A nice-enough idea for a lower-middle-class love story is scotched by leads who just don’t belong in this milieu.
AUG 22, 2010 – HAVE YOU SEEN THE DIADEM CREATED BY a drop of blood as it descends from the brow of a beat-up fighter, crashes onto the floor and rises subsequently in striking slow motion? If not, I suggest you run-don’t-walk to Pradeep Sarkar’s Lafangey Parindey, which, a couple of scenes later, uses a similar slo-mo technique to detail the trajectories of droplets of water as Nandu (Neil Nitin Mukesh, playing the fighter) freshens himself while stooped over a sink. Had that drop of blood gravitated in real time and stained the ground with its horror or had those water droplets been allowed to (again, in real time) sting Nandu’s face so that every combat-deadened cell was shaken awake, this romantic drama might have acquired the jagged edge it so desperately deserved – but then Sarkar is the kind of filmmaker for whom the allure of the frame is as vital as the authenticity of the moment.
And yet, despite the fussiness of his filmmaking, we remain engaged, for a while, by the simple fact that there’s more to this love story than just the mechanics of boy (Nandu) and girl (Pinky, played by Deepika Padukone) getting together. At least on paper, Lafangey Parindey is an interesting idea – a love story fashioned from material more eligible for a morality tale. In films like Kinara and Dushman, the man who wronged someone attempted to make amends by bettering their lot, and much of the resultant drama was enacted around the dark nights of his soul. Here, all that angst is channeled, instead, into the quietly impressive score by R Anandh. (This is one of those films where it pays to actually listen to the songs, lyrics and all.) Very little such trauma, therefore, is in store for Nandu, who, as in those earlier films, wrongs Pinky and subsequently strives to make things right for her.
Unaware of Nandu’s contribution to her condition, Pinky falls for him, and if there’s a twinge in his conscience, we aren’t allowed to feel it. For that matter, there’s a noose closing around Nandu, thanks to police investigation of a crime he was involved in – and we aren’t allowed to experience that tightening. There’s a smaller danger in the form of the duplicitous Usman Bhai (Piyush Mishra), who runs the fights that Nandu routinely wins – and we aren’t allowed to feel that menace either. These portions are, to this love story, what unyielding parents, say, would be in another – mere hurdles to be surmounted. The slow blossoming of the relationship between Nandu and Pinky is what Sarkar is interested in, and to his credit, he charts a wholly believable trajectory – feelings of mutual attraction and declarations of love do not occur until well into the second half, and even when they do, they’re refreshingly muted.
The problem is that this conceit on paper never really catches fire on screen, primarily due to the fact that Neil Nitin Mukesh and Deepika Padukone are the last two people you’d expect to find on the grimy streets of tapori-lingo Mumbai. The way he chews his food with his lips elegantly pursed, the way she daintily crosses her legs while seated, or even the way they look and the clothes they wear and the way they speak – nothing, just nothing, rings true. (Remember the model-perfect Zeenat Aman trying to peddle rustic earthiness in Satyam Shivam Sundaram, and you have the general idea.) What’s worse, they’re surrounded by a group of excellent actors who look and feel and sound real, and even Pinky’s perennially shirtless layabout-brother, who appears in about one-and-a-half scenes, convinces us he’s more of a lived-in character than these two impostors, whose story we’re supposed to invest in.
And that’s a pity because, otherwise, there is a lot to savour – like the incipient romantic moment where Pinky teaches Nandu to look for shapes in clouds, or the way Aage bhi jaane na tu (from Waqt) playing on the car radio gently hints at unknown terrors ahead. One of Sarkar’s most visible qualities as a filmmaker is empathy, and his embrace extends to everyone. Pinky’s ambition, like that of the heroine of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, is to win a reality show. At the end of the preliminaries, when Pinky and Nandu are waiting to know if they’ve progressed to the next round, the emcee announces, “Aamchi Mumbai se…” – and we cut to the revelry in the humble neighbourhood that Pinky and Nandu hail from. This win belongs as much to them as to their near and dear ones, and that’s the real appeal of these fifteen-minutes-of-fame reality shows. They let everyone feel they have a hand in shaping stars – never mind that, sometimes, these very stars fail to shine.
Copyright ©2010 The New Sunday Express. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.