What possibly could an aspiring figure skater from a Mumbai chawl share with a local hero, a boxer who knocks his opponents down in one swift, full-fisted punch? A lot, perhaps. But in Pradeep Sarkar’s new film Lafangey Parindey, true Yash Raj-style, they share too much love.
Time to shatter the Yash Raj myth. The myth that it does romances much better than others. No longer, because it is obvious after many unsuccessful, unacclaimed love stories from the banner that the love in their films is not only sugar-coated, but outdated. We have seen much better love stories. Jab We Met is just one example. Lafangey Parindey can be counted as one of the worst films of 2010. In writing, direction, performances and even cinematography, it is not even a little above the ordinary. The production house needs to seriously rethink its big-budget films; a good hit has eluded it in years.
The film is set in a Mumbai chawl and the milieu is Maharashtrian. An aspiring figure skater Pinky (Deepika Padukone) meets with a near fatal accident and loses her sight. She is adamant not only about getting back on her feet, but also resuming dance, her only passion. She is the chawl girl who dreams of living outside the chawl. So far, so Mumbai. For reasons other than pity, Pinky gets support from Nandu, a boxer nicknamed “One Shot Nandu” (Neil Nitin Mukesh) because of the one deadly punch he musters in every match. He brings in money for a petty local goon. Nandu and Pinky team up for a talent hunt contest. Will their dreams come true?
You know right from the beginning of the first half how this movie will end. But the way to that climax is a long, repetitive, formulaic and loud one. Lafangey Parindey is a wearisome heap of clichés.
The screenplay has many unnecessary scenes, meant only to convey that the couple are falling in love. In fact, they are falling in love through the film. It’s a classic Yash Raj tool, perhaps to accommodate as many songs as possible. The couple are never quite a couple till the end. Here, it does not work because the actors are sorely mismatched as a couple. There are no great romantic moments. The end is so illogical that the most stubborn suspension of disbelief will not stop you from gasping. The dialogues are banal: “Dard aur mard mein sirf ek hi farq hai; dah aur mah”. There are many fit-inducing dialogues such as this one.
This is Sarkar’s second film after his beautiful debut as feature film director of Parineeta. It was visually rich and pretty, even though not based on an excellent story or script. He has been a very successful director of commercials, and his visual language can be glib. But in Lafangey Parindey he does not have a lot to show. There’s an ordinary candy-floss quality to the way Mumbai has been captured in the film—without great imagination. Barring the scenes in the chawl, where there’s attention to detail, it’s the same old Mumbai—of Marine Drive and Opera House, with a few scenes with the Bandra-Worli Sea Link thrown in.
But what strikes the death knell for Lafangey Parindey is performance. The lead actors, more glaringly Mukesh, are mediocre. Padukone seems like a terrible mismatch. She doesn’t convincingly get the body language and the city’s street Hindi right. She comes across as too urbane to be a gritty chawl girl driven by the desire to rise above the circumstances she was born with.
Mukesh desperately needs to learn acting; a crash course from Roshan Taneja, Mumbai’s famous acting teacher, at least. He has not displayed great talent as an actor in his last few films, all of which have been what are termed “negative” roles in Hindi movies. Here, he is meant to be the soft guy with a tough exterior—not a very tough act. But he has two staple expressions through the film. The dialogues are chewed up, and his sense of timing in a scene is extremely poor. He seems to have completely lost the abilities he showed in his debut film Johnny Gaddaar.
Here again, as in some recent Hindi films, the supporting cast is better than the lead. Sarkar has created the sense of playful bonhomie, as well as bitterness, that inhabitants of a chawl share. The camaraderie among Nandu, Pinky and their friends is realistic and well-etched, one of the few good things in the film.
But overall, Lafangey Parindey is a washout. I was not expecting a masterpiece. It is meant to be a light-hearted, no-brainer romantic film, and to be enjoyed because of, not despite it. But the length, the repetitions, the performances and the utter lack of chemistry between the lead couple bored me. I can’t think of anyone this film will appeal to.
Lafangey Parindey released in theatres on Friday