The ApunKaChoice movie review of Raanjhanaa. First things first. All the raised eyebrows about director Aanand L. Rai’s choice of the leading man opposite Sonam Kapoor in Raanjhanaa need to crease down. Dhanush may not be endowed with ladykiller looks, but his honesty, his boy-next-door persona, his earnest, passionate, restrained performance, and the ease with which he flits from one emotion to another, makes him not just a good choice, but perhaps the only choice, for the role of a resolute Tamil Brahmin boy in Varanasi. After all, a heartthrob with abs and looks to send the girls swooning would hardly look convincing facing repeated rejections in love, not to mention receiving more than a dozen tight slaps from the girl he longs for.
But Dhanush as the scrawny, swarthy Kundan hopelessly smitten with the beautiful Muslim girl Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) proffers his cheek repeatedly until she’s tired of slapping him and resigns to his overtures.
There’s a lot of old world charm to this small-town romance. And director Aanand L Rai of Tanu Weds Manu fame pitches it beautifully against the backdrop of the colourful, bustling Varanasi without ever trying to peddle the postcard shots of the holy town. The milieu and the one-sided love story are inextricably linked. A boy doggedly pursuing a girl and even slashing his wrist to win her love. The tale looks plausible in the setting that Rai creates, so you hardly question the boy’s ways to railroad the girl into loving him.
And when the girl yields in, the Hindu-Muslim wedge drives them apart. She’s packed off to Aligarh and then to Delhi where as a student in JNU she discovers a purpose to her life and a new love in the politically ambitious student leader (Abhay Deol).
Eight years on, Zoya and Kundan meet again. His love for her is still unshaken. But will she yield this time?
A love story with many a twist to keep you hooked, Raanjhanaa is a film that leaves you moved and thoroughly entertained. There’s much to admire in this film. Music by A R Rahman blends in seamlessly with the story and the backdrop. Performances by Dhanush and Sonam Kapoor are simply sterling. Dhanush in his debut Hindi film is simply peerless despite his heavily accented Hindi. Sonam matches him at every step, but looks a bit out of sorts while mouthing her mind about social issues in the second half. Yes, the film packs in several relevant social issues like the farmer’s agitation and protests against corruption and rape in the second half. Though they don’t really fit in the love story, Rai aptly chooses not to dwell on them much.
On the sidelines, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as Kundan’s sidekick with a oneliner for every situation is a riot. Equally good is Swara Bhaskar as the girl who has a crush on Kundan and isn’t shy of making her advances. Abhay Deol gives a creditable performance.
Raanjhanaa is a far cry from the assembly-line love stories from Bollywood factory. It’s a story of naïve, resolute, unyielding love that stands the test of time. It’s a film made with a lot of heart and that’s where it hits the most.