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‘Laila Majnu’ is redeemed by a brilliant second-half (Review)

Film: Laila Majnu; Director: Sajid Ali; Starring: Avinash Tiwary, Tripti Dimri; Rating: ***

It takes this revisionist version of “Laila Majnu” time to come its own. For a very long spell of storytelling director Sajid Ali lets the story spin out of control, spiralling and wobbling this way and that as we watch a spiffy but vacuous Laila indulging in what would qualify as serious eve-teasing if she were a man.

“Woh toh aise hi ladko ko ghumati rehti hai,” says a guy about our modern day Laila. Not a very charming reputation to have. But ask her if she cares. Laila is curious about….err, physical intimacy. When one of her friends is reputed to have liplocked with her lover, Laila stares at her friend’s smooched lips in the classroom, as though the blackboard had just found a sexy replacement.

Then Laila meets her match. Qais (impressive newcomer Avinash Tiwari) is cocky and confident, as if he knows the pages of the legendary romance inside-out. Yeah, he knows his love is destined to be doomed. But that won’t stop him from enjoying his courtship in Kashmir with the ‘adam’-teasing Laila.

They meet, they exchange glances and repartees. They dare one another to cross limits. But seldom do. They sing soprofic songs in scenic Kashmir and promise each other they would climb the neighbourhood mountain to see what’s on the other side.

Sadly the view on the other side remains obfuscated. We never see beyond Laila’s vanity and Qais’ self-absorbed pain.

Yup, never a Dal moment missed out in this one.

The courtship is corny to the point of being unbearable. Then something happens. Laila is forcibly married to a weird discernibly psychotic androgynous man Ibban (Suman Kaul). Her world falls apart. And Qais has a mental collapse, so devastating that he spends all his time in imaginary conversations with Laila .

This episode, potentially hilarious, is handled with tremendous poignancy. The tragic aftermath of a wrong and wronged marriage shot in the incriminating afterglow of a post-afternoon sunlight (by cinematographer Sayak Bhattacharya) is delved into sensitively. Newcomer Avinash Tiwary gives his all to Qais’ transformation into Majnu (the crazy lover). At times he’s so chillingly distraught in his grief that we almost feel his world falling apart piece by piece.

This revisionist version of Laila Majnu would finally be remembered for Tiwary’s immersive performance. The rest of the cast including the leading lady Tripti Dimri is far from adequate. Set inA Kashmir, the lead pair and their kin are shown indulging in a kind of rowdyism that would immediately put them in trouble with the law.

Not a single cop shows up anywhere. This is the magic of love. Alas, the romance fails. Only the pain and hurt of bereavement comes across effectively.



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