Designing the Ultimate Con
After three films under the Yash Raj banner, Anushka Sharma returns to the fold with her fifth film to date, reuniting with director Maneesh Sharma and co-star Ranveer Singh in what would be his second outing after their successful pairing and collaboration in Band Baaja Baaraat which turned out to be a sleeper hit last year, scoring nominations and awards for the filmmaker and his cast alike. Seeking to repeat that success, it unfortunately repeated what Hollywood had done with John Tucker Must Die with a trio of ladies plotting revenge over a guy, but over here it's not to get even because their hearts got broken, but more to get even because of the money he had swindled from them.
And to do so, they band together to hire a glib tongue who can out-con the con man himself, which is where Anushka Sharma sashays her way into the film only at the hour mark, being that perfect brains and beauty combination to exact revenge for her employers against someone who is falling dangerously for her, and vice versa, compromising the situation at hand especially when such risky undertakings involving money, deals and counter-deals may jolly well tempt one against one's original intent, and loyalty. Anushka played her role of a salesgirl turned fake hotel heiress as bait to perfection, this being her second con game role after the stint in Badmaa$h Company, calling for that level of confidence and vulnerability, and sharing that believable chemistry with Ranveer Singh once again, and if gossip rags are right up your alley then it's of little surprise this happens to be so. Ranveer on the other hand has a number of avatars to live up to as the titular suave conman who cheats on women as a game,
The first half is where the story patiently built itself up, giving ample time for Ranveer's other co-stars to show what they can do. Priyanka Chopra's cousin Parineeti Chopra makes her debut here as a student whose blind loyalty to and puppy love for her fitness trainer boyfriend Sunny Singh (Ranveer) made her the youngest and the easiest of targets. Dipannita Sharma as Raina is that ruthless businesswoman who strives to succeed at all costs, and her pride being punctured when art dealer Deven Shah (Ranveer again) sold her a renowned fake painting, and widower Saira (Aditi Sharma) got duped into believing the shy Iqbal Khan (Ranveer once more) comes with an honest heart in wanting trade in textiles with her family. To each of the girl scorned and to battle for their honour and money, they find each other by chance and plot to get their money back. And that's where Anuhka's Ishika Desai comes in.
Did I mention this film requires a stretch of believability, because there's always that ample opportunity for a more thorough research being done by the characters involving background checks and legal documentation since the con they get themselves engaged in hinges very much on contracts and valuation, unless one can blame inexperience, and going up against one of the most successful conmen meant some facts can possibly be glossed over. That aside, the narrative unfortunately sagged in the second half when a spanner gets thrown in the works, and while Anushka and Ranveer may look good together on screen, it's the journey of getting there where you'd expect their characters to fall in love coming too abruptly as if in a rush for time.
Still, the themes are still top notch for a romantic film, touching on regret and that one shouldn't see lonely women as marks to get into a seduction game, that the price of being conned of cash is one aspect of being hurt, but the emotional scars left behind are something else possibly more potent altogether. That, and the value of trust and one's word, how easily that can be broken way easily than to build up on. There's also a subtle jab at all things branded, when they can be easily replicated with a little bit of skill and help, having humbler items pass off as the real thing, in a way making a statement against all things ostentatious. The songs are all contemporary and catchy, but largely forgettable once you step out of the hall, while costumes and dresses just show why Anushka Sharma is quite the clotheshorse.
Yash Raj Films may be looking to strike gold again with the direction and pairing of Anushka and Ranveer, but the truth is an equally compelling script is paramount to exploit their natural chemistry to the fullest. Ladies vs Ricky Bahl was quite the roller coaster ride narratively, and it's really thanks to the leading actors' chemistry that saved the film from becoming a downer, keeping it afloat and coasting along without surpassing expectations. But it's a must for fans of Band Baaja Baaraat hungry to see both Anushka and Ranveer on screen together again.