'Junooniyat' review: Rotten wine in a plastic bottle

After last week’s dark and dystopian portrayal of Punjab in Udta Punjab, we are back to Bollywood’s favourite la-la land view of the state in Junooniyat. Where all members of the family, headed by a proud patriarch, sit on their designated seats around a large table displaying shiny dinner sets, where rivers and mustard fields gleam like they only can if they are photoshopped. Where a good-looking boy and pretty girl fall in love as conveniently as they are in a four-minute trite music video. Ironically, this Punjab looks and feels so artificial that it feels more like a cheat-location.

Vivek Agnihotri’s film is so desperately Punjabi that when Suhani (Yami Gautam) tries to escape from a trekking group, her friends plan to distract their camp leader by stuffing what else, but aloo ka parantha into his mouth. She falls in love with Jahaan (Pulkit Samrat), an army officer who once saved her life. Samrat struts around in a uniform, tailor-made to showcase his sculpted body, a designer bag in hand and wearing trendy sunglasses, like a model in a military-themed fashion show. In one scene, his three strands of hair are placed so perfectly on his forehead that I felt an irresistible urge to leap into the screen and mess it up.

The film could have explored the central conflict – Suhani’s father’s refusal to let her daughter get married to an army officer. All three members of the family who were in the army lost their lives on duty. It had melodramatic potential. But Agnihotri is too lazy to venture there. He wants to have it easy. But a string a string of glossy music videos and some Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayege (DDLJ) rehash doesn’t make a film.

The emotional manipulation is alarming. A major conflict point, is based on a scene where Suhani sees Jahaan being hugged by another woman but doesn’t see his sad face. Agnihotri tries to play the ego angle to make us believe in the communication gap and misunderstanding between them. On one hand, he shows us letters being exchanged by lovers and on the other, Macbook and emoticons. He uses them according to his own convenience but it all feels embarrassingly contrived. The entire third act wouldn’t have existed if Suhani and Jahaan would have just talked it out on WhatsApp.

The acting is uniformly bad. One can only look at Gautam’s beautiful face for so long. Samrat plays Jahaan like a graduate from the Salman Khan school of non-acting. The few half-decent moments come from Gulshan Devaiah (what is he doing in a film like this anyway? Oh! Hate Story!), who is otherwise hilariously miscast as the progressive and sensitive fiancé equivalent of Kuljeet from DDLJ. There is Yash Chopra wannabeness stamped everywhere: the ‘Main aur meri Tanhayee’ style couplets recited by Samrat, even making him spread his arms wide in one scene and staging the climax in a railway station. That grand old man of chiffon and champagne must be turning in his grave.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 12:55:25 AM |

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