'Haseen Dillruba' Review: Taapsee, Vikrant's Film Is Problematic Yet Engrossing
Review of Vinil Mathew's Haseen Dillruba starring Taapsee Pannu, Vikrant Massey out now on Netflix
Film Review: Taapsee Pannu -starrer 'Haseen Dillruba' Wants Us to Surrender to Its Pulpy Universe
There is one character in Haseen Dillruba whose name is mentioned many times over but we never get to see him - Dinesh Pandit. Panditji is a pulp fiction writer we are told. His crime thrillers have a magnetic pull. “Yeh chhote chhote shehron mein bade bade katal kara dete hain“. The reason I’m focusing on him is because irrespective of how many times his name comes up (which by the way it does quite regularly ) one can feel his presence throughout and frankly we are all the better for it, because the only way Haseen Dillruba truly works is if we unequivocally surrender to its pulpy universe. Writer Kanika Dhillon gently nudges us towards a complete suspension of disbelief as we become willing voyeurs of a racy, murder mystery with outlandish cliches and scandalous details .
Take for instance Jwalapur, where all the action unfolds. While there is an actual place by the same name but in the film it feels like such a place can exist only in the yellow tattered pages of an old pulp fiction novel. Rishab Saxena (Vikrant Massey) a 32-year-old engineer is all set to tie the knot with a spirited young Rani Kashyap (Taapsee Pannu). Rani shares a lot in common with other characters birthed by Dhillon over the years. Take Rumi from Manmarziyaan, Mukku in Kedarnath, Bobby in Judgementall Hai Kya. All these are feisty young women, brave and unapologetic to varying degrees. However with Rani we are allowed limited access. One wonders why someone like her, who is sorted in the head and clearly aspirational, agrees to marry Rishu, who it appears, hasn’t had much experience even playing the field. What is it that this alliance promises her?
But one soon realises that Haseen Dillruba isn't even interested in answering those questions. We play along because the details might be scarce but the plot is dense with uneasy suspense also thanks to Amar Mangrulkar’s foreboding background score and Vinil Mathew ‘s directorial flourishes.
The scenes where Rani is shown adjusting to the new sasural, the awkwardness between the newly weds, all fabulously come together with Amit Trivedi’s music lacing it with warmth and fun. Yamini Das in the role of Taapsee’s on screen mother-in-law is so good that one actually wishes the banter continues.
But the entry of an irresistible forbidden fruit in the form of Neel played by a mostly shirtless Harshvardhan Rane makes the narrative change gears. The story instead of focussing on the murder plays out like a psychological thriller exploring how dormant emotions can completely take over one's personality and transform them to the extent that they are hardly recognisable. Both Rani and Rishu’s personalities undergo a dramatic flip and it is to the credit of Taapsee and Vikrant Massey, who are so cooly evocative as they effortlessly settle into the changed pace. Harshvardhan is equally impressive and the terrific ensemble from Aditya Srivastava, Ashish Verma and Dayashankar Pandey give us their best.
Now, while the narrative is consumed by an overarching theme of revenge with pulpy flamboyance it just seems like it starts taking itself too seriously and that’s when the messaging becomes convoluted and deeply problematic. Putting any kind of toxic relationship on a pedestal and calling it as the supreme example of love and sacrifice is completely unacceptable and one wishes that those highly disturbing scenes were handled with more sensitivity and care. While they may be in a make-believe universe where passions run high, the treatment feels like Haseen Dillruba endorses these twisted tricks which to be honest is quite off-putting.
Having said that, one must acknowledge that Haseen Dillruba keeps us riveted for most parts at least. Taapsee and Vikrant are in top form ensuring we quite willingly get sucked into this pulpy universe.
Rating: 3.5 Quints out of 5
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