India's premier powerhouse of production and distribution, Yash Raj Films, is also well-known for the romance films that the production house has churned out over the years they've been active. With the kickstart of YRF's (as the prooduction house is now called) experimentation phase in the early 2000's, the viewer was able to witness a sudden insurgence of collaborations with new-age romance filmmakers like Shaad Ali, Kunal Kolhi, and - by decade's end - Maneesh Sharma. His striking debut with Band Baaja Baaraat followed up with an unoriginal and highly predictable Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl. Sharma now teams up with writer Jaideep Sahni (of Chak De! India fame) for yet another romantic comedy. Whilst Sahni struck gold with his collaborations with Shimit Amin, the more discerning film buff will also remember the lightweight Aaja Nachle, which unfortunately couldn't do much for Dixit's career at the box-office. This team-up, thus turns out to be a mixed-bag of expectations, howsoever promising the outer shell looks like. The expectant viewer walks in with only the hope that what has been strongly marketed will be palatably provided on screen.
The movie starts with Raghuram's (Sushant Singh Rajput; Kai Po Che) earnest breaking-the-third-wall monologue, explaining his plight of getting between the ardor of love and need for sex, and society's undying requirement of commitment, which kickstart's the story of his marriage with Tara (debutante Vaani Kapoor). During the hours that lead on to his marriage ceremony, he crosses paths with baaraati-on-hire Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra; Ishaqzaade), and runs away, questioning his path to commitment. Two weeks in, Raghu and Gayatri meet up. Sparks fly and they begin to live-in. One year in, and the spontaneous decision to marry leads to a surprising repurcussion, a lot of confusion, and a lot more running.
With the film's titles playing on screen, there's a certain atmospheric deja vu that surfaces. Most of it, however, ends fifteen minutes into the film. Sharma and writer Sahni's dextrous adaptation of the narrative technique that made many a Woody Allen film a surefire classic treads a dangerous road, yet succeeds. The film has raw, yet sharp-witted dialogues. Character arcs of the protagonists mirror the reality of today, never looking out of place for a single moment. What wouldn't work for a few sections of the audience is the filmmakers' act of taking their own sweet time to build upon important psychological ticks of all the characters. One important example is Vaani's character Tara and her dependance on aerated drinks to keep her calm and curb her disappointment with life and people. While this act will generate polarized reactions from audience expecting heavy-handed, pacy drama, it otherwise works beautifully well for the film, thereby reducing any possible risk of predictability.
Technically, the film is both eye and ear candy. The film boasts of some absolutely delicious cinematography (Manu Anand). The usage of high-speed recording in the camerawork of Gulabi visually enhances the chemistry of Rajput and Kapoor through and through. Editing by Namrata Rao (Kahaani) is quite clever. Loose ends are tightened, and situations are effectively milked. Production design is also something that deserves applause. Like Sharma's Band Baaja Baaraat, one gets to revel in the raw splendor of Jaipur and it's people. Special mention goes to the art direction of the film, that decides to add to the authenticity of the atmospheric proceedings. Talented musical duo Sachin and Jigar come up with quite a few chartbusting romance numbers, consisting primarily of Tere Mere Beech Mein and Gulabi. Let this writer state that the inclusion of just two songs throughout the whole body of a film of this genre is an impressive feat in itself.
The film would be incomplete without it's array of performers, and so would this review without their deserved appraisals. Sushant Singh Rajput is one of the best newcomers we've got this year. Bowling the viewers over with his performance in Kai Po Che earlier this year, Rajput comes back and delivers with equal passion. He successfully embodies his character's weird mixture of awkwardness and confidence without looking out of place. Although in the same mould as her previous films, the kitschy Parineeti Chopra gives out a bold, yet effortless performance. She delivers quite a few complicated, understated emotions with absolute ease. Debutant Vaani Kapoor is bound to strike each and every viewer as an extremely confident performer. Doing something of her character's type is like walking a tightrope, and yet she handles her delicately restrained role with absolute gusto. Rishi Kapoor (Agneepath, Do Dooni Chaar) is a must-watch-out-for performer here. The veteran is bound to make the audience laugh with each and every gem off a dialogue he's been told to enact. Because it's written with the sole aim of concentrating on just four characters, the movie fortunately leaves no space for over-crowding, save for some appreciable supporting performances. An impressing feat, this one.
Romantic comedies pass by quite frequently in Hindi cinema. Some make waves at the box-office, and some pass by without a sound. Shuddh Desi Romance is one of those rare ones that makes an impact. Chopra, Sharma and Sahni together bring the viewers a breath of fresh air with this smart relationship dramedy focussing well on the issues of the current generation, whilst boldly questioning the staunch principles of commitment society forces people to abide by. And if thatís not enough enough, watch out for the winning climax. Recommended.