Cast: Avinash Tiwary, Tripti Dimri, Benjamin Gilani, Sujata Sehgal
Director: Sajid Ali
What could be new to an age-old legendary love story, whose names of two lead characters are metaphorically alluded to every now and then to either be used as an apt parallel or, else to even mock at? But then some love stories never die; they keep getting recreated, reimagined and retold on the big screen for yet another round of an everlasting effect.
The epic love story of two protagonists, Laila Majnu, gets adapted for the silver screen by writer Imtiaz Ali and producer Ekta and Shobha Kapoor. This time around, taking the leap out of the classic familiar folklore of Laila Majnu, the story is also re-envisioned, contemporary dazzling style.
The Sajid Ali (he is director Imtiaz Ali’s brother) directorial debut Laila Majnu, interweaves the old tale in a modern setting. No doubt, the makeover that the lead pair is granted is winsome: Laila goes to college, mouths profanities glibly (although the censor board’s axe had to mute it), flirts outrageously with young men and even gets a kick out of fooling the besotted ones. The 140-minute movie does have the stamp of what Imtiaz Ali has been known for: the eternal romanticism. It also follows the original Persian romance while adding many twists to the original tale.
Set in Kashmir, the story starts off looking like any other saga of romance. The film lead Laila (Tripti Dimri) belongs to a rich family and has a string of admirers, some of whom follow her on their motorcycles on the streets of Srinagar when she goes to college with her cousin.
When Kais (Avinash Tiwary), a rich son of an influential father (Benjamin Gilani) sets his eyes on her, he falls head over heels in love with her charm.
Laila, after treating him more like a symbol of amusement, cannot resist his charm. Their first encounter which looks quite filmi, soon becomes an obsessive interest for both, even as tales of Kais’ flirtatious nature abound and Laila’s parents get to know about his immorality. He is supposedly a shameless dissolute who drinks, does drugs and is a skirt chaser. As luck would have it, their families are a grouse that leads them to feud.
The legend of Laila and Majnu has distaff power and has often been called a tearjerker, and has endured as one of the top sob fest romantic tragedies of all time.
The 2018 version, though, is as contemporary as it can get. And therein rests its novelty.
The film is fast-moving and highly kinetic, and the two leads come across as two cocky, grinning rebels full of verve, fantasies and dreams. That their freewheeling passion of youth and the unpredictable perils of fate are unknown to them is understandable.
Ali’s writing is as impressive as much as it is faulty too. Tiwary as Kais or Majnu is very good; Dimri too, as Laila isn’t bad, in fact, she shows promise.
In a bid to contemporise it, both the Ali brothers spend too much time capturing the beauteous locales of Kashmir, not allowing the newness to the treatment that they build painstakingly to flourish.
Their take on the two lovelorn modern-day boy and girl had to be given a embellishment to some extent, but too many songs and taking a detour from the love that is fabled and celebrated, should have been a little more imaginative.
Wish director Sajid were more uninfluenced by big brother Imtiaz!...