As a teenager, I used to regularly pick up pulp fiction literature during my train journeys. It was a different kind of high altogether to grab a Surendra Mohan Pathak novel for just 50 bucks, something that could be wrapped up in 4-5 hours. What made it even better was the ‘offer’ where you could sell back the book at half the price on the next railway station.
Unfortunately, this isn’t how Haseen Dillruba turns out to be. Agreed that the film can be watched on Netflix where you aren’t quite paying extra and getting it as a part of your monthly or yearly subscription. Still, for those two hours (and a little more) that I spent on the film, I wasn’t really truly engaged in a journey that would have reminded me of my train journeys!
What is surprising about this Kanika Dhillon written film is that so much is told so soon into the film. When the film begins with a killing (which seems clearly planned), the central protagonist (Taapsee Pannu) lends an expression that there is nothing really to be surprised about and then somewhere before the interval the flashes turn out to be clear giveaways around the core plot, you wonder if the core story did have meat but the placement of scenes and their treatment ended up playing truant.
To give where credit is due, post the first 10 minutes when the film goes into flashback, the 30 minutes which follow are truly entertaining. Your heart goes out to Taapsee, even as she tries to fit into the small town set-up (and mentality) of her husband [Vikrant Massey] and his parents. She doesn’t put a foot wrong. She lets them know what she stands for, she adjusts into the surroundings, she tries to build relationships, and all of this is with a smile and a casual attitude. It isn’t condescending, it is more of taking it light with a ‘live and let live’ thought.
This is the reason why when she falls for her distant brother-in-law Harshvardhan Rane, you get the reason why. So far, so fine, including those stolen glances and smiles.
However, what happens next is where the film goes haywire, and this is where one wonders why director Vinil Mathew didn’t quite curtail the whole interpretation of the pulp fiction inspired written material by Kanika Dhillon. To save the reader from any spoilers, it would be just fair to say that practically every sequence from this point on just fails to establish connect with the viewer. The kind of situations that Taapsee finds herself in, the manner in which Vikran’t character turns into something else, and the way Harshvardhan fits in is all over the place.
Moreover, even though the writer and the director believe that they have the ‘baap of all suspense’ waiting for the audience, there is none of that actually coming into play since the ‘what’ and ‘who’ part is quite obvious. It’s just a bit of ‘how’ part that you wonder about, and when that revelation is made, you are more bewildered than shocked, which is disappointing.
Of course, Taapsee has been trying to pick on different subjects but this one does have hints of Manmarziyaan, albeit in the pulp fiction space. I particularly liked her in the casual ‘saree clad’ bhabhi avtar though who is playful and naughty. That was a new her. Vikrant does try to shed his nice boy image with some shift in his character arc but that’s about it. Harshvardhan has the kind of screen presence, dialogue delivery and persona that makes him striking, but then his screen time is limited here.
That said, what eventually matters is that whether Haseen Dillruba works as a whole for a viewer. Well, with better structuring around some crucial scenes and some more thought into the climax and the back story could have made it a better experience.