Oh boy, a review of an old movie I just watched for the first time! This should be lazy and fun.
When Maneesh Sharma wanted to make the movie Fan, he took the script to Adi and Adi said “keep working on it, you aren’t quite there”. Adi did not say that when he took him the script for this movie, and he really should have. It’s got some lovely ideas, but it just isn’t quite there.
One thing that is really interesting about this movie is the way the hero is handled. He’s the hero, but he’s not the protagonist. We don’t get anything from his point of view until well into the film. Mostly we are seeing people react to him. It’s a fun role for Ranveer, because he gets to be sort of a characture and be whatever folks want him to be, but it isn’t really a star role. You can’t fall in love with the Ricky Bahl character because you never really know him until the very very end.
On the other hand, the three female friends Parineeti Chopra and Dipannita Sharma and Aditi Sharma get LOADS of perspective moments. The audience relates to them totally because we are there for their journey. It’s just the hero who is opaque. And also a little bit the heroine. Anushka gets more backstory and motivation than Ranveer, but she still isn’t introduced until late in the film and has few honest moments.
I guess the biggest problem is the first half/second half issue. We spend the first half getting to know and love Pari, Dipannita, and Aditi. And then they are dropped in the second half more or less and we have to struggle to understand and care for Ranveer and Anushka.
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We start with Pari, a spoiled very inexperienced young rich woman. She is in love with her trainer from the gym, Ranveer. Ranveer tells her about his fabulous family bungalow that he can’t sell because of nasty tenants. Pari’s Dad kicks the tenants out for him, and then rushes in to buy the bungalow at a discount. Only to learn that it was all a scam, Ranveer didn’t own the bungalow at all, and he has disappeared with the money. Then he Ranveer enters the life of Dipannita, a successful career woman looking to impress her boss. He convinces her to buy an MF Hussain painting and give him a cash commission. But it turns out to be fake and Ranveer has disappeared. Dipannita goes on TV outing the scam and it sounds familiar to Pari, so she calls her and sends Dipannita a photo of Ranveer to confirm. And then Aditi calls Dipannita too. She is a young widow in Lucknow who runs a family textiles store. Ranveer approached her as a young artisan trying to sell exquisite handworked fabric. Her family paid him an advance, and he disappeared. The three woman join together and use detective work to track Ranveer down. Then decide that the best revenge would be to trick him into giving his money back. They hire smart shopgirl Anushka to work with them and pay for her to stay at a luxury hotel in Goa as a fake rich woman. She pretends to be a rich American wanting to open a restaurant in Goa. Ranveer shows up as a “guide” and flirts with her. She convinces him to help fund her start up for the restaurant and they get their money back. But she and Ranveer start to fall in love for real. In the end, Ranveer learns she is working against him and tricks her in turn by selling her swampland. And then has a change of heart and returns the money and professes his love.
The part of the film that is really fun and special and different is seeing the three women come together to defeat Ranveer. They are all such different characters with different backgrounds, and the film respects their intelligence. Pari is a spoiled rich girl, but also smart enough to sneak a photo of Ranveer. Dipannita is an unpleasant ambitious woman, but also determined enough to track Ranveer down. Aditi is a quiet old-fashioned widow, but fearless. So many layers to this part! We see that Ranveer picked woman who had the confidence/power to be useful to them. But at the same time he underestimated them, didn’t think these women would ever work together. There’s a whole gender message here, Ranveer is using these women as a soft entry point to the men around them who have the real power/money, Pari’s father and Dipannita’s boss and Aditi’s family. But what he doesn’t expect is that the women would break off and hunt him down on their own, that they would feel a personal anger over what he did. He knows that the men around them won’t do anything because it would be too humiliating to admit their failure and the women aren’t even a factor in his calculations.
The film also is very very careful in how the cons from Ranveer are crafted. He never crosses a line, never takes physical advantage of the women. Never even over-promises, he doesn’t mention marriage to anyone. He is using these women as a stepping stone and then forgetting them. There is no “woman scorned” or “woman shamed” kind of anger incited by his scams. He isn’t an evil abuser like many men easily can be in Indian society (promising love and taking virginity, leaving behind shame and regrets). He is just a conman who has learned to respect women as powers in a social structure, while still underestimating them.
All of that is great! It just feels like the movie didn’t know where to go from there. The easy answer was to swing over to a romance plot, make it all about Ranveer and Anushka getting together and let the more complicated ideas go away. But it’s such a pity! Ranveer and Anushka have great chemistry, and there is nothing actively wrong with their romance, the fake-rich shopgirl and the conman falling in love is cute enough. It’s just so much less interesting than watching Pari and Aditi and Dipannita come into their own by working together.
I’m not sure where I want the movie to go. Definitely the three women need to track down Ranveer. But maybe instead of hiring Anushka, they can craft a totally different kind of con to catch him? And maybe each have their own romances along the way (like, Dipannita is romanced by the shy tech guy, Aditi by the smooth hotel concierge, Pari by the fast talking young street con artist)? Keep Ranveer as the smooth guy you love to hate, keep him as the mystery instead of this awkward last minute humanization.
Just needs another rewrite somehow, a little more time marinating before release.