Monday 29 May 2017

Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017) - Movie Review

For as much as I’ve railed against certain conventions of the genre, I can’t say I have any real issue with romance films as a whole. The genre exists for the same reason any other does, in that it’s a type of story that people want to see, and when done right, it can make for some truly powerful cinema. Whether today’s film fits that mould, I’ll get into in due time, but suffice to say, we’re in for a treat this time around.

The plot: Popular pulp writer Bubla (Ayushmann Khurrana) is struggling with his latest novel, a departure from his usual work as a romance novel. To give himself inspiration, he reminisces on his years-old romance with the fiery Bindu (Parineeti Chopra) and all the good and bad that came with it.

The cast here is damn good, which for a film that relies on good character interactions is one of the bigger ticks it needs. Khurrana is very fun to watch on screen as this bumbling womanizer, even if he hits the tortured artist button a little too hard. Chopra, likewise, is a very entertaining presence as the female lead, and despite how much she embodies the manic pixie dream girl, the film itself must be aware enough of the trope to rein her in before she got too cartoonish or even annoying by any stretch. Also, bonus points for making an eggplant recipe sound like the sexiest thing ever conceived; looks like somebody’s studied up on their Nigella Lawson.
Rajatabha Dutta and Aparajita Auddy as Bubla’s parents hit awkward while still being engaging (and serving as the linchpins for some very funny sequences), Bubla’s literary agent (couldn’t find the actor’s name online, apologies) devolves into a basic slapstick funnel by the end but is still entertaining enough in his exchanges with Bubla, and Prakash Belawadi as Bindu’s father is… oh my. It really says something when his character is as textbook as it gets, and yet he’s responsible for easily the biggest tear-jerker of the entire film.

In keeping with the likeability of the main cast, the romance itself is also very nice with plenty of warm dialogue that features a lot of really specific references and situations, to the point where it feels like a real story being told. Even if I didn’t get most of the pop culture references, the way that the actors use them within the script to flesh out the scenes overcomes that hurdle. Probably helps that the main couple have outstanding chemistry with each other, often matching each other in manic energy.
It’s the kind of love-struck story where you could easily make the argument that the coupling shouldn’t be happening, since it probably won’t end well given the two people involved, and yet that really doesn’t matter. Having that feeling of mutual affection is something that people can go their entire lives without truly experiencing so, even if things do go wrong, it is still worth it just to get that feeling even once. Or, to put it in simpler and considerably more trite words, “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.

I haven’t talked that much about the music in my last few Bollywood films, and that’s honestly because it’s usually so bland and poppy that it doesn’t end up leaving much of an impact. It’s like reviewing radio hits; other people may be able to do it, but I’m not one of them. However, the music is honestly really damn good. Or, to be more accurate, the use of music is really damn good. Most of the pop culture referencing is done through music, specifically Bollywood music numbers, and the scenes with the main characters just singing and even dancing to them (mostly in real-world settings, rather than the Bollywood music video world that actors end up teleporting to during musical numbers) is quite infectious. Hell, the one traditional Bollywood musical number has the best music in the entire film, making the dance number feel like an actual reaction to said music in real life. It’s like the Bollywood answer to Nick Hornby with how it combines personal connections to music with incredibly warm and inviting dialogue.

More so than the works of Nick Hornby though, this film actually reminds me of another Western film: Nocturnal Animals. Initially, it’s because of the framing device of Bubla writing the novel about his romance with Bindu. However, I think that this film does that idea a lot better. For a start, even though Bubla is mainly known for writing pulp horror, the story itself isn’t hideously dark and, in turn, doesn’t feel like a colossal temper tantrum as we watch it unfold in context to the ‘real world’. For another, this film has no real pretences about delivering any kind of sophisticated message; it’s a romance film first and foremost and it keeps its focus on that goal. And for a third, and probably the most important point, it makes the fact that this story is being written by a character in the film have true weight behind it.
It basically breaks down the typical romance story into the idea that it isn’t just a single story but two; one from each person in a traditional coupling. The film sticks to the guy’s perspective of the story, but in the process, it reveals a version of the “write what you know” adage that would-be authors love to adhere to that shows just why that is a piece of advice to begin with. Writing, for those with the passion for it, is how people come to terms with their own life stories, often tinted by one’s own feelings connected to each moment. The film starts out with Bubla writing a story of a man about to commit suicide and, even though it doesn’t go in any of the directions I was expecting to from that beginning, it made that decision feel warranted and it ended up doing wonders in terms of showing Bubla’s mindset as he writes out the story we’re watching.

All in all, this is a living, breathing and incredibly affecting love story that itself shows the purpose of love stories, be they real or fictional. Through its amazing cast, sharp writing and incredible nimbleness with its soundtrack and general use of music, it’s one of the more compelling and fulfilling cinematic romances I’ve seen of late and most definitely worth checking out for yourself.

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