Starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. In Hindi with English subtitles. Rated PG. Now playing.
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has again created a distinctly fantastical world that is only tenuously connected to a recognizable time and place. Here, in a Mumbai set designer’s fantasy of Gujarat, Bhansali reimagines Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a dizzying spectacle of colour, sound, and emotion.
The story involves the Sanera and Rajadi clans who, despite living in adjacent alleys, have maintained their feud for 500 years. This is an enclosed world where time stands still and modernity makes only strategic incursions through ubiquitous cell phones, guns, and the rare appearance of a police officer.
Ram (Ranveer Singh), the slacker second son of the Rajadis, crashes the Holi party of the Saneras where he instantly falls for the beautiful Leela (Deepika Padukone), the indulged daughter of the Sanera’s frightening matriarch Baa (Supriya Pathak). The requisite balcony scenes follow and the young lovers expect their love to conquer all.
Here the plot diverges sharply from our expectations. Power, mob politics, family honour, and violence take the story in unforeseen directions. Ram is not the usual incarnation of Romeo; his love is as flawed as is his logic. Leela is no damsel and responds with unexpected machinations of her own.
The film is held together by strong performances and the visual and aural feast that permeates every frame. While both leads deliver solidly, the female supporting cast steals many scenes. Supriya Pathak is brilliant as the complex matriarch whose kohl filled gaze could alone demolish her enemies.
The most commanding element of the film is the music. The songs, with their heavy dhol beats, seem to emerge organically from the gorgeous anachronistic sets and are always accompanied by whirling dancers in stunning textiles. This film asks the viewer to dive in and be lost. The trip is both overwhelming and memorable.