Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bachna Ae Haseeno

Bachna Ae Haseeno (Beware, Beauties; 2008) is an enjoyable time-pass, as they say, but it could have been more. The premise--a man seeking out past girlfriends in order to apologize for his caddish behavior--seems promising. Alas, somewhere between Aditya Chopra's story and the realization of the film, something goes amiss.

(As an aside, the title of the film is taken from an R. D. Burman song for the film Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin (1977), which starred Rishi Kapoor--father of Ranbir Kapoor, the male lead in Bachna Ae Haseeno. Ah, Bollywood...)

Warning: some spoilers follow.

We see Raj (Ranbir Kapoor in a far more assured and enjoyable performance than in his debut Sawaariya (2007)) romancing three women at different stages of his life. First there's the naïve Mahi (convincingly played by Minissha Lamba), whom he meets during a pre-college Eurail tour. The parallels to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)--coincidentally written and directed by Aditya Chopra--are underlined explicitly (not to say relentlessly). Like DDLJ's Simran (Kajol), Mahi dreams of being swept off her feet by an irresistible romance, but in reality will be returning to India for an arranged marriage. Unlike DDLJ's Raj (Shah Rukh Khan), though, Raj doesn't follow her. Instead he brags to his buddies about how far he's gotten with Mahi during the 24 hours they spent together after missing the train. Mahi overhears his boasting, and her dreams of romance are shattered.

Six years later, Raj is in his mid-twenties and is living in Mumbai with aspiring model Radikha (Bipasha Basu; I've never been Bipasha's biggest fan, but she does a creditable job here). When Raj and his game-design partner Sachin (Hiten Paintal) win a coveted posting to Sydney, Radhika plans for a wedding on the eve of what she assumes will be her departure with Raj. But Raj, panicking at the thought of commitment, lies to her about when he's leaving. Radhika is left waiting at the altar as Raj and Sachin jet off to Sydney.

Six years after that, Raj--now the thirtyish head of a highly successful game-design team--has obviously been enjoying the hedonistic nightlife of Sydney to the hilt. But then a late-night encounter with gorgeous taxi driver/convenience-store clerk/MBA student Gayatri (the stunning Deepika Padukone) has Raj suddenly rethinking his aversion to commitment. Gayatri, though, is a smart and determinedly independent woman who isn't ready for marriage and refuses to be kept by Raj. It's refreshing to see a female character in a Bollywood film for whom marriage isn't the supreme goal, and who can go to bed with a man she's attracted to without getting punished by the screenwriters.

Instead, it's Raj who is hurt when he unwisely decides to push the marriage issue, and gets a bitter taste of his own medicine. He then decides that he has to make amends to Mahi and Radhika for his past cruelties. He's in for some surprises, though...

On the plus side, the actors are all appealing, the locations (Switzerland, Bombay/Mumbai, Sydney, Italy, Thailand and Amritsar) are beautifully shot by director Siddharth Anand, and Vishal-Shekar's music (apart from the wretched English-language rock soundtrack that crops up repeatedly in Sydney) is catchy, especially Raj and Gayatri's "Khuda Jaane" (sung by Krishna Kumar Kunnath and Shilpa Rao):




But the Curse of the Second Half strikes Bachna Ae Haseeno in a major way. Disbelief has to be suspended past the breaking point, odd compressions and expansions of time occur (when Raj returns to India to find Mahi and Radhika, reference is made to a "4 days/3 nights" package; it turns out later that he's been gone a full year!), and there are multiple undermotivated reversals.

Despite the increasingly unconvincing script in the second half, Bachna Ae Haseeno is worth watching for the performances, especially those of Deepika, Minissha and Ranbir, and for the eye-candy. Beyond that, keep your expectations in check.

8 comments:

  1. I agree on both counts - curse of the second half and fun time-pass.

    The problem that I saw with Bachna Ae Haseeno was Deepika Padukone and what was either her inability to portray a complex character or the script forcing her character into an easy ending.

    I would have been a lot happier if her character had been used as a bridge between the old Raj and the new Raj, leaving the old Raj to set things straight with Minnisha Lamba's character and then either end up with Bipasha or alone.

    It just didn't make sense for this character who so hated the idea of marriage to do a 180 degree turnaround for no reason. She wasn't a 'player' like Raj had been - just independent - and it doesn't help that Deepika's idea of acting is to smile pretty for the camera. How someone can have no chemistry with Ranbir Kapoor is beyond me...

    *sigh*

    If I rewatch, I'll just have to stop just after Bipasha exits the screen for the final time.

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  2. Filmi Girl, I don't think the problem in the movie lies with the actors, but with the script. As you say, Gayatri's 180-degree turnaround simply makes no sense. Neither, really, do any of the sequences in the second half. Your suggestions for alternate endings are much better than what the filmmakers came up with.

    As for Deepika and Ranbir, I didn't notice any lack of screen chemistry. And I thought Deepika actually did a good job with her role, given that the screenwriters made her character unbelievable in so many ways. On the other hand, maybe I was just dazzled by that incredible smile...

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  3. If Gayatri hadnt done her 180 degree turn and admitted a fondness for marriage (and Raj's cuteness) the movie would have bombed! Good Indian girls have to recognise the superiority of the marital bond and Bipasha's character proves her goodness by willing to sacrifice her career for marital bliss.

    For all its flaws though, I really enjoyed the novelty of a playboy hero who not only faces up to his actions but has to work hard to earn forgiveness (as opposed to making baby-faces of remorse and being instantly forgiven by his extremely forgiving victims). Besides, a movie that makes a comedy (not "art" film) out of a male's bad behaviour to women gets my vote any day!

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  4. Bollyviewer, of course one of the iron laws of Bollywood is that there has to be a happy ending in which the main couple is united in marriage. And the story was written by Aditya Chopra, which means that despite appearances, traditional values will inevitably be reasserted at the end. As you point out, it's not abstinence but a desire for marriage that qualifies Radhika and ultimately Gayatri as a Good Girl.

    It's just that Gayatri's reversal on the question of marriage is completely unmotivated and goes against everything the character has said and done (as far as we know) up to the final five minutes of the movie. Not for the first time in a Bollywood film, I realize...

    Still, for having Raj come to terms with the emotional pain he's caused, and for showing Gayatri in a positive light even before she changes her mind about marriage, Bachna Ae Haseeno is an unusual film. I think the movie would have been better, though, if the screenwriters hadn't rushed to end it so abruptly.

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  5. Hmm. Hmmmmmm. This one's been at the bottom of my "watch this eventually" pile for ahwile - every time I think about prioritizing it, about ten other things sound better, more interesting, more creative, whatever.

    Does it seem Ranbir is on his way to being capable of holding up the mighty Kapoor hheritage?
    A playboy Kapoor is hardly a stretch, is it ;)

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  6. Beth, I'd say save this one for the moment when you really need the vicarious pleasure of seeing a guy grovelling (as he deserves to) for forgiveness from his ex-girlfriends. Or when you want to see how beautiful beautiful people look when they're cavorting in beautiful locations. If you're looking for a compelling story with believable situations, I think you'll have better luck hunting elsewhere in your "watch this eventually" pile.

    As for Ranbir, his role may not be much of a stretch, but I was more impressed with his performance here than in Saawariya. I don't think he's in danger of being typecast quite yet...

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  7. Am I missing something or have you really not discussed Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham?

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  8. Nicole, you're not missing anything--I really haven't written in depth on K3G or (apart from a couple of capsule descriptions of Kal Ho Naa Ho) any of the other Karan Johar/Shah Rukh Khan collaborations. A grievous oversight that I will do my best to correct in the near future.

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