There is this unique energy in Aanand L Rai’s films, the earlier one being 'Tanu Weds Manu' and now 'Raanjhanaa'. Colourful and vibrant, but laidback and subtle. It was Kanpur in 'Tanu Weds Manu' and in 'Raanjhanaa', Varanasi gets lucky. In this film, Varanasi is captured beautifully. But interestingly, it is the backdrop to the characters and never the ‘please look at my landscapes and get awestruck’ kind of way (cinematography by Natarajan Subramaniam and Vishal Sinha). In a way, that makes this film more beautiful. And in a way, that also reflects in the most interesting character of this film, the unassuming but fiercely passionate Kundan, the beauty of whose character is not in your face but subtle and endearing, nevertheless.
Kundan is smitten by Zoya (Sonam looking more gorgeous than ever and with fairly competent performance) ever since he was three feet high and remains steadfast in his affection, even when they grow up and she goes away for further studies. He being a Hindu and she being a Muslim is the least of his concern. Eight years later Zoya comes back but everything has changed for her, while for Kundan, everything is still the same – his yearning for her love, his quest for her attention.
With a passion that sears into your soul and frightens you at times, in a kind of modern-day avatar of Majnu of Laila Majnu fame, Kundan stalks Zoya through the film. He manages to be a constant presence in her life, even when there is a phase when she struggles to move on. The first half of Raanjhanaa takes you on an emotional roller coaster along with Kundan’s fascinating life. I can’t decide if it is the superlative performance by Dhanush (oh, what a superb actor) or the sensitive etching of Kundan’s character, but you end up getting embroiled in this transparent, passionate man’s compelling journey to fulfilling his dream, which evidently seems way out of his reach more often than not.
He is supported brilliantly by his buddies, Bindiya (Swara Bhaskar) and Murari (Mohd Zeeshan Ayub). Their unabashed affection for Murari is infectious. Abhay Deol fits the character he plays and carries it off pretty effortlessly too.
And then the second half is when the pace dips, the sincerity of the storyline gets somewhat hazy and the film gets wee bit disappointing. An absolutely believable one-sided romance takes a slightly deceptive political drama twist and I am not sure if that is what you wanted it to be. It is unpredictable, yes, but not in a great, believable way.
A special mention has to be made of the songs of this film, it is as though AR Rehman (music) and Irshad Kamil (lyrics) got together to weave a world full of magic. The music contributes in a big way to the beauty of this film.
Watch this at least once, for many reasons. Dhanush is the main one. I should say this again, what a superb actor.
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