Ranjan review: Yash, Gauri Kulkarni shine through Prakash Pawar's mediocre script

Release Date: 17 Feb 2017 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 16min

Cinestaan Rating

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Blessy Chettiar

Blessy Chettiar

Writer-director Pawar can take credit for extracting worthy performances from his artistes, but that doesn’t save the film from being boring in parts.

The limitations of the English language are on display if you have not seen the poster of Ranjan. What is likely to be pronounced as Ranjan (as in run-jan) is actually raan-zhan, meaning big pot. The similarities to the name and plot of Sonam Kapoor and Dhanush starrer-Raanjhanaa (2013) are unavoidable. In both films, the male lead chases the female lead from school days.

The big difference in Ranjan is that director Prakash Janardan Pawar actually casts school-going children to play, well, school-going adolescents on the threshold of puberty. The story revolves around four school friends Pratap (Yash Kulkarni), Raja (Pushkar Lonarkar) and two others. While the boys can barely read a sentence, they spend their free time talking about girls in their class, stealing glances and sharing premache 5 fundey (love tips). When Pratap falls for Madhu (Gauri Kulkarni), Raja comes to his rescue with his foolproof tips.

The premache 5 fundey are being reciprocated perfectly, until the fateful inter-school kho-kho match day where Madhu is captaining her school team. After winning the match, Madhu is deeply hurt when the visiting “English-medium” losers call her school a broken, crumbling building with no facilities. When Pratap expresses his love for Madhu, she places a seemingly innocent yet poignant demand that he rebuild the school if he truly loves her.

It would be far-fetched to think that the filmmakers are attempting to make a comment on the dilapidated condition of village schools and hence the rotten quality of education kids get. Far-fetched because the tale is about innocent adolescents yet to be introduced to the practicalities of life.

Now, whether Pratap manages to build a school and how he attempts to do so with his limited means (three pairs of helping hands?) at his disposal is what the second half is made up of.

Director Prakash Janardan Pawar uses animation scenes to enhance his storytelling, but these don’t add to the quality of the screenplay and seem gimmicky. The Shivaji Maharaj inspiration track is an important one, but is established very late. The story meanders around scenic locations in the first half as cinematographer Santosh Kadapure captures carpets of greenery, dams, forts and fields in all their post-monsoon glory. It is the second half where the film actually picks up.

The kids, especially Lonarkar as Raja, are entertaining. But Lonarkar tends to overact, expressing way more than is necessary for a scene. His performance is far from his adorable act in Paresh Mokashi’s Elizabeth Ekadashi (2014) where he was one of the three leads. The other boys passively add comic relief, a job given primarily to Lonarkar. In the first half, Yash Kulkarni plays a meek boy, depending on Raja’s outgoing personality and direction to go about his life, but takes a confident turn later to take charge of his troupe and the difficult task at hand (building a school).

The reserved performance is a mature call Kulkarni makes. His turn as a fan of the Maratha warrior king Shivaji is reminiscent of director Nitin Dixit's debut gem Avatarachi Goshta (2014) where he played supportive friend to the imaginative Mihiresh Joshi’s character.

Gauri Kulkarni looks every bit the teenager they needed and also delivers a guarded yet memorable performance as a shy, reticent girl. Both Yash and Gauri turn in good performances, often letting their eyes and faces do the talking. There are other characters who seem ornamental, though they are given enough screen time.

The strong vocals by Ajay Gogavale in the ‘Lagir Zhala Ra’ song sets the mood of the story and stays with you for a long time.

Writer-director Pawar could have made this tale much more crisp without these extra characters and their antics. He can take the credit for extracting worthy performances from his artistes, but that doesn’t save the film from being boring in parts. His basic story of impractical teenage love is handled deftly, but the addition of unnecessary tracks takes away from the premise.

Ranjan suffers from poor execution, even though the actors shine through it all. It had the potential of being counted among recent heart-warming children’s stories like Avatarachi Goshta (2014), Elizabeth Ekadashi (2014) and Balak-Palak (2012). But this Ranjan falls short right from the title itself.

Reviewed by Blessy Chettiar