It’s a given that love stories that are born out of the dubious concept of re-incarnation need a suspension in belief.
But what makes Raabta stand out is that its protagonist, Sushant Singh Rajput, is in on the joke.
He plays Shiv, a charming bloke who is an ace at flirting with women. The Punjabi lad, who thinks he’s a gift to women, meets Saira in Budapest and falls in love instantly. He’s on a date, but that doesn’t stop him from checking out another woman (an incredibly pretty Sanon) in a patisserie. Such inappropriate behaviour may signal creepy, toxic guy in real life, but in a Hindi film all’s fair in love and lust.
Watch: The review of #Bollywood romantic thriller Raabta starring Sushant Singh Rajput, #KritiSanon and Jim Sarbh by Manjusha Radhakrishnan, senior reporter Gulf News tabloid.
Saira basks in all that attention and reciprocates it in full measure. The first half of the film is as old as the hills, but what makes it work is the crackling chemistry between the lead pair.
Rajput is perfectly cast as Shiv, who can make the cheesiest pickup lines look like great literature, and Sanon is a perfect foil. Both are pleasing to the eye and play off each other’s lines well in a scenic European setting. Their amiable whirlwind romance and their physical attraction is sweetly explored in director Dinesh Vijan’s film.
So far, so good. But it’s the entry of the proverbial villain, played by Jim Sarbh, as an eccentric, wealthy liquor baron, that knocks you out cold. This actor, who played one of the hijackers in Neerja, is a rich cad who travels everywhere in his own helicopter. His character as a liquor magnate is so pretentious that it gives you a nasty hangover. Suddenly, this sweet romance morphs into a thriller about a crazy, obsessive lover who has never been introduced to the word consent when it comes to acting on his crush. Like a surly child denied a toy, he doesn’t take to rejection well. So he does the next best thing — take Saira prisoner against her will and whisk her off to his mansion on an island.
His character is blindingly archaic and Sarbh doesn’t have the heft to make it convincing.
It’s the 21st century, but his brutish, entitled behaviour may remind you of a stale Mills & Boons romance fiction.
Saira, who is grappling with a near fatal car accident that claimed her parents’ life, is convinced that Shiv and she have a bond that transcends time. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t explore her troubled, traumatic past, but goes on a re-incarnation tangent. The second half is dominated by a fierce, brutish warrior who falls in love with a brave princess. The medieval arc sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s almost like seeing Game Of Thrones being inserted into the iconic, tender romance Before Sunrise.
It’s the contemporary parts of the film that are relatively enjoyable. While you may wonder how a rich, eccentric man is allowed to roam free in Europe kidnapping women, the film doesn’t bow down to logic. The climax — which sees the lovers save the day — is unintentionally funny, but the last scene puts a smile on your face. All that drama also makes you wonder how an unhinged man is allowed to flourish without any fear of authorities.
Raabta is at fantasy adventure flight risk.
Director: Dinesh Vijan
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Kriti Sanon, Jim Sarbh and Rajkumar Rao
Stars: 2.5 out of 5