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Phillauri review: Light and spirited but sluggish romantic comedy

Release Date: 24 Mar 2017 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 18min

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Suparna Thombare

Anshai Lal's film would have been a better experience if not for its languid pace.

Casper is Hollywood's iconic friendly ghost, and while in India we have mostly had the scary and murderous ones, so far the only ghost to win our hearts in Hindi films was Bhoothnath (2008).

So a light-hearted comedy that gives us a chance to experience a friendly and cute ghost like Anushka Sharma is welcome.

The spirit in this film is herself a little scared and confused about what exactly is happening to her and around her, leading to some interesting scenarios in the backdrop of a Punjabi wedding.

While some portions of Sharma's second production are for kids, many jokes and the flashback love story are more for adults. So it ends up being not entirely for children and not entirely for adults.

An NRI from Canada, Kanan (Suraj Sharma), comes to India to marry his childhood sweetheart, Anu (Mehreen Pirzada). Even as he is having nightmares about getting married, he has another big problem to deal with. The parents want him to marry a tree first, on the advice of their family astrologer, because he is manglik [misaligned astrologically]. And he is forced to go through with it. This hilarious take on the age-old custom turns funnier as it releases the spirit of Shashi (Anushka Sharma), who has been residing on the tree for almost a century. She begins to tag along with Kanan everywhere, creating havoc in his life.

What Anu dismisses as Kanan's bad trip on weed turns out to be the truth, leading to several comic situations. Kanan continues to be highly confused about whether he wants to marry, and Anu is still clueless and upset about her fiancé getting cold feet.

Suraj Sharma and Pirzada do a commendable job and carry all the scenes with confidence despite their lack of experience. Even then, some scenes of discord and confusion between them are a bit tedious due to Anvita Dutt's slow-paced screenplay.

That is also true of Shashi's love story in flashback where Anushka's innumerable teary scenes begin to feel tiresome. This love story runs simultaneously in spurts alongside the present.

Shashi's love story takes you back almost 100 years in Phillaur to how Shashi and Roop Lal (Diljit Dosanjh) fell in love with each other. Shashi is from an upper-class family, raised by a loving but dominating brother, who is a respected doctor in the village. On the other hand, Roop is a singer, who lives a wild life with lots of female attention.

Shashi also has creative inclinations, but she cannot pursue them as "acche ghar ki ladkiyan inn sab cheezon mein nahi padti [Girls from good homes do not indulge in these kinds of things]". Even as their two worlds begin to meet, some mysterious circumstances prevent the couple from getting married, adding suspense and twists to the plot.

Dosanjh is watchable as always. Anushka is natural and engaging in both timelines. 

The flashback portions have been shot tastefully in sepia tone to distinguish them from the colourful present-day shaadi scenes. Director Anshai Lal has paid good attention to detail — items like the gramaphone, ink pens, medicines and other elements of the time have been used well in this fictional account of the pre-Independence era.

While the music is average, the special effects used to depict Shashi as a ghost are praiseworthy. What affects the film majorly is its languidness. Many scenes linger longer than necessary, diluting their impact. This is especially true of the last scene, which is shot well and with good special effects, but doesn't make enough impact because it has been stretched.

Writer-director Anshai Lal has a fun idea but doesn't make the most of the premise he had. The comic elements are inconsistent and the screenplay feels sluggish. So, at 138 minutes, the film feels unevenly paced and long. And the constant shift between drama, poetic love and comedy does not allow you to settle into a rhythm. Phillauri is a light ghost comedy with a love story at its heart, where a spirit teaches a modern couple a lesson in the forever kind of love — a decent watch. But tighter editing by Rameshwar S Bhagat could have done this film a whole lot of good.