Tag Archives: Harshvardhan Rane

Movie Review: Haseen Dillruba (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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The appeal of many murder mysteries is the final revelation of how the crime was committed (especially if the killer gets away with it). Though Haseen Dillruba (“Beautiful Beloved“) has a fiery payoff, the question of why the deed was done is far more interesting.

The film opens with an explosion in a residential neighborhood in the small city of Jwalapur, north of Delhi. Rani (Taapsee Pannu) is outside her home when a gas cylinder in her kitchen ignites. She identifies her husband’s body by his wrist bearing a tattoo of her name — the only part of him that hasn’t been incinerated.

Police Inspector Rawat (Aditya Srivastava) is convinced that Rani murdered her husband Rishu (Vikrant Massey), though she protests her innocence. Rawat’s interrogation triggers flashbacks to various points in the couple’s relationship, which Rani describes as, “sometimes good, sometimes not so good.”

Rani and Rishu get together via an arranged marriage. Both of them seem to have gotten through life doing the bare minimum to make themselves desirable marriage candidates, but not doing much to make themselves complete people. Shy Rishu has a stable engineering job, and Rani is pretty and a capable cosmetologist. Neither has any experience in communicating with a romantic partner nor any instinct for nurturing intimacy. Living with Rishu’s parents only adds to the pressure on the new couple.

All of Rani’s ideas about romance come from books by her favorite author Dinesh Pandit, who writes pulp novels about small-town murder mysteries. Rani quotes Pandit so often that the fictitious author is almost a character in his own right.

When Rani blabs about her and Rishu’s non-existent sex life to her family, Rishu gives her the silent treatment. This leaves Rani lonely and vulnerable when Rishu’s beefcake cousin Neel (Harshvardhan Rane) comes to stay with the family. Neel is as exciting as Rishu is mild, and he’s more than happy to give Rani the attention that Rishu withholds from her.

It takes Rani’s affair with Neel for both Rani and Rishu to become interesting people. It strains credulity a bit that both members of the married couple are so bland beforehand, but the wild trajectories their personalities take from that point is what makes the movie really intriguing. Rishu develops a violent streak and Rani a corresponding capacity to endure punishment. It’s nuts, but it works.

It’s worth considering how problematic Rishi’s violence toward Rani is within the context of the film. For some, a blanket condemnation of all violence perpetrated by men against women will make Rishu’s actions untenable. Within the world created by director Vinil Mathew and screenwriter Kanika Dhillon, the sequence where Rishu repeatedly tries to injure Rani is less about his actions and more about Rani’s willingness (or desire, even) to endure any punishment to atone for her transgression.

The sequence also highlights how screwed up Rani and Rishu actually are when forced to reckon with intense emotions. It’s something that is hinted at early in the film via Amar Mangrulkar’s unusual score, which ping-pongs between somber and melodramatic to sitcom-esque wacky, depending on the scene. The musical choices are slightly off-putting but effective at establishing that this is not a movie about an ordinary couple.

All three leads are effective in their roles, with Rane embracing his eye-candy avatar. Pannu is competent as always. Massey stands out as an ordinary man with a dark edge he didn’t realize he possessed. Haseen Dillruba isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly entertaining.


Movie Review: Sanam Teri Kasam (2016)

SanamTeriKasam3 Stars (out of 4)

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To best enjoy Sanam Teri Kasam, watch it while pretending to be a studious Indian teenage girl who has lots of ideas about love but little experience. Sanam Teri Kasam is essentially Twilight without the vampires, and I mean that as a compliment.

Our doomed young lovers first spy each other in the hallway of their apartment building. Tattooed, shirtless Inder (Harshvardhan Rane) makes out with a woman in a skimpy dress. Bespectacled Saru (Mawra Hocane) timidly follows behind her outraged father, who berates the beefcake for his PDA.

Stuff gets crazy real quick. Saru’s younger sister throws a fit because Dad won’t let her get married until Saru does, but no one will marry Saru because she looks like a “frumpy aunty.” Saru goes to Inder for help, but there’s a mix up and he gets injured, and her dad catches her sitting on Inder’s bed in a compromising position.

In this position, Saru should have gone with a better opening line than, “Dad, you were supposed to return tomorrow.” Something like, “I’m helping him change his bandage. Chill.” The primary cause of problems in Sanam Teri Kasam is characters’ reluctance to offer perfectly reasonable explanations for misunderstandings, and this case is no different. Dad declares Saru dead and holds a funeral for her.

Saru’s expulsion from the family ignites Inder the ex-con’s tender side. He goes out of his way to look after Saru, falling in love even as he helps her search for a suitable groom that will get her back in her father’s good graces.

It also triggers the greatest makeover montage of all time. Inder introduces Saru to Mustakeen Bhai, The Makeover King, played by…Vijay Raaz in a lace shirt?! Vijay and his assistants sing and dance to the song “Ek Number,” transforming Saru from nerd to bombshell. The scene is bizarre and magical and worth the price of admission.

All of the song numbers in Sanam Teri Kasam are odd in a good way. When Saru accidentally gets high and dances around the farmer’s market, everyone ignores her and continues shopping — a more realistic approach than the typical Bollywood treatment where bystanders join in, somehow knowing all the lyrics and choreography in advance.

When Inder confesses his love in the title song, stage lights suddenly illuminate the lovers’ faces, an effect that is both hilarious and moving. Teenage me would have loved it.

Despite being insanely dramatic and occasionally hysterical, everything in Sanam Teri Kasam is done with complete sincerity, and that’s why it works. When teenage girls react to even minor problems with the phrase, “My parents are going to kill me,” it’s because they believe it, rational or not. Sanam Teri Kasam is made for those girls, and for those of us who remember what it was like to be one of those girls.