Director: Abhishek Varman | Year: 2014
Looking at the trailers I too thought that it was a rather bland affair, lacking the wild imagination and comic energy of 3 Idiots. The film , as I found out, was trying for neither. What it does try is to tell a story, sincerely. It’s a good story. The characters are real and relatable. The performances are heartfelt and convincing.
The hero of the film, in more ways than one, is Chetan Bhagat, because the film follows the book verbatim. And also it is the true story of Bhagat’s life. The love story of a Punjabi boy from Delhi and Tamil girl from Chennai is just one part of it. There is his troubled relationship with his army father and his dream of being a writer. Arjun Kapoor nails the character perfectly , bringing out the angst convincingly. First Vicky Donor and now this – it is refreshing to see these soft-hearted Punjabi males falling for Bengali or Tamil women, without a shred of machismo seen in typical Bollywood Punjabi heroes, pining for their lady loves more than the ladies themselves, who are a little more confident and self-assured.
I am not a big fan of realism, but I was quite drawn in by the natural progression of Krish and Ananya’s relationship as portrayed in the film. Both Arjun and Alia look their part, and Alia is such a natural, with her sunny, confidence personality, that you can see why Krish, coming as he does from a fragile home of estranged parents , falls hook line and sinker for her and contemplates suicide at the prospect of losing her. Thankfully, the film does not attempt the typical campus portrayal with a menagerie of quirky characters. The arc of Krish and Ananya’s romance is pretty much what the first half focuses on. I always liked the way Chetan writes sex. Here Ananya asks Krish , if it was his first time. ‘ With you? Of course.’ he replies. Prodded further, he tells her about Rashmi, the professor’s daughter at IIT, Delhi. I like the honesty, which is what marks out Krish. And I like the way it establishes the link with Chetan Bhagat’s earlier book, Five Point Someone.
Shhankar-Ehsaan-Loy are in top form here, aided by the fresh and smart lyrics of Amitabha Bhattacharya. Dil ka dimaag se / Jhagda lagaaya kise/Peechhe ke darwaaze se ae./ Dabe paanv aaya kaise – Amitabha writes in ‘ Offo’. Ho akhiyaan kare jee hazoori / Maange hai teri manzoori – he pleads in ‘ Mast Magan’. Tujh bin suraj mein aag nahi re / Tujh bin koyal mein raag nahi re – he laments in’ Chandaniya’. Nothing extraordinary about their picturization – but thankfully, they have been placed at the right places.
The Tamil and Punjabi community tics are mildly funny, but they are played out not so much for raising big laughs as for providing genuine insights into the communities. Unlike what unthinking critics say, the parents are not portrayed as stereotypes. They are etched using archetypical Tamil and Punjabi templates, but they are genuine characters with individual signatures too. You can see what are the insecurities of each of the four parents are. Reavthy perhaps knows she is never going to be a great singer, and her husband resents the fact that his boss is going to make the presentation that he prepares ( the price that one pays for not having the guts to be an entrepreneur.) . Ronit Roy is the army man who can’t find his bearing outside the military life and alcohol only makes him more aggressive. Amrita Singh leans heavily on her son after being forsaken by her husband, and is very afraid of losing that hold over Krish.
We feel for Krish who is trapped between these damaged characters. He is mortally afraid of losing Ananya, and he is equally afraid of hurting his mother who he knows has been hurt enough. You feel his weariness when he says to his mother , ‘ I am tired of filling in for father .’ The scenes of Krish with his father and mother are touching , both Amrita Singh and Ronit Roy playing their characters superbly. It also shows the tragedy of an earlier generation of Indians who let societal pressure constrict their lives so much that they wanted to control their children’s live in revenge. It also shows how the younger generation is learning to break out of this trap, managing to live on their own terms , and taking the older generation along with them. It is so heartening.
Heartening it is also to see how aware and appreciative we have become of cultures of other communities. Both in Chennai Express and this, the girls look lovely in silk sarees and flowers in their hair, and the Tamil marriage ceremonies look gorgeous too with a sea of men in white silks and women in more resplendent colours.
In the end, like Krish, the film too wins our heart , making up for what it lacks in flamboyancy, with its sincerity and utmost decency.
- Gina Yahaan