BACHNA AE HASEENO. Director: Siddharth Anand. Players: Ranbir Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Deepika Padukone, Minissha Lamba, Hiten Paintal. Music: Vishal Shekhar. Theatrical release: August 2008.
Eve-teasing in India is a well-entrenched social mechanism that—depending on who you talk to—is either a sophomoric, harmless expression of males verbally flattering some women on their way to work or school, or highly offensive sexual innuendo that often results in violence against women. Although it doesn’t settle the so-called debate, Bachna Ae Haseeno borrows a page or two from that courtship-ritual-meets-harassment. When the dust settles, director Anand’s handling of the subject actually makes a couple of valid points and does so with style.
Intelligently spanning romantic entanglements over more than a decade,Bachna Ae Haseeno mostly follows Raj (Kapoor), a (wink wink) mischief-seeking dude who crosses tracks with three women. There is Mahi (Lamba), a college student Raj flirts with early on during a tour of Europe, Radhika (Basu), a supermodel Raj moves on to back in Mumbai, and finally Gayatri (Padukone), a taxi-driver in Sydney where Raj settles down. What makes Anand’s film click is a combination of brisk pace, picturesque locales (especially on the Mediterranean coast), and the immensely popular Krishna Kumar Kunnath-Shilpa Rao romantic duet “Khuda Jaane.”
The most refreshing part of the script is the prospect of Raj’s guilty conscience forcing him to face the music. In the old days, the “heroine” would be teased by the “hero” ceaselessly at the beginning, and in the end she’d fall in love with him and all would be forgiven. Here, Raj is allowed an unusual lucid reflection on his trespasses, which in turn lead to a desire for moral and romantic repentance. And, wouldn’t you know it, Raj finds out that journeying backward is not so easy. Maybe, just maybe, times have changed.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.