Coming off from what must be the worst trailer of the year, the sort of piffle that should deter even the hardened filmgoer, true to my calling and to the cause (never give up on cinema), I trundled along to Befikre along with an army of die-hards, with expectation at its nadir. Aditya Chopra after all did give us the iconic DDLJ and the mildly engaging Rab ne bana di jori so how bad could this be?
The film opens with two hard-assed lovers having an almighty barney, a break up that you know is going to lead to the inevitable lived-happily-ever-after that we all hanker after. Its all fairytale stuff and Chopra knows it too as he’s been spinning them for a while. So what makes this tale any different from countless others, the only variation usually being the journey to the inevitable. The proof of the pie is in its first bite and when you see a near naked protagonist, in this case the hero strutting around in only a tight black underwear, and the heroine stripping down to her bra upon his demand that she return his grimy t shirt, you know that you are headed into Aditya Chopra’s version of modern love, the “Shrek” to his DDLJ. And for love to be truly modern, it has to be on foreign shores (Paris in this case) because people don’t behave like this in their own homeland! It’s a crass opening, humourless and perfunctory, with as much fizz as an opened bottle of Perrier!
Seesawing between past and present, the story unfolds. Paris clearly has a burgeoning Indian community, so starved of local entertainment that the local hotspot turns out to be comedy club where Dharam (Ranveer Singh) a stand-up comic from a suburb of Delhi whose jokes left me stone faced. Having arrived in Paris resembling a gauche teenager, Dharam asks for the hottest nightclub in town, only to be referred to a street party on the banks of the Seine, an insult that as a Parisian I would not forgive. Here he meets Shyra (Vaani Kapoor), a French spouting desi chick who falls for the dubious charms of our lusty comic, possibly because he doesn’t smell of fenugreek. A few smooches later (and there are many), Shyra takes off in the morning not wanting any further hookups, because this is how we perceive modern girls and modern love to be. Agreed that its Chopra’s view but its not one that sits easily or indeed, with any conviction.
The inevitable chase leads Dharam to Shyra again and following a staid and predictable screenplay Shyra and Dharam move in together only to fall out, evidenced by farcical tiffs and bickering over corn flakes. Glossed over in moments lest we give it more depth than it deserves, we zoom back into the present with our protagonists now becoming pals and on the dating scene. Enter a “boring banker” and he’s almost perfect for Shyra. Dharam thinks so too…or does he?
Befikre is Chopra’s ode to modern love, seen in today’s world as opposed to archetypical form executed to near perfection in his most celebrated work DDLJ. Romance takes a backseat as lips lock relentlessly and lust takes precedence. Chopra’s thumbs up to feminism is a girl who flaunts her sexuality and isn’t apologetic about it, except that in essentially rejecting her roots, synonymous with her rejection of the “smelly aloo parathas” packed for her as a child, Chopra defeats what he set out to do. No sir, good Indian girls would never, ever behave like this!!!
Sumptuously shot, if the film is palatable at all, it is through the efforts of Ranveer Singh, an actor who manages to bring a zing to the inanity that surrounds him. Vaani Kapoor on the other hand is charmless, almost glacial. She does a reasonable job but plays Shyra with a cosmetic passion, but nothing else. Aysha Raza does play deadpan and rather well, a welcome humane character in a melee of mannequins.
Befikre is a misfire and the fault lies entirely at Chopra’s doorstep. Working on a premise with not much in terms of story, Chopra fumbles with a screenplay that invokes little interest in its characters and a montage of scenes that gloss over the obvious shallowness of its premise. Déjà vu is what reverberates throughout the film, with the entire recent Chopra encyclopedia being recycled and repackaged with a new ribbon, except that the contents are now stale. You cringe when Shyra dares Dharam to smack a gendarme to prove that he’s got the zap she is looking for! Really Aditya? Is this your take on modern love? The problem is in Chopra’s DNA….he’s a romantic and the film is works best when there is some semblance of romance and feeling. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between. Oscillating between farce and romance, the film sits on the fence and ends up as neither. Disappointing.
Written by Faiz Khan; lawyer by profession and cinema enthusiast by night.