Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Meri Pyaari Bindu: Review

Meri Pyaari Bindu opens with an image out of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita—a giant statue of Durga borne over the city by helicopter—and incorporates, towards the end, a version of the “Why is life worth living?” speech in Woody Allen’s Manhattan. What’s in between, though, is pure 2010s Bollywood romance: boy meets girl, they become fast friends, interfere in each other’s love lives and spend most of the film not getting together.

Akshay Roy’s film—his first full-length feature—is an amiable entry in the friendship vs love subgenre. If you’re looking for the kind of emotional scalding supplied by Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil or Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha, you won’t find it here. The characters in this film rebound from romantic disappointment within a few scenes, unlike, say, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, where their disappointment becomes the entire film. Sure, there’s a Devdas in Roy’s film, but it’s a dog.

Abhimanyu (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Bindu (Parineeti Chopra) are childhood friends, inseparable ever since she moved in next door to his Kolkata home. They listen to old Hindi film songs, make mixtapes together, prank each other. He’s in love with her, but not to the point that he can’t function on his own; she’s unwilling to relinquish his presence in her life, but doesn’t seem to want to address the implications of this. Abhimanyu describes their relationship as the LOC between love and friendship, but, save for a few scenes, the film doesn’t bring out the emotional artillery, opting instead for a wry almost-there-but-not-quite love story.

Much like Band Baaja Baaraat (Bindu producer Maneesh Sharma’s first film) was a love letter to west Delhi, Roy’s film is elevated by its affection for Kolkata. Much of the film unfolds there, and screenwriter Suprotim Sengupta uses Bengali tropes—bookishness, mothers doting on sons—to wonderful comic effect. It’s also great to see, in an age when song choreography in Hindi cinema is fast becoming a forgotten art, tribute paid to two classic sequences: "Mere Sapno Ki Rani" from Aradhana, and "Meri Pyaari Bindu" from Padosan. Bindu comes on very manic pixie in the first hour, but Chopra finds a measure of pathos in her romantic indecision as the film progresses. Khurrana, who’s played prickly very well in the past, gets to be straightforwardly charming here; it’s a shame that someone with an onscreen manner this confident remains, five years after his debut, underutilized by Hindi cinema.

Meri Pyaari Bindu ends on an intriguing note, at once messy and fitting. But is this enough? I can imagine little details lingering on—Aparajita Adhya mining comic gold as a doting mother; Abhimanyu admitting that he remembers “every comma, every full stop” of a letter Bindu wrote him—but not the film itself. It’s the law of mixtapes: the whole is always less than the sum of the parts.

This review appeared in Mint.

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