Reviewing the Reviews: Raanjhanaa wins them over

24 Jun,2013


Key Cast: Dhanush, Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol

Written By: Himanshu Sharma

Directed By: Aanand L Rai

Produced By: Krishika Lulla


Southern star Dhanush has bowled critics over with his powerful performance as an obsessed lover. His casting was undoubtedly a coup. The film by Tanu Weds Manu director Aanand L Rai has won accolades for its technical excellence and astute portrayal of small-town society.


It has also been criticized for the naive picture of youth politics in the second half – the two halves look like they belong to different films.


Female critics have also been somewhat spooked by the protagonist being a stalker – more so at a time when crimes against women have become a serious concern. Still, it earned 3 to 3.5 star ratings across the board, and a decent word of mouth too.


Shubhra Gupta of the Indian Express wrote, “‘Say you love me, or I will slit my wrists’, Kundan threatens Zoya, and we know instantly that he means business. He is not saying this for a lark. Nor for a nudge-and-wink. He is saying this as if he means it. We know instantly that Raanjhanaa is a no-holds-barred love story, not your half-hearted romcom that passes for a romance these days in Bollywood. The riveting first half of the film lives up to its old-fashioned title, with a young lover whose chief driver is passion, the innocent young girl who is the object of his adoration, and the problems that keep them apart. Post interval, it comes unstuck, and squanders its gains. If Raanjhanaa had kept its tone intact, it would have been a great love story.”


Meena Iyer of the Times of India raved, “Director Aanand Rai should be credited for drawing a superlative performance from the National Award-winner Tamil superstar, Dhanush, who makes his Hindi cinema debut here. His Kundan is a gem (pun intended). Sonam Kapoor is in top form giving Zoya several shades from giggly to grey. Unfortunately, she gets covered more for her fashion than her true mettle as an actor.

Note: You may not like this film if you cannot digest brooding love stories.”


Saibal Chatterjee of was appreciative too. “Raanjhanaa, director Aanand L Rai’s second film, not only averts the curse that often befalls a sophomore effort, it also actually turns out to be an improvement on the well-received Tanu Weds Manu. Raanjhanaa, scripted by Tanu Weds Manu writer Himanshu Sharma, is a love story with a huge difference that benefits no end from a clutch of exceptional performances. The film defies the expectations of the audience at several crucial junctures and holds out absolutely no apologies for springing abrupt surprises. It builds the drama at a gentle pace, taking care to create the right kind of physical and psychological spaces for the characters to breathe and evolve in.”


Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror gushed, “The first thirty minutes of Raanjhanaa is absolutely riveting. Well, riveting might be the wrong word but the searing strides of a romance that covers decades in fast forward leaves you having to remember to breathe. It is impossible to tear your eyes off the screen as two factors work their magic: Dhanush’s madly infectious enthusiasm as the young Kundan and the signature tune that plays every time his heart beats for the love of his life, Zoya. You want to grab on to these moments, pin them down so you can stare at them on your time with the same elation as Kundan’s eyes have for Zoya. And you wonder if director Aanand Rai is going to tell his tale all so quickly – is this film going to end all too soon?”


Sanjukta Sharma of Live Mint was not completely sold on it. “There’s a lot happening in Raanjhanaa although not all of it neatly collates on screen. Rai’s treatment is lyrical and his ingredients are that of a sweeping Bollywood drama: a story charged with emotions, A. R. Rahman’s staple lilts, the camera’s busy, colourful frames and a tempo accentuated by the background music. The unlikely hero’s remarkable arc is the events and lives which surround him not quite forming a seamless ring. As much as Sonam Kapoor’s stilted histrionics try to derail the already overburdened plot, Dhanush keeps the film buoyant and watchable till the last scene.”


Sukanya Verma of praised Dhanush to the skies. “In Raanjhanaa, a guy from Benares tests his owns limits to the extent he’ll go for the girl he’s been besotted by ever since he was a little boy. Endeavours that begin this early have a way of getting out of hand and exasperating. But Rai has Dhanush – wonderful, tangible, indefatigable Dhanush, and the actor in his first Hindi film holds fort from start to finish. This is his story – complicated but transparent, one that you may be inclined to feel judgemental about but one that you’ll see from his perspective. Eventually.”


Rajeev Masand found much to like. “Tanu Weds Manu director Anand Rai exploits the vibrancy of the holy city, and yet gives us a lived-in feel of Benares, rather than taking the typical travel-brochure approach. He banks as much on the unmistakable charm of his leading man to deliver a terrific first hour that breezes by with plenty comic moments and some genuinely heartfelt scenes. Kundan’s obsessive pursuit of Zoya is nothing short of stalking. Equally disconcerting is the idea that the filmmakers would endorse slashing one’s wrists as a way to profess love. Yet, truth is, these scenes don’t necessarily ring untrue in the film’s spot-on depiction of small-town India and its Bollywood-bred youth. The script unfortunately goes off the rails in the film’s second half, when the story shifts to the JNU campus in Delhi, where our protagonists put romance on the backburner and busy themselves with active politics.”


Anupama Chopra of Hindustan Times wrote, “This love story is fantastical but these are characters we could know. Their emotions move us – so much so that when Kundan finally breaks down and cries, I wept too. But this is where Raanjhanaa gets frustrating. Rai hits a false note as soon as the story shifts to Zoya’s romance with her college friend, Akram, played by Abhay Deol. And post-interval, when we leave Benares for New Delhi, the film derails considerably. The actors still move us – including Sonam who looks effortlessly beautiful and gives her career’s best performance – but the plot becomes more and more convoluted. You are neither immersed in the film nor removed from it.”


Shubha Shetty-Saha of Mid-day was impressed too, “There is this unique energy in Aanand L Rai’s films, the earlier one being ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ and now ‘Raanjhanaa’. Colourful and vibrant, but laidback and subtle. It was Kanpur in ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ and in ‘Raanjhanaa’, Varanasi gets lucky. In this film, Varanasi is captured beautifully. But interestingly, it is the backdrop to the characters and never the ‘please look at my landscapes and get awestruck’ kind of way (cinematography by Natarajan Subramaniam and Vishal Sinha). In a way, that makes this film more beautiful. And in a way, that also reflects in the most interesting character of this film, the unassuming but fiercely passionate Kundan, the beauty of whose character is not in your face but subtle and endearing, nevertheless.”


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