out in front of me. It was never my super favorite, but I hadn’t thought through how truly horrible it is. Definitely a correction of “let’s show young people as they really are instead of the fake Sanskari hero!” and it went way WAY too far in the opposite direction. I think we are in a better place now, hero’s who aren’t virgins but aren’t sociopaths either.

      I think this is the only movie I’ve seen Manisha Lamba in but I vaguely remembered that it felt odd to see her in it. I think she had a big push and promoting when she started and then didn’t really take off, and out of nowhere 3 years later she got this movie and a few others. The rare second chance. Which also didn’t take and she faded away.

      You know what would have been a good ending? Ranbir returning to Australia to learn that Dips is marrying someone else, it’s not that she didn’t want a relationships, it’s that she didn’t want one with him. She gives him a stern talking to about how he never deals honestly with women, either seeing them for what they truly are or letting them see him. He realizes that Bips is the one person who truly knows him, and goes back to her.

      On Fri, May 24, 2019 at 9:41 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Nooo, that ending would be even worse because it would say: Girls, don’t lose hope. Your boyfriend is a douchebag, and he will hurt you and will sleep with many woman, but if you will be patient he will come back to you.

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        • Maybe he has that whole realization and goes back to Bips only to discover she has moved on with Arjun Rampal and doesn’t want him?

          On Fri, May 24, 2019 at 10:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Ha ha, for me the only satisfying ending would be with all girls gathering and beating Ranbir with sticks or Ranbir old and alone in his house thinking about awesome women he lost because he’s stupid.

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          • Oh oh! Dips and Bipasha get together!

            On Fri, May 24, 2019 at 11:02 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I only watched (and sadly bought) this movie because I was going through Deepika’s-filmography and saw that she made another movie with Ranbir (I liked already YJHD) so I thought their combo could only produce hits..well I was wrong. This is one of the most sexist, degrading and women-hating movies I’ve ever seen. Ranbir plays an unlikeable Playboy who only realizes his wrong doings when he himself gets dumped – what an entitled jerk. But even worse than Ranbir was his friend with the terrible-2003-frosted-tips-haidue, his comments about women literally make me shudder until this day- did the writers of this piece of trash really think that audiences would celebrate this kind of humour?! Anyways, the only good thing to come out of this were the female characters.. atleast partially. I did liked how tough Bipasha was and I absolutely loved Deepika as Gayatri! I loved how independent she was and that she knew exactly what she wanted. Of course such a well written, likeable female character couldn’t exist in an egomaniac-sex-crazed-Ranbir-Kapoor-Magnus Opus. Deepika’s character loses her backbone as soon as she falls in love with Ranbir and cries her eyes out and writes desperate love letters for that asshat to take her back -what a dissapointment. Really a shame that this movie was kind of a hit.. I dearly hope it was because of the music.

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    • Deepika’s character was so cool! Ambitious and interesting and legitimately not wanting love and marriage, at least not now. And then it all went away, for no particular reason. And not just at the opening, most of her screen time was happy in love with Ranbir, we only got a few scenes where she got to be her own person.

      On Mon, May 27, 2019 at 6:44 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Even though it was just for a few seconds I really hold her character Gayatri close to my heart (next to Veronica from Cocktail and Piku from Piku!). It’s just the sudden turn of events and her getting all lovey-dovey over some Playboy who ain’t special in the first place. I wished the movie would have ended with her NOT running back to him but giving a tough talk on how (even though he apologized to all these women) that she still could never be with someone that doesn’t has any kind of respect for her. Like she should have opened his eyes again and tell him that apologizing for his mistakes in the past was a good thing to do but that she would still not change herself for him. UGHH!! LIKE IT WAS RIGHT THERE!! WHY DIDN’T THE WRITERS DO IT LIKE THAT!??

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    • Not to mention the realization that he was still making mistakes in the present! If you call for a girl who told you she’s not into it, then you either suck it up and stay quiet, or you say your piece and take the rejection like an adult. He should have gone back and apologized to her too, for not respecting her clearly stated wishes.

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