My Bollywood binge of sorts at the theaters last weekend culminated with Bachna Ae Haseeno, starring Ranbir Kapoor, Minissha Lamba, Bipasha Basu, and Deepika Padukone, and with music by Vishal-Shekhar. Seeing this without a fast-forward button at my disposal had its risks. While those risks were worth taking (for Minissha!), they warranted concern, and the inconsistencies in the second half of the film sadly validated this. Some of it was fun, and it wasn't a bad film at all, far from it. But it wasn't very good either, which was a shame, because there was much potential that was somehow not exploited to the fullest. Here are some notes:
1. Enjoyed the choreography (Ahmed Khan) in the title song with the opening credits, a remake of the Kishore Kumar classic from Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin (1977) starring Ranbir's father Rishi Kapoor. The song was well done by Vishal-Shekhar -- a tolerable remix for a change (although those English lyrics were average at best).
2. The film was a chronicle of the love life of Raj Sharma (Ranbir Kapoor), through various stages of his life, and with three women. This was serialized, and I liked how it was packaged. Ranbir did well. Liked his acting in Saawariya, and liked it here. I think between him, Imran Khan and Farhan Akhtar, we should begin feeling confident in the next generation of Bollywood actors who'll eventually take the lead. The sources aren't surprising, are they? Well done Ranbir!
3. The first sub-plot involved Mahi (Minissha Lamba), who ran into Raj while vacationing in Switzerland. Mahi suffered from a Dilwaale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (1996) hangover, which was very intentional and well done. And this segment of the film (during which I missed Amrish Puri) suffered from a DDLJ and Jab We Met (2007) hangover.
I enjoyed it more than the others, mostly because of Minissha. My favorite song from the film -- Aahista Aahista (by Shreya Ghosal and Lucky Ali) -- appeared here and was well picturized. A scene on the bench was well done (and with some innovative poetry).
Minissha could have used less make-up, and I wondered how she didn't freeze to death wearing merely a denim jacket, dancing in all that snow! Turns out (per this article) the person in charge of the wardrobe, Aki Narula, is the one who gave Priyanka Chopra a thick velvet jacket in the Malaysian summer in Don (2006) :o)
But Minissha's acting made up for her wardrobe. And the first end to this story was nicely done, with Mahi understanding Raj's point-of-view soon enough (that's the glass-half-full take), leaving her in shambles and distrusting of love. Sentiment well captured. What a jerk Raj was! No one behaves like that with Minissha and gets away with it!
4. The second sub-plot involved Radhika (Bipasha Basu). This one started out very well, much better than I'd anticipated. By now, Raj was working at a [video] gaming unit in Bombay. And Bips was in fine form.
From the moment she shed a tear, however, the film went downhill, and fast. I might not be qualified to judge acting skills, but it doesn't take much to realize this could surely have been done better. Yet, the first end to this sub-plot was decent and tolerable. The only major complaint I had was the way in which marketing in the consumer technology industry was portrayed (here and throughout the film), which was silly. This, I think I am qualified to judge, especially in the case of the Raj's profession and maybe even the organization he worked for ;)
5. On to the third sub-plot. So Raj had, to say the least, caused much damage in the lives of Mahi and Radhika. Now he was in Sydney, Australia, and perhaps in love with Gayatri (Deepika Padukone). She was a business school student who quoted The Wall Street Journal (good detail, and the percentage increase in sales number she used was very close to reality at the point in time).
She drove a cab and worked at a supermarket to support her education. There was a scene at the supermarket centered around the articles Raj wanted to purchase. Somehow, and rather smartly I thought, they managed to pull off a scene with visual depictions of contraceptives which did not appear filthy. I don't know whether that should be a compliment or otherwise. Oh, and someone needs to consult Raj on his choice of magazines ;)
The song Small Town Girl (the only below average track in the soundtrack) had brief glimpses of dance steps from two of the more iconic songs of the decade -- Kajra Re (Bunty Aur Babli (2005)) and Paathshaala (Rang De Basanti (2006)). And Khuda Jaane, one of my favorite songs, had much to like -- the camera work, locations, costumes, and most of all, Shilpa Rao (the singer) in yet another fantastic song. She sang some of my favorite songs in 2007, and she made this one better than it was. Loved it!
The first half of this segment ended fittingly, with Raj being dumped for a change, after which he decided to go seek forgiveness from Mahi and Radhika.
6. So we were taken back to India (in Punjab) and with Mahi and her family. As predictable as this segment was, it was well done, and included a special appearance by an actor who played a major role in Rang De Basanti (no, not Aamir Khan)! A highlight in this piece was music at a wedding, including Shava Shava from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) and the wonderful Punjabi folk song Kala Sha Kala.
As much as I would like to ignore this...my biggest disappointment in the film also came from here. Raj was shown having a conversation with Mahi's children (who were, at the most aged 11, given the length of her marriage at the time) on Halo 3, a popular video game available exclusively for the gaming console that dominated product placements in the film. Now, that would have been all fine and dandy, except that the Electronic Standards Review Board content rating for Halo 3 is (this verbatim from halo3.com): Mature 17+; Blood and Gore; Mild Language; Violence. Yes, they did (tsk-tsk). It couldn't have taken much to research this before presenting it in that context (the ratings stand for something, do they not?). Go figure :'(
7. Liked how the plot took us back to Europe and a redefined Radhika, who'd picked herself up since Raj had left her devastated, and was an immensely successful celebrity. Radhika's message (she had a strong one) was diluted with some very unnecessary and loud acting and dialogue, which went on for too long. Like Radhika, the film suffered an identity crisis, and could have absolutely done without these bits. Its lack of value was quite obvious.
The song Lucky Boy objectified men for a change (evidenced with the lyrics: 'need a man *that* can get me...', not '*who* can get me'), which I doubt many of us guys minded too much given Bips was provided a platform to perform to her strengths ;)
This segment could have been much better, though. The last scene in the sequence did well to salvage the point and convey effectively the emotional depth of Radhika's character, which had not come to the fore as well, earlier. I'm all for poetic justice, but I longed for more creative (and believable) ways for Radhika to inflict the harm she intended. And Raj could not have been *that* desperate for forgiveness. If he was, he was a miserable negotiator for his profession to have gotten himself in that position (or maybe it was the jerk at work again).
8. And finally, we were taken back to Australia and some decision-making that the characters were confronted with. This was where the film stood out, and I think the dialogue and its delivery had the most to do with it. Would Raj be forgiven? Would he find true love? Would those wronged by him ever believe in true love? Whose hearts would break? For answers to these questions, see Bachna Ae Haseeno.
Bachna Ae Haseeno had its moments. The cinematography was sleek, the songs mostly good, the acting mostly good too (except for maybe Bipasha as noted above, which was forgivable). Had they retained the momentum from the first half going, it would have been a lot better overall.
I have never had issues suspending disbelief, but this film seemed to struggle with moments that were very real, and some that were too over-the-top. That might well have been intentional, but it often left me longing for the middle ground. That probably explains the roller-coaster of goods and bads this review has been. It was a little too inconsistent in the second half, which was a shame, because the actors deserved better for their efforts. I am going with three stars for a film that is much better than merely tolerable, but much less than a must-see. Don't expect much from it, and you'll find that it's worth at least one watch.
Movie rating: 2.75/5 (Above average)
If you are a fan of any of the actors, you'll find enough to appreciate.
My classification: PG-15
Music rating: 3.25/5 (Good!)
Official website: http://www.yashrajfilms.com/microsites/bah/bah.html