Film: 'Bachna Ae Haseeno'; Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Deepika Padukone, Minissha Lamba; Director: Siddharth Anand; Rating: ***
Let's get real. Commitment phobia is endemic among 20-something urban yuppies, especially in the metros. Siddharth Anand, a master at depicting urban mores - 'Salaam Namaste', 'Tara Rum Pum' - this time pulls out all stops to expose the suave urbane heel who cannot feel above the waist.
Raj (must Ranbir Kapoor be called that every time?) is a man on the path to redemption. That of course comes later, much later in this elaborate but tightly-edited and engaging comment on the prowling dude's demoniacal insensitivity towards girls who give him the chance to dance into their lives.
There is 'salvage' grace in Ranbir's redemptive journey from cad to closet-saint who wants to set things right in the lives of the women he has wronged. One of these scorned women makes him her glorified slave in scenic Capri. And boy, does Bipasha Basu pull out all stops. The other hurt lady just makes him dance to a tortuous Bhangra tune in Amritsar. All's well that mends well.
Ranbir inadvertently turns the whole concept of romantic love as propagated by Shah Rukh Khan in 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge' and its zillion spin-offs on its head. Love now can easily be taken to bed. Though no one is thinking of sleep. Not the characters, not the audience.
The first episode with the starry-eyed Mahee (Minissha Lamba, suitably starry-eyed) is a rather diverting homage to Aditya Chopra's 'DDLJ'. That's a pretty auto-erotic thing to do considering Chopra is this film's producer. But then, you win some when you try to be winsome. Ghar ka khana served up with affection is not unacceptable.
Ranbir and Minissha are pretty much taken through the same Swiss terrain as Shah Rukh and Kajol in the earlier film. Even the circumstances created to bring them together can't be told apart. Except that this boy-man is out to have a 'good' time with the girl who lives in a bubble.
There's a bit of Ken Ghosh's 'Ishq Vishq' combined with a dash of Sajid Khan's 'Hey Babby' here. You know the hero who takes the innocent romantic girl for a ride will find his comeuppance. She shows up an hour later.
Some of the sassiest, sauciest and smartest lines come in the second overture of this anti-romantic comedy when Ranbir, now 20-something and suitably hormone-driven courts and mates Bipasha with ferocious intensity.
Ranbir has been there, done 'em all. He lives the characters to the 'jilt', swathes the character in the cruelly cool quirks that make utter self-centredness a fashion statement in contemporary societies.
One of the film's most stirring moments is when Bipasha is shown sitting on the steps of her marriage venue in her bridal finery waiting for her bridegroom to turn up, her mehndi getting washed in the rain.
A very Raj Kapoor thing to do in a film that's all about being cool and finally falling flat on one's face when the hero meets his match.
Deepika Padukone as the statuesque but spunky cabbie in Sydney has the shortest feminine presence in this made-to-order Ranbir vehicle. She gets to mouth the best throwaway lines and to hit the commitment-phobic hero where it hurts the most. And we don't mean below the belt.
The director has the guts to show his hero as a man thoroughly exposed in his self-seeking egocentricity. Ranbir doesn't spare the character. He penetrates Raj's nerve-centre and portrays him as a smooth-talking charlatan who's looking for trouble in shapely places.
Ranbir plays the Casanova with just the right dollops of dips and curves. The fact that he has already done it all in an abundant flourish in 'Saawariya' doesn't take away from the sincerity of the performance. Watch his surprise when he sees himself cry after Deepika rejects him. No one has done this before.
There are any number of scenes displaying inspired cinema in this work of cyber-art. The characters are etched with a contemporary air without making them overly illustrative. Bipasha's turn as a wannabe supermodel ready to chuck it all for marriage only to be jilted at the altar is notably powerful.
What the script says about a career women is that sometimes male insensitivity forces their true metier out of a woman. An interesting thought, and one that the narrative holds in place with grace on Bipasha's expressive face.
But the most interesting female character is Deepika's. A self-willed, humorous and gritty cabbie, she drives the Casanova round the bend and beyond. Deepika exudes a reined-in grace. She is the future of Bollywood.
Hiten Paintal, playing that age-old thankless part of the hero's friend, joins the ranks of the natural-born scene-stealing supporters like Ninad Kamath, Kabeer Sadnah and Vishal Singh.
The film has been beautifully shot. The azure blue oceans of Italy form a telling contrast to the bronzed, tanned and probably tattooed actors who clutter the Swiss, Italian and desi locales.
Cleverly crafted and structured to contour the severely flawed characters, 'Bachna Ae Haseeno' is not meant to be a mammoth social comment on love and marriage. But in its own tongue-in-cheek manner it manages to say plenty about life in the fast lane.