Thanks to its complex characters, Anjaana Anjaani showcases how a romantic comedy can be something more than the typical pair of shallow caricatures cavorting toward an inevitable happy ending.
Anjaana Anjaani starts on a grim note that makes the movie best-suited for adults. After single-handedly destroying his small Wall Street firm, Akash (Ranbir Kapoor) climbs a bridge in New York City, planning to kill himself. He is interrupted by Kiara (Priyanka Chopra), a drunk who also wants to die, though she’s too nervous to do it alone.
Their discussion on the bridge railing is broken up by the Coast Guard. Minutes later, they both injure themselves while attempting suicide and wind up in the hospital. The pair sneak out of the hospital to Kiara’s messy apartment, where they again fail to successfully end their lives. They decide to give themselves a 20-day cooling off period before jumping off the same bridge together on New Year’s Eve.
Kiara and Akash, who have no one else to turn to, make a bucket list of things they’d like to do before they die. Top on Akash’s list is losing his virginity. He says he hasn’t found the right woman yet. She says he sounds like a 15-year-old girl, before correcting herself: 15-year-old girls aren’t so corny.
As they cross items off their list (swimming in the Atlantic and taking a cross-country road trip), it becomes clear that Kiara isn’t the flaky party girl she appears to be. A break-up left her with scars — emotional and physical — that make her even more fragile than Akash. Their friendship strengthens as he recognizes in her a chance to finally consider someone’s feelings before his own.
Writer-director Siddharth Anand is fond of telling stories showcasing character growth, as he did in 2008’s terrific Bachna Ae Haseeno (which also starred Ranbir Kapoor). In both movies, Anand uses Kapoor to depict the critical point in a young man’s life when he finally sees a world outside of himself and wishes to connect with it. It’s a time fraught with emotional turmoil, and Kapoor shows that, without being maudlin.
Chopra, an ambitious actress with a diverse body of work, makes Kiara more than just the agent for Akash’s change. Kiara experiences dramatic highs and lows herself, and Chopra portrays them in a way that makes them consistent within the complex character of a woman whose free-spirited facade masks inner insecurity.
What saves Anjaana Anjaani from being too melancholy is the acknowledgement that there is joy even in hard times. Akash and Kiara find happiness in each other, or at least insulation from loneliness. Their “to-do” list is a fun distraction for both them and the audience, accompanied by a peppy rock soundtrack.
The movie is also a wonderful American travelogue, as the pair road trip west. New York and Las Vegas are vibrant, and the Nevada desert looks ripe for exploration. Anjaana Anjaani is the rare movie about living each day as though it were your last that might actually inspire people to do so.