Over the years, many youth-centric films have surfaced with their various representations of love, pyaar, rulezzz (yes, rules) and formulazz- mostly tongue-in-cheek occasionally-sassy takes on the predictable mechanics of modern relationships and their various pitfalls. But for all their wit and rare originality, they stopped just short of the real deal and invariably limited themselves to Bollywood’s perennial tried-and-tested formula of happy endings after a few light-hearted candy-glossed hiccups - whether it involved eloping with a bride on a horse or, well, giving birth in comical fashion and feeling a sudden surge of fresh love. Interestingly, films like Saathiya, Chalte Chalte and Life in a... Metro (with no luv, rulezzz or superhit in their titles) - all of them gritty and realistic interpretations of the ‘happy nnding is only the beginning’ funda - still play it safe right at the end just to send the audience back with enough melancholy to start their Mondays afresh.
And that is exactly what PKP, written and directed by debutant Luv Ranjan, manages to sidestep and successfully at that. To combine all the elements mentioned above - be it comical, sassy, desperate or gritty, gut-wrenching or explosive - and still deliver an entertaining, delicious combination of relatable ‘hey, that happened to me too!’ moments in a crude Dil Chahta Hai (Gurgaon-style) format, is quite an achievement.
Easily the best mainstream film this year (so far atleast in this reviewer's opinion), Pyaar ka Punchnama is also a classic case of a misleading trailer that may smartly attract a ‘different’ audience too (horny kids looking for a, er, laugh) - what with the overdose of expletives and an American Pie hangover. And with the first few frames of the film clearly revealing the latest with-it location (Dilli, once again), it is hard not to expect another tasteless squirm-inducing take on today’s sex-obsessed youngsters. Whether it was a marketing ploy (strategy and all that business lingo) or not, ViaCom 18 have pulled a fast one here, and bright attentive smiles and muffled laughter (not unlike Akshay Kumar when he gets his hand on yet another Anees Bazmee script) exhibited by viewers and reviewers alike suggests that their idea seems to have worked - unintentional or not. And to add to it, the location is Gurgaon. No, that is not Delhi. Not even close.
Another strategic move could be the release of this film just weeks after the release of a YRF bubblegum girl-centric revenge drama Luv ka The End. Luv. End. Get it? Get it? Maybe, I’m reading too much of Dan Brown, though. Must be sheer coincidence. Life is full of them. Especially for an over-analytical reviewer hell-bent on picking up an invisible trend of sorts.
"Loving you was my favorite mistake." - This simple quote symbolizes all that is PKP and much more. The story is simple, really, and reeks of standard Hollywood fare - until, of course, dialogue takes over. Rajat, Chaudhary and Liquid are three Gurgaon dudes who live together in the ultimate bachelor pad - complete with an X-Box and stale Pizza crusts. Hard to believe but none of them has ever been in a relationship. Hmm, conveniently enough, three pretty young things enter their lives simultaneously and the film begins to take form when our dudes fall in love. Nothing unusual. Nothing out of the ordinary. Yet...
Told from a guy’s perspective (clueless, generally), this film covers almost every base of an Indian 20-something male’s inevitable transformation from dude to soppy dud at the mere sight of a pretty girl giving him ‘bhau’. As most of us may know by now, Raj and Simran eloping together at the end is only the beginning. What happens after that is what this film is about.
It was never going to be easy. It was never going to be straightforward. Blame Yash Chopra and co. if you still think that way. With the first half speedily leaping from one plot-building situation to another faster than Salman Khan’s latest midnight joyride, the filmmakers are visibly in a rush to cover the massively lengthy script in the allotted 2.5 hours, which is still quite long. Even the direction seems to suffer at times, with blatant continuity gaffes, hastily inserted background scores and fade-outs to move on quickly. Faster, Faster, Kill, Kill! Add to that the regular loud dosages of an opportunistic background sound that is anything but subtle - and the lack of confidence (borne by inexperience - or experience in Bollywood’s case) that the director credits the viewers with, begins to surface. Just when the regular cynical critic from hell begins to lose all hope and the stars disappear faster than on a cloudy night, an unknown entity, previously known as a ‘script’ makes an appearance. A rare luxury these days in these troubled times- so much so that some of us barely recognize this alien entity anymore!
