Films based on reincarnation work big-time in India. Yes, there have been a few misses but that is because those films were terrible. Right from Madhumati (1958) to Magadheera (2009), one can draw out a huge list of films that revolve around reincarnation and have turned out to be huge successes the box-office. The emotional quotient in such films tends to be very high which draws the traditional Hindi film audience to them. When you look at a couple of these films, you realize a lot of them have similar themes and sub-plots. But, it is the treatment and the novelty a filmmaker brings to the table makes all the difference. So, while an Om Shanti Om seeks inspiration from Karz (1980), it works because it packages the story in a fresh and contemporary format which the audience can relate to. When one saw the promo of Raabta, it reminded one of several Indian and foreign films and television shows. The plot (as one could guess from the promo), the styling, characterisation reeked of being influenced from different sources. Now that the film is out, one can find out whether it brings something new to the fore or turns out to be a mish-mash of a variety of stories one has come across in the past.
Shiv (Sushant Singh Rajput) is a young banker from Amritsar who, along with friend (Varun Sharma) shifts base to Budapest after he lands a lucrative job there. In the foreign land, he comes across Saira (Kriti Sanon) who owns a chocolate shop. Despite going around with another woman, Shiv decides to pursue Saira after he gets attracted to her. Initially, Saira tries to give Shiv the impression that she is not interested in him but eventually, confesses that she feels a strong connect with him. At a party, Saira bumps into Zakir Merchant (Jim Sarbh), a wealthy liquor baron, who seems to take a keen interest in her.
The first half of Raabta is set in a contemporary world and features two characters which come across as milder versions of the ones played by Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor in Befikre. To a certain extent, given Shiv's image as a womaniser and a reckless young man, one can still digest the fact that he stalks a woman whom he has met a couple of hours back, Saira is a difficult person to understand. She comes across as a self-assured, independent woman but then she goes on to kiss a man who has been stalking her. Later in the film, she goes out for dinner with a man who would come across as a creep to a sane woman or a man for that matter. Dinesh seems to be heavily inspired by urban rom-coms made in the recent past as he recreates a couple of scenes from them. The airport scene in which Shiv flirts with a foreign lady is reminiscent of the one from 'Cocktail' (2012) in which Jai (Saif Ali Khan) get too close for comfort with Meera (Diana Penty). He makes a poor attempt at bringing out the charm that the confused characters in Imtiaz Ali's films exude. The poitnlss scene in which Saira looks at Shiv with wide eyes afte they spend a night together and says with utmost earnestness "do din mein bahut paas aa gaye hain, alag hoon main tere saath, maine kabhi kissi ke saath aisa feel nahin kiya", serves as one of those intances where Dinesh tries to do the same. The post-interval portion takes one hundred years back in time, in a world where Shiv, Saira and Zakir are tribal warriors. The dynamics between the characters seem interesting in the beginning as the characters played by Kriti and Jim share a close bond and have a feeling of enmity towards Jilaan (Sushant) and his tribe. This track shows promise but soon takes a predictable route and ends up being as deadening as the story that unfolds in today's time.
The three central performances by Sushant Singh Rajput, Kriti Sanon and Jim Sarbh are, undoubtedly, the mainstay of the film. Despite being saddled with ill-written and unlikeable characters Sushant and Kriti put their best foot forward and deliver respectable performsnces. Jim Sarbh brings a nice distinction between his two characters by speaking in a suitably anglicised accent for the foreign bred Zakir Merchant and speaking in a much controlled manner for the other character. The drama and theatrics he brings out in birth the characters suit them well. Varun Sharma gets a thankless part to play wherein he reprises the comical characters he has played in his earlier films.
There are certain scenes in 'Raabta' which remind you of far more accomplished films in this genre. Though the film does not have much to do with the Telugu blockbuster Magadheera, the scene in which Kriti Sanon falls into water and remembers her past life is similar to the one in SS Rajamouli's film in which the hero Ram Charan goes through a similar experience Some genuine chemistry between the lead pair, stunning locales and hummable music do not muster enough strength to save this blunder of a film.