Filmmakers have been exploring tragic love stories since ages. There's something about lovers pining for each other and not being able to be together that tugs at the heartstrings of the audience and spells good business for the makers. No wonder then that Bollywood loves love stories that end on a sad note. Laila Majnu, directed by Sajid Ali, is another film in the genre. It features newcomers as the lead characters. Backed by Imtiaz Ali and Ekta Kapoor, the film indeed sounds promising on paper. But does it deliver when it comes to emotions? We caught a special screening of the film to find out. And here's what we thought…
What's it about
The dialogue, 'Tujhe kya lagta hai, yeh sab hum kar rahe hai. Humari kahaani pehle se likhi hui hai,' pretty much sums up the film. Laila Majnu, the story of star-crossed lovers, has been retold several names, over the years, across the world. But, in essence, it remains the story of undying love that transcends everything. The key, hence, is to get the emotions right.
The film begins by introducing us to the two warring families, who can't see eye to eye. Then we meet Laila (Tripti Dimri), who leads a dual life. While, for her parents, she is an obedient daughter, she transforms into a carefree woman who flirts with the guys and leads them on without a shred of guilt as soon as she steps out of the house. Quite the rebel without a cause. Till the cause finds her. Qais (Avinash Tiwary) is a rich, spoilt brat with the reputation of being a womaniser. He takes a liking to Laila, and like every true blue, pre-feminism Bollywood hero, stalks her till the point when she actually gets scared and confronts him. Then he professes his love for her. She, obviously, pretends to not like it but smiles to herself when she thinks of him. Cute. They talk on the phone and discuss what we already know - that their parents won't agree to the union and that there will be a lot of drama. The two still go ahead and have a whirlwind romance, throwing caution to the winds. Oh, how silly is love! However, like good villagers, those around them take notice of their shenanigans and inform the girl's family of her indiscretions. Like ideal parents, Laila's responsible mother and father decide to marry her off to the first available boy, in this case Ibban (Sumit Kaul), who uses the marriage to gain political mileage. A heartbroken Qais jets off to London to do what the gen-next does best - move on. But when he comes back to Kashmir four years later, to bury his now dead father, he realises that he hasn't been able to really forget Laila. He is even more convinced when he realises that even she is still in love with him. And thus begins the end of their love story.
The film is set in Kashmir and you can feel it lending to the story right from the first frame. Be it the snow-capped mountains that, at once spell freedom and captivity, or the autumn kissed rolling hillocks which mark the transformation of a young fling to a romance of epic proportions - Kashmir is an apt backdrop to this love story that makes you explore the definition of love all over again.
Now for the performances, which really make or break films like these. Though it might still be a little early to proclaim so, Avinash Tiwary might just turn out to be the find of the year. While he shone in his role in this year's release, Tu Hai Mera Sunday, he is an absolute delight in Laila Majnu. It is very easy to make a complex character like that of Qais into a caricature but thankfully Avinash recognises it for what it is and instead of making it gimmicky, he lends it authenticity. The manner in which he transforms from the happy-go-lucky Qais to a bumbling lunatic Majnu deserves a standing ovation. Tripti Dimri, too, tries to keep up with him all through the film. However, there are places where she falters and yet others, where she shines. Everyone else in the film, actually, just supports Avinash make a legend out of Majnu.
And now for the real winner - emotions. The film is a beautiful interpretation of how love is madness. At a time when relationships are forged on Tinder, developed for Instagram and forgotten for the next #relationshipgoals, the retelling of an epic romance like Laila Majnu takes courage. And we have to laud the makers for that. There is a scene in the film, where a 'mad' Qais is seen talking to an imaginary Laila in front of those offering the namaaz. When they shoo him off for disturbing them, he counters asking how is their conversation with God, whom they can't see, more real than his conversation with his love, whom they can't see. Such films offer love a chance and for that alone they should be lauded.
Even the songs add to the film immensely, with Hafiz Hafiz taking the cake.
The film doesn't start well. There are times when Laila seems way too flaky for someone who falls so hopelessly in love, later on in the film. Apart from that, there is little else to complain about. Some might argue that this film does nothing for those suffering from mental illnesses. But then that would require you to define mental illness because what Qais defines it as is him being on a pursuit of happiness.
What to do
Laila Majnu is for all those who believe in love. But it is a must-watch for those who don't. Take some hours off your hectic life to catch love at its unconditional best. Just don't blame us if you come out of the theatre shedding a tear or two.
4 out of 5
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