Film: “Befikre”; Directed by Aditya Chopra; Starring: Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor; Rating: * 1/2 (one and a half stars)
Remember “Neil & Nikki”, the plotless story of a couple played by Aditya Chopra’s brother and Kajol’s sister, who couldn’t keep their hands off one another?
“Befikre”, Aditya Chopra’s new bizarrely subverted directorial undertaking, reminds us of “Neil & Nikki” and not in a nice way. As in that forgotten Yash Raj film, “Befikre” relies almost wholly on the carnal chemistry between the couple for the non-existent plot to move forward.
Not that the narrative is going anywhere. The storytelling is stiff and over-cute. Erotic chemistry is here squished all over the smeared-up plot like a burger with too much ketchup on it. The basic ingredient, namely love in the times of Parisian hedonism, is squandered in the quest of a film that looks and feels like a party.
But where is the music that our souls can dance to? “Befikre” is a loveless love-story? The protagonists way too much in love with themselves and particular part of themselves, to reach out tenderly into the night.
It’s a frighteningly puerile premise, not rescued from drudgery by the Parisian setting. Delhi’s Karol Bagh boy Dharam (Ranveer) meets Paris ki chokri Shyra (Vaani). From the outset this couple is made for each other, and not in any good way. They both seem to think that a lack of genuine seriousness in matters of relationships and commitment is a sign of emotional growth and cultural development.
This is the kind of film where the girl swigs beer out of a bottle and dances drunkenly on table tops.
Sadly the destitute destiny of Dharam and Shyra’s togetherness is determined by a director who has this time, decided to go with the flow with ferocious single mindedness, Aditya Chopra repudiates all the values attached to love marriage and cultural hegemony in his earlier films “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” and “Rab Ne Banadi Jodi”, with a naughty erotic spin that seems as woefully misplaced, ill-timed and awkward.
This time Ranveer’s notorious energy level is in serious need of restraint. He is all over the place in Paris and thinks with his penis most of the time. The film – and Ranveer’s character – hungers for sobriety. Instead it gets more than two hours of backfooted bacchanalia, as though Paris is synonymous with hedonism, as though every couple on the streets is fully into PDA (the censor board seems to have fallen asleep while watching the smooching spree),as though Aditya Chopra has just discovered the pleasures of the flesh in a revealing flash.
It’s all too flighty, flirty and fitful to seem like a makeover for the director. Very often I felt Chopra was living out the fantasy life of no-strings-attached free sex that he couldn’t possibly live out himself. “Befikre” is wish-fufilment at the lowest level. Its description of a lustful liaison never goes beyond the crotch level to define the man-woman relationship in modern times. Both Shyra and Dharam are too unlikeable to endear themselves to the audience. Their hands-on self-gratification gets the narrative nowhere that we would like to go.
Yes, some of Paris is shot with splendid visual authenticity. But that’s the least one expects when there is a Paris-based cinematographer Kaname Onoyama on board. Onoyama gets Paris into his protagonists’ DNA. But Aditya Chopra is unable to get the boisterous over-sexed Punjabi out of them. Both Ranveer and Vaani act out their love scenes with a gusto bordering on primitive ecstasy replicating the enthusiasm of canines on heat. But there is no sublimity in their souls, no music in their movements even when they dance like a dream in the climactic wedding-fiasco episode.
The mess in the Church wedding is so embarrassing I felt sorry for the director. What a sad place for the illustrious Chopra legacy to rest its libido.
It’s not really the two actors’ fault, really. We’ve seen Singh do much better in Sanjay Bhansali’s film. And for all we know, there might be a decent actress under Vaani’s imperturbable exterior. But for now, this is all there is to it.A turgid non-musical drama which moves in the opposite direction to Damien Chazelle’s La La Land.
Where is the gentle touch and the tenderness in the relationship between Dharam and Shyra? They are too busy kissing to feel anything beyond the lips. I can see Raj and Simran shaking their heads in disbelief. Sure, they had sex too. But not while we all watched. This voyeuristic version of romance in forbidden places is about a boy who can’t keep it in his pants and a girl who thinks stripping to her bra is cool.