Mumbai, 09 Jun 2017 15:00 IST
A bad script, shoddy screenplay and poor acting combine to make Raabta an unbearable watch.
'Sau saal pehle hame tumse pyaar tha, aaj bhi hai aur kal bhi rahega' (I loved you a 100 years ago, love you now and forever). Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar's evergreen song from Nasir Husain's 1961 classic Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai were no hollow words. The song perhaps became an inspiration for future filmmakers to create reincarnation dramas.
'Till death do us apart' tales were an emotional ride, but the reincarnation sagas draw widest cheers. Subhash Ghai's Karz (1980), Rakesh Roshan's Karan Arjun (1995) and Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om (2007) immediately come to mind. The genre has since lost its appeal. First time director Dinesh Vijan took on the mantle of breathing new life into the dying genre with Raabta (meaning connection). But does it strike the right chord with the audiences in 2017?
For starters, let's make it clear, save for the reincarnation theme, there's nothing common between SS Rajamouli's Magadheera (2009) and Raabta. End of debate. Over to Raabta.
So we have Shiv (Sushant Singh Rajput), a Punjabi casanova and banker who finds a job in Budapest, Hungary. Shiv has left Punjab, but not his philandering as he woos Hungarian girls with his cheesy sense of humour, and broken English tinged with Punjabi.
He bumps into Saira (Kriti Sanon), a chocolate maker. It’s love at first sight for Shiv, who uses the most painstaking cheesy lines to impress the girl. Saira reveals she has a boyfriend, but Shiv refuses to give up easily. He gatecrashes into Saira’s dinner date with her beau and succeeds in ending that relationship.
Shiv soon finds a match in liquor baron Zak Merchant (Jim Sarbh) who thinks, walks and talks like him. As Shiv is away in Vienna, Merchant charms Saira with his wit, style and money. The girl, however, refuses his proposal. Merchant spikes her drink and takes Saira far away to his deserted castle perched atop a lonely island.
What follows is a story from 800 years before. Saira was Sahiba, while Zak was Kaabir, two tribal warriors who grow up together. Kaabir believes Sahiba and he are meant to live forever. In comes Jheelan (Rajput), a rival warrior who is out to conquer Saira’s tribal kingdom, but ends up losing his heart. An all too familiar tragedy occurs and the trio is reborn as Saira, Zak and Shiv.
The plot was a forgone conclusion. What one was keen on seeing is how a director would revive a reincarnation saga in 2017. Vijan had confessed to being a reluctant director and sadly, his frailties are exposed badly. Vijan clearly lacked vision as he doled out a painstaking, boring and annoying near three-hour reincarnation drama. At the end of the film, you wished that the trio (Sahiba, Kaabir and Jheelan) were never reborn.
Along with Vijan, writer duo of Siddharth and Garima deserve flak for penning a dead script that leads to a torturous screenplay. The shoddy and cheesy dialogues makes the film simply unbearable to watch. But what hurts the film the most is the apalling acting.
Bearing the brunt is Rajput. How often have we seen an actor get a career defining role, and then follow it up with a disaster? Rajput displayed great skills of method acting in M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016), however, his attempts to play the ubiquitous, cheesy, blabbering romantic Punjabi munda fall flat. Shiv’s antics are more on the lines of stalking. His body language and mannerisms are quite an eyesore. Honestly, what impression would you have of a man who says, ‘chat bistar, pat byah’?
Also, why do Indian filmmakers have this poor perception that white girls are easy to woo? Some of Shiv's philandering makes you cringe. The less said, the better.
One would have expected Rajput to redeem himself in his avatar as Jheelan. Sadly, the actor is even more disappointing here. His eight-pack and chiselled body fails to breathe any life into this dying film. Rajput has tried to modulate his voice — ala Amitabh Bachchan in Agneepath (1990) — speaking in a tone that’s barely recognisable or clear.
Sarbh showed his talent in his maiden film Neerja (2016) playing the volatile, loose canon terrorist Khalid. He was required to bring similar madness in Raabta, but the character (Zak) lets him down. If not better, Zak is an equal to Shiv. He doesn’t have the cheesy lines, but Zak’s (fake) persona bores you just like Shiv’s. Sarbh excels in his angry outbursts, but he’s still a novice when it comes to playing the romantic anti-hero. The Parsi man has been candid enough to admit that Hindi is not his strong point. Sarbh has nowhere to hide as the tribal warrior Kaabir. His performance is quite meek.
There’s nothing great to write about Sanon, but at least, she doesn’t go overboard like Rajput. Her character confuses you. What really is Saira? Can a girl be easily wooed by a total stranger with the most cheesiest jokes? Is this a realistic character? Saira displays her vulnerabilities through many parts of the film. Past or present, she looks gorgeous in the two avatars. What ails Sanon though is that Sahiba is not a well etched out character. She appears to be oscillating between Sahiba and Saira while playing the tribal princess.
A bad script, shoddy screenplay and poor acting combine to make Raabta an unbearable watch. Neither Deepika Padukone’s poor dance show in the title track nor Rajkummar Rao's prosthetic look is enough to save the film. Vijan and his cast even make a mockery of Kishore Kumar’s classic track 'Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhagi Si' from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958). May be some love stories are best left buried in the past. Hard to strike a raabta (connection) with this Raabta.