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Director: Maneesh Sharma
The Indian Express rating: ** ½
The nicest part of this romcom,which triangulates girl-boy-girl in a manner Bollywood is just waking up to,is that it lets its characters talk. Like,you know,real conversations,where faces are turned to each other,where the baat-cheet between a girl and guy moves from checking-each-other-for-size -banter to will-our-noses-fit-if-we-kiss to cant-keep-our-hands-off-each-other level. Yes,that kind of locked-eyed,quickening breaths,leaping-libidos chat. Writer Jaideep Sahni,the man behind a bunch of excellent films,including one of my all-time favourites,Rocket Singh,lifts Shuddh Desi Romance: his characters talk,and they make us listen.
Raghu (Rajput) is a layabout who does this and that,and that includes being a tourist guide in Jaipur,and hiring himself out as a smart baraati to raise the tone of marriage parties in exchange for cash. It is in his own baraat that he gets to know spunky,outspoken Gayatri (Chopra),and such are the sparks between them that all ideas of wedded bliss are flung out of the bus window they are travelling in. Which leaves bejeweled bride Tara (Kapoor) stranded at her own mandap. Which in turn,leads to our triangle — Raghu is scared of shaadis and commitment,Gayatri is equally chary of saying I Do,and Tara searches for answers,with all three looking for a way forward.
These are young people,whose passions and confusions mirror the young of today. The film is set in Jaipur,which allows it to peddle some pretty locations,and leheriya dupattas and safas (it is a Yashraj film,after all),and a song that is all gulabi in honour of the Pink City. But itcould be an anywhere story because these are anywhere people. And thats the strength of the film,which comes out best through Parineeti Chopra. She plays her Gayatri minus varnish,minus artifice,without letting any of the effort show,and wins us over : this is an actor getting better with each part.
If the other two had been able to match her pitch,Shuddh Desi Romance would have been a very good film indeed. But Rajput (seen previously in Kai Po Che) who has flash and who is able to bring it to the fore,is uneven. He is also the sketchiest of the lot. Kapoor,a first timer,has the looks and confidence,but doesnt lift off the screen as much as her co-stars. And Rishi Kapoor,who plays the avuncular matchmaker put there to mouth listen-to-your-elders-and-betters lines, could have done with playing it subtler than he does.
Post-interval,theres a discernible dip in energy,and the film gets stretched and contrived. Even the best lines get tired with repetitions,and I caught myself stirring impatiently for the characters to hurry up and get where they are going. Which,when they do,rescues things somewhat: that is a good place, still fairly radical for Bollywood mainstream. It feels right,for this film which stretches the idea of romaans in Bollywood,and which comes with one of the loveliest songs Ive heard in a while. Tere Mere Beech Mein Kya Hai,it goes,and the lovers talk their way through it. Like you and I would,if we were singing to each other.