‘Haseen Dillruba’ is a small-town crime-of-passion tale. The first few minutes of Haseen Dillruba are so frenzied that you kind of feel like taking a break from the screen. A guy passes away, there’s a wedding, Kanika Dhillon gets an unconventionally flattering credit. And it the movie doesn’t get any better from there.
Netflix India seems to be on a spree to serve audiences poor quality films on an almost monthly basis, but this — a very funny tale about the disaster of arranged marriage — and that is what disappoints the most.
Taapsee Pannu’s performance as a bored housewife named Rani quite unconvincing. In one moment she’s the standard Taapsee Pannu-type — brash but somewhat endearing — and in the next, she goes stunningly off-brand, and literally begs a man to accept her. It’s a jarring shift, considering how Rani had been presented to us. The issue here isn’t the change of heart — these things happen — but the film’s indifference towards its own senseless logic.
Haseen Dillruba Lacks the beauty it wants to create in audience minds
The set up in the movie might just look right, even though the patently fictional name for a real town sticks in the craw. ‘Jwalapur’, which our Rani is so sniffy about, looks like any of your North Indian small towns which has a mighty river flowing by. But given the thin skins we seem to have developed in terms of giving or taking offence, the names of places seem to have been the first to be dumped. A pity, because real names have weight, and the power to turn things around.
The friction between the newly-weds, the awkwardness when it comes to getting it on, the sarcastic comments about men being ‘phooski’ in bed, all comes rolling out, and the situation is ripe for transgression. There’s a massive blast, a badly-mutilated body, and a suspect on whom the local inspector (Aditya Srivastava) has drawn a bead. Will the culprit be found? Will the survivors live happily ever after?
There’s enough meat in Kanika Dhillon’s story (the writer gets top billing in the opening credits, a good move) to give us a story full of sex, lies and smutty video. But what’s missing is frisson, and a sense of shifting unease that needs to be such a crucial part of films like these: each roiling emotion is spelt out, and what you get is blandness. And flatness. I expected more from the director who gave us the impactful rom com ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’.
There isn’t a single minute of straightforward storytelling in Haseen Dillruba — it’s an assault on all senses, including that of the common kind. The film clocks in at a little over two hours — conventional, you might say — but don’t let that fool you. It feels like four. Haseen Dillruba is streaming on Netflix.