Vikrant Massey and Taapsee Pannu in 'Haseen Dillruba'. Image Credit: Netflix

Film: Haseen Dillruba

Director: Vinil Mathew

Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Vikrant Massey, and Harshvardhan Rane

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

Vikrant Massey and Taapsee Pannu in 'Haseen Dillruba'
Vikrant Massey and Taapsee Pannu in 'Haseen Dillruba' Image Credit: Netflix

Love is complicated and messy but keeping a marriage alive requires diabolical strength, or so you feel after watching Taapsee Pannu and Vikrant Massey’s wicked psychological thriller ‘Haseen Dillruba’.

Directed by Vinil Mathew, the film shines the spotlight on the narcissistic and wily Rani (Pannu) who marries the seemingly diffident Rishi (Massey) on a whim.

The wimpy Rishi feels he has married above his station and class and Pannu never lets him forget that she’s the ultimate catch for him. Initially, it looks like they are not on an even playing field. Pannu as the hyper-confident woman is perfectly cast, while Massey hits all the right notes as an unsure young man who can’t seem to do anything right in Rani’s eyes. She’s the queen of his heart, while she’s always cracking the whip and cutting him to size. Both actors play off each other’s energies with aplomb and the film with its strong undertones of humour hit all the right spots.

Harshvardhan Rane and Taapsee Pannu in 'Haseen Dillruba'
Harshvardhan Rane and Taapsee Pannu in 'Haseen Dillruba' Image Credit: Netflix

Writer Kanika Dhillon brings alive small-town stories with such finesse and never dumbs down her characters as stock country bumpkins — a charge that has often been levelled against Hindi films set in the world of Indian satellite towns.

Pannu as the bold and obnoxious Rani is a treat to watch. Her eccentricities and twisted ideas of love, lust and passion are questionable, but she’s never detestable to her viewers. Even Massey — for all his mousiness and superficial kindness — isn’t straight as an arrow. All the characters in this film are uniformly crooked and warped. Their marriage is off to a rocky start and doesn’t start with the proverbial bang (quite literally). Just as they hit a rough patch, temptation comes in the form of a bodacious cousin, played by Harshvardhan Rane.

The film concentrates on the deeds or misdeeds of these three terrifyingly nutty players. Of all the three characters, it’s Rane’s character that’s not as fully fleshed out. His turn towards the end doesn’t add up, but there’s a lot of fun in this film.

A still from 'Haseen Dillruba'
A still from 'Haseen Dillruba' Image Credit: Netflix

This movie isn’t your traditional love story. It begins on a sordid note where Rani loses her husband and she’s the prime suspect in the investigations. But the way in which she tries to prove her innocence — in the sassiest and sultriest manner — earns our reluctant respect. The interrogations by the sexist police officers who look at a good-looking woman like Rani with immediate suspicion is captured with a keen eye in this film. The movie touches upon the concept of arranged marriages, sexual dysfunction, infidelity, and the expectations of love with a strong hand.

A few twists in the film — especially Rani’s changed perceptions of her doting, docile husband — may be too sudden or hard to swallow, but Pannu with her strong acting chops sell it effectively. Massey’s approach to his insecurities as a male with a fragile ego is spot on.

Be warned, this is no tidy love story with happy endings. But the movie comes alive due to the solid performances.

While the ending doesn’t surprise you, you can’t help marvel that the makers have brought alive a love story with a lot of crazy in them. Put a ring on it, if you get your kicks from dysfunctional lovers who stop at nothing to prove their love for each other. It’s toxic and troubling, but there’s fun to be had.