Saturday, December 25, 2010

Band Baaja Baaraat

My Third Picture Deal Done!

With Band Baaja Baarat, Anushka Sharma has completed her three picture deal with Yash Raj Films and in some way had gone full circle. In her debut film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi we first see her burst onto the screens in a pre-wedding scene - her character's, before tragedy doomed her to a hastily agreed upon marriage to Shah Rukh Khan's Surinder Singh as arranged by her father on his deathbed. Here, she plays the wedding planner, and a number of major scenes see her both fussing around and enjoying herself in the weddings of her relatives and clients, and playing a role whose profession symbolizes some major shifts in conservative mindsets where weddings are outsourced to professionals behind the scenes rather than leaving it under the hands of relatives.

And one wonders how bold the studio is in entrusting a major film to a new first time director Maneesh Sharma whose experience has come from working as an AD in other major films, and pairing the still relative newcomer Anushka opposite the complete rookie Ranveer Singh as her co-star. This risk had paid off, as the end product is something relatively refreshing and spunky, going well with the themes, look and feel for Band Baaja Baaraat which is to break mindsets, and as teenage characters, epitomized the can-do, fearless spirit of entrepreneurship, wanting to try rather than to regret later in life.

Anushka plays Shruti Kakkar, who is dead set in her ways in wanting to start her own firm Shaadi Mubarak in the wedding planning arena, and deflecting the usual route where a girl has to seek marriage after graduation and live a life that's more or less set, rote and formulaic. Fate has her chance upon the laid back Bittoo Sharma (Ranveer Singh) who is looking to stay in Delhi a little longer after graduation, otherwise at his father's insistence he has to pack up and go back to his village to continue his family's roots in running a sugarcane plantation. Like all romantic films, it's opposites attract to a certain extent with Mr Relax vs Ms Focused as she reluctantly makes him a partner in her start up, as they draft an informal pact to stay focused on their career path and keep their friendship platonic.

At least up until the Intermission where things start to spiral a little out of control as emotions run high, and you'd come to expect the entire second half of the film to run aground with the usual fights and arguments, which in some way parallels the mood of the film where a split becomes problematic, and only when they work together as a team does the magic of the film happen. Basically it's the rules that the duo set out to break in their chosen industry, and with a pact made on their friendship never treading into the romantic space, you know it's a set up since breaking and bending the rules is something they do on a daily basis with a growing business.

And this mirror is more pronounced as we start to see how materialism and the building of a career can get in the way of romance, with the tussle on demands for time taking its toil. The only spark in the second half as it plods itself to an inevitable end for a romantic film, is how sometimes we get a little callous especially in taking someone else for granted, and here we see how the female of the species is actually quite complicated when her heart is set aflutter, painting Bittoo inadvertently as the cad without feelings, and a silly boy at that when love comes knocking at his doorstep.

On the characters' professional front I would have preferred it a little more if there's some poetic justice dished out in being more direct in being competitors to their brief mentor in the business, who perceived as the best turns out nothing more than a fraud when it comes to delivering quality service. I suppose in the outsourcing business one wonders if one gets the best, or are shortchanged left right and center in the way unscrupulous business is done. This of course gives rise to a myriad of supporting characters such as Maqsood the florist (Neeraj Sood), Rajinder Singh the caterer (Manmeet Singh) and Bittoo's friend Santy the musician (Revant Shergill) to join in as small suppliers hell bent on delivering quality as a business ethic.

I've always loved Indian weddings put on screen, because that promises colour and spectacle, with lovely songs and energetic dances putting up quite a performance for an outsider like myself to witness and enjoy. Band Baaja Baaraat offers just that in large doses with the different projects the fledging Shaadi Mubarak organizes, and needless to say I was having a field day. It's bands, horns and revelry out in full force, and both leads were a delight as they breathed life into their roles as business partners turned lovers. Anushka Sharma has grown from strength to strength with each film release, and Ranveer Singh is quite the discovery, with new male Bollywood heroes being quite the rare species in recent years, and his well oiled performance here doesn't betray the fact that he's into his debut. Let's see what other films will appear over the horizon for this rookie.

Band Baaja Baaraat is that spectacle that comes highly recommended, so catch it if you can as it nears the end of its run here.

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