Liquid, the character, stands out with his immensely innovative take on a frustrated virgin who has much more to offer (don’t we all) - and with gems like ‘Babbarsher’, ‘Saali Kutiya’ and ‘Laundayi’ in his rapid dialogue-artillery, he is a scene-stealer and clearly stands out as the tech guy everyone can relate to, especially with his honest-to-God sincerity when it comes to the vulnerable (or is she?) new office girl Neha. Of course, there is Chaudhary for the chain-smoking guitar-strumming ‘creative types’ who decides to pursue everyone’s Anglo-Indian wet dream Rhea and Rajat (meri Rajoo, in Liquid’s book of alternate sexuality) as the harmless, confused guy-next-door who jumps into a live-in with his ‘first love’ Charu a bit too early. Scene set. Characters in place. Time to take the audience by their, er, throats. WAKE UP!
The second half descends into the immeasurable vortex of a hurricane that seems to slap each of our guys flush in their faces on being confronted with the harsh truths of almost-relationships and one-way traffic. One could argue that the transformation from the fun-and-frolicky first half (pre-6 month period in a relationship) to the dark, heartbreaking life-lessons of the second half may be a little too extreme. But isn’t that the chart most adolescent relationships/affairs and marriages follow? The gamut of emotions the film makes you go through (from inevitable highs to pathetically-low lows) is exactly the kind of content that makes you really wonder if Mr Ranjan has been intimately familiar with the changing forms (liquid, if you may) of intense unions. If not, he’d have to be either a stalker or a psychological prodigy to be able to paint such a frightfully true portrait of the post-love syndrome.
One can still be finicky and point out that instead of creating similar situations for Chaudhary and Liquid (women in denial about their ex-boyfriends), an effort could have been made to atleast have their characters follow different behavioral graphs once faced with the fickle ways of their women. So one broke down, and the other strummed a kickass guitar in a smoky room. Still not too different.
The fully-baked scenario of Rajat and Charu, the live-in couple with no future together considering her manipulatively charming battle-for-power ways and his emotionally submissive puppet routine stands out as the pick of the stories. Watch out for the scene when he loses every last strand of self-respect and breaks down in her lap begging her to take him back. Sounds familiar but her unwavering display of utter indifference makes for heartbreaking viewing. As Luv (pardon the pun) has rightfully displayed, indifference is probably more difficult to accept than adultery and commitment-phobia combined. The inevitable snap of a vulnerable mind could be sheer torture for both the souls involved.
As tempting as it would be to label this film as a pro-male female-exposing work of art, practicality takes over with the realization of the fact that there are always two sides to a coin (unless you are in Sholay), and that the deviousness of a con-artist is only amplified by the naïve foolishness of the victim. Did I say ‘victim’? Well….you get the drift.
With some songs making an appearance just to drive home the commercial credentials of the film, the hummable music by the talented Clinton Cerejo and Hitesh Soni manages to spice things up a bit. As for the acting performances, it is often hard to believe that inspite (not because) of the relatively big budget, fancy locations (Rio-styled Goa, nowadays) and glossy look - most of the six protagonists that form the crux of this film are newcomers. Divyendu Sharma as Liquid stands out with his accurate portrayal of a frustrated Gurgaon techie and successfully manages to sound like a crass fool no matter what he says. A massively entertaining 4-minute monologue by Kartikeya Tiwari (as Rajat) is destined to achieve cult-status and will attract all sorts of whistles and catcalls by, er, the males in the audience. Having said that, one also suspects that there will be a lot of uncomfortable living-room couches that will play homely recipient to plenty of brooding male egos the same night - much like Rajat’s fate in half the film. Amongst the women, it is the expressive young Bharucha who walks away with the bouquets - especially in the manipulative scenes with devilish babytalk that she constantly indulges in with the lovesick Rajat (that may promptly leave most of the committed souls in the audience red-faced)
An immensely watchable film with a few flaws and a fresh (read real) outlook to ‘love ke rulezz’ in this overcooked-sappy-saccharine world of wannabe romcoms, Pyaar ka Punchnama has single-handedly re-instilled faith in the power of corny trailers and misguided marketing. Speaking of corny, this is definitely not this Luv (Ranjan) ka The End!
Next thing we know, Karan Johar will be promoting his new film as a sensible, gritty, contemporary take on human sexuality.
- Reel Reptile