When you have made the romance Hindi movie that is held up as the gold standard, and is STILL playing in a theater 21 years after it’s release, that’s a lot of pressure. Aditya Chopra is an excellent producer, but has gone years between directorial projects. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is the film that started me on my love of Indian Cinema, and I watched Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi second — and I was a goner. It’s hard not to have super high expectations of an Aditya Chopra film. All three previous films that Chopra has personally directed had superstar Shahrukh Khan as the lead, an actor that he was instrumental in making a superstar with DDLJ. It was so monumental an announcement that Aditya was casting a new (for him) actor, that Ranveer Singh made a video announcing it and described how he cried walking out of Aditya’s office when he heard the news.
The first teaser trailer of Befikre is in fact the opening credits of the film, showing couples of all shapes, sizes, colors and orientation kissing all over Paris. Is this Aditya’s shot across the bow to the censor board? I certainly know I’ve never seen another Hindi film with so much kissing in it, much less gay kisses.
Our first glimpse of Dharam (Ranveer Singh) and Shrya (Vaani Kapoor) is when a TV is thrown out a window. It’s the breakup to start, and that is Aditya’s way of telling us this isn’t going to be like every boy and girl meet cute film. It has a Western and an Indian flavor to it. He pays homage to DDLJ in a few ways, with a song, and a field of yellow (could be mustard) flowers in the distance in a country scene. I also see touches of some of my favorite romantic Hollywood films. There’s a little When Harry Met Sally. The flashbacks forward and backward over and over was very much like 500 Days Of Summer. Aditya has taken elements from lots of Hollywood romances, but he makes this film his own, as he is the master.
Dharam is new to Paris, and he’s a stand up comic flown in from Dehli to headline a friend’s club. Have we ever had a stand up comic as an Indian romantic hero before? That also felt very modern to me. Shyra meets him at a bar, and their dynamic from the beginning starts with a dare. “If you do X, then I’ll go out with you.” ‘Desperate Dharam’ as Shyra calls him, is up for any dare, if it means he can spend more time with this fascinating wild creature. When he takes her dares, Shyra gets that little spark in her eye – here’s someone who gets me and will go on my kind of adventures. But she warns him from the first that she won’t be tied down and she doesn’t want him to fall in love with her. We’ve seen all that from the trailer. We’ve seen live in relationships in Hindi films, too, but this relationship definitely feels more modern, and Aditya’s gorgeous setting of Paris helps with that.
Shyra has grown up in Paris with parents from India and she views herself as French, but cooks Paratha when she needs comfort food. Her parents are stunned when she announces, “I’m not asking for your permission.” that she will be moving in with Dharam. He tries to make nice with them, by touching their feet. “Why did you do that?” she asks. “I just wanted them to know you weren’t moving in with a jerk.” The mom I recognized as one of the aunties from Dil Dhadakne Do.
Ranveer has his manic energy, and shows more skin than our herione. Not only is there the red underwear scene from the trailer, but he shows off his bare butt, too. I really, really liked Vaani Kapoor. I didn’t remember her really from her first film, Shuddh Desi Romance — I think she was the jilted bride. She is tough and quirky and independent and Shyra. The dancing they do together is fantastic. I don’t know that they had that timeless chemistry or heat that Kajol and SRK did, but then again, that was an extraordinary jodi.
In one of my favorite dialogues, Dharam apologizes for calling Shyra a slut in their breakup argument, “It was me who wasn’t experienced. I’m sorry for saying that.” What happens after Dharam and Shyra breakup becomes interesting, as they are best friends after some time blows over. This is where many Hollywood romances would start, as they have to cram the whole story into 90 minutes. She starts dating someone else, but he is not an a**hole, or a jerk. In fact, he’s almost too perfect, and too grown up.
This is the part of the movie that felt very much like the new guy was Patrick Dempsey in Sweet Home Alabama. He is a real choice, but maybe not the right choice. And maybe not the choice for Shyra that feels like “home”. He’s not a horrible stereotype like Simran’s fiance in DDLJ.
The third wheel actor was new to me, Armaan Ralhan, grandson of a director, so in the filmi family. He was nice and not just a boring drip of a banker, plus he was more than accepting of her best friendship with Dharam. He was great.
Things all come to a head in a rather slapstick, almost farcical silly Four Weddings and a Funeral climax way. It’s not the emotional angst and drama of the climax of DDLJ.
But you know what? Sometimes, a French macarons is just what you want. Lighter than air, oh so sweet, but sophisticated, too, and out of the ordinary.
Also — There’s a cute epilogue scene after the final credits song so stick around for that.
Still LOVE this song the best. So catchy!