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Raise your hand if you think star-crossed romances filled with sacrificial lovers should be binned.

Unsure or on the fence about this? Well, enduring director Milap Zaveri’s ‘Marjaavaan’ will push you towards our jaded, cynical side.

This is a classic example of a formulaic movie that’s terribly exhausting. There’s nothing novel or new in this romance about a Kashmiri woman Zoya falling in love with a slum-bred, dishy thug.

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Malhotra plays the larger-than-life Raghu who is fostered by a morally bankrupt gangster (Nasser) and is raised to be his glorified henchman. Reams of bombastic dialogue about loyalty and love later, Raghu meets the angelic and non-verbal Zoya and falls in love with her.

They make a fetching pair, but their courtship is painfully trite. The reasons behind their insane love towards each other are not obvious and the lack of chemistry between Malhotra and Sutaria doesn’t help. Things would have worked better if the actors had the gravitas and charisma to pull off one-liners that are designed for catcalls and claps.

Unfortunately, Malhotra is too vanilla to pull off an incredibly reductive angry young man. His displaced sense of loyalty towards his foster dad who exploits him to do his dirty work feels like an outdated concept. We thought we were done with those loud and emotional films in the ‘80s, but sadly’ ‘Marjaavaan’ reminds us why we let go off them in the first place. None of those overdramatic dialogues stick.

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The diminutive villain Vishnu, played by Riteish Deshmukh, doesn’t send chills down your spine either. But if you had to choose the lesser of two poisons between the dutiful orphan Raghu or the evil Vishnu, I would go with the latter. At least Deshmukh’s character is slightly more layered and complex than Raghu who gives up on his grand love affair when threatened by his gangster foster dad.

All the conflict-ridden scenes are melodramatic and seem forced. There’s rain and thunder when something ominous looms around, as if viewers aren’t capable of understanding the tragedy behind the scenes without those overt signs from Mother Nature. The drama rarely sticks and the director keeps over-explaining, while underestimating the intelligence of his viewer. Another factor that sticks out like a sore thumb are the songs ranging from risque to romantic that are inserted at random intervals.

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Just like the sloppy storytelling, the songs feel formulaic. Watching nubile dancers like Nora Fatehi making fleeting appearances to gyrate on the dance floor seems weirdly exploitative. Those dance songs set in a brothel-slash-club serve absolute no purpose other than to titillate. Rakul Preet Singh in a cameo as a dispensable prostitute isn’t particularly memorable.

While Malhotra, Sutaria and other players are earnest, there’s no denying the monstrosity behind this macabre film.

The movie plays out in a tedious, non-linear pattern where the past and the present life of an embattled Raghu play out. The flashback as to why Raghu snuffs the life of his soul mate and whether he extracts revenge for being forced into manslaughter are the high points.

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There’s a scene where the gangster patriarch says: “Raghu put a bullet in Zoya’s heart and she died. But he died with her”. Our thought: Viewers died a small death too.

Watch this at your own risk.

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Out now!

Film: Marjaavaan

Director: Milap Zaveri

Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Riteish Deshmukh, Tara Sutaria, Nasser and Rakul Preet Singh

Stars: 1.5 out of 5