In a where-Roald Dahl-attempts-to-meet-Quentin Tarantino-attempts-to-meet-Scott Turow, Director Vinil Mathew dishes out an ambivalent fare that leaves the viewer in a state of justifiable agitation long after the curtains have come down, or rather the Netflix Browser has been closed. Loosely based on Dahl’s grisly short story, Lamb To The Slaughter, “Haseen Dilruba” is long on the grim bit but way short on the plot and logic quotient. Unfortunately so, because both the lead actors, Vikrant Massey and Taapsee Pannu more than just distinguish themselves in the seemingly incongruous roles assigned to them.
Rishabh Saxena or Rishu, for short (Vikrant Massey) is a modest, uncontroversial, man going about his life in the quaint town of Jwalapur. This very antithetical emblem of a flamboyant Citizen Kane is on the hunt for an appropriate bride. The search leads Rishu at the doorstep of Rani Kashyap (Taapsee Pannu). If Rishu is mellow, Rani is boisterous. The marriage seems to be a union of incompatibles when things plummet south. From fumbling to find his mojo in bed to playing the peace maker between a fulminating mother and a feisty wife, Rishu realises that life is no longer going to be a welcoming bed of roses.
To add to the melting pot of avoidable confusion, there arises an incendiary conundrum in the form of Rishu’ s cousin, Neel Tripathi, or Neel (Harshvardhan Rane). A strapping lad and a desi version of Dwayne Johnson, Neel does not take long before luring Rani into bed with his rippling biceps and ravishing looks. Yes, this is a spoiler, and you are reading this right. As may be expected, this one-off romp does not cause any amusement to Rishu and the non plussed husband decides to take matters into his own hands.
A massive explosion, a dismembered hand with “Rani” tattooed on its wrist, multiple visits to the police station by Rani and repeatedly nerve jarring references to a crime story novelist named Dinesh Pandit, later, the jigsaw puzzle seems to fall in place and the topsy-turvy, direction-shorn (no pun intended) plot comes to a merciful end.
Vikrant Massey, as the docile and metaphorically impotent husband, essays his role with an ease that is frightening. Seamlessly blending into multiple layers of catharsis, he does more than what has been asked of him by his Director. To be honest, what should have been demanded of this talented actor does no justice to what has in fact been allocated to him.
Taapsee Pannu is fast turning out to be a woman of rapturous substance when it comes to the silver screen. Initially as a prodigal adulteress and ultimately as a repentant soul, she is the heart of the movie. Blending sarcasm with sensuality, she more than just succeeds in keeping an otherwise drab and almost juvenile narrative afloat. She is undoubtedly going to carve a niche for herself in Bollywood, provided she exercise ample judiciousness in choosing her poisons.
Harshvardhan Rane as the philanderer does a great job of earning the viewer’s ire, an ample testimony to the fact that he has not let himself or his audience down in executing his piece of the pie.
I personally enjoyed the background scores by Amar Mangrulkar. Amit Trivedi has done an appreciable task on the songs and “Mila Yun” is one haunting melody that sticks in one’s mind and head.
The almost inexcusable and unacceptable portion of the movie has been the portrayal of Taapsee Pannu in the initial half of the film. An effervescent, flamboyant and gutsy personality does not necessarily translate to looseness in character. All marriages that are unfortunately not consummated due to whatever reason, do not necessarily lead to licentious outcomes. Also there is a noticeable flaw in conveying sensual messages and signals of passion in a manner that goes apparently overboard. For example, in making Rani ‘strategically’ and ‘slyly’ drop her pallu to seduce Rishu, not just once or twice, but thrice is not just monotonous but detracting from the very essence of any finely crafted message of sensuality.
In striving to achieve a fine degree of atonality, Vinil Mathew is unfortunately left to make do with the anodyne. Many a time, it really pays to keep things simple, uncomplicated and unvarnished. Having said all of these, “Haseen Dilruba” is worth giving a dekko to sit back and admire the versatility of two exemplary and extraordinary actors who have all the requisite capability to take Cinema to unparalleled heights.
Haseen Dilruba – poor man’s Roald Dahl gone awry.