‘Befikre’ is an Aditya Chopra film.
At no point while watching the film could I shirk off the thought that what was unfolding before my eyes had been conceptualised and executed by the man who once gave us a film that forever changed the way we looked at romance in our movies, and which spawned a deluge of similarly-themed films.
But let’s forget, for a moment, that Chopra wrote and directed ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ 21 years ago, and then followed it up with two films (‘Mohabbatein’ and ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’), neither of which could outdo Chopra’s debut, but were at least credible films, with good actors, quotable lines, and actual plots.
‘Befikre’ is meant to be a departure for the filmmaker—an attempt at encapsulating a more “modern” romance—which unravels without the usual Chopra tropes: parental pressure, age-old restrictions and societal expectations. There’s probably nothing more challenging for a filmmaker of Chopra’s pedigree than to step out of his comfort zone and to turn every trick employed in past films on its head. In that regard, Chopra displays as much bravery and “boldness” as he would like to believe his two protagonists do in ‘Befikre’, and his intention to reinvent himself could even be lauded.
Comfort zones, however, exist for a reason. When audiences step in to watch a Sajid Khan film, for instance, they expect a certain brand of humour. You know what you’re in for—hammy acting, slapstick comedy, an over-the-top climax; it may not be your cup of tea, but at least you aren’t served guava juice. You, however, don’t walk in to watch an Aditya Chopra film, and come out feeling like you got a Sajid Khan film in return. That’s just barbaric, and could unsettle the best of us. And that’s exactly how ‘Befikre’ leaves you—senses numbed, eardrums hurting, head spinning.
Apart from all its misplaced attempts at portraying a “young”, “carefree” relationship, ‘Befikre’ left me dazed with the sheer noise generated by its never-ending dialogue, often thrown at audiences with merciless frenzy by Ranveer Singh (an actor who got his break in an Aditya Chopra production, and has since proved his mettle with fine performances in films like ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ and ‘Bajirao Mastani’). Singh’s annoyingly hammy performance could hardly be attributed to him alone, though. Would actors working with Chopra question his storytelling? Would technicians come down hard on him for his filmmaking choices?
Would Sharat Katariya, who gave us earthy, relatable dialogues in a gem like ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’, not write lines that so terribly misrepresent the lingo of this generation? “Main kal hook-up nahi karne wali thi”, or “Hum live-in karne waale hai” - for instance - don't make the characters seem like credible portrayals of people around us. Instead, they come across as poorly-imagined versions of what a filmmaker and his team thinks “youngsters” sound like. It’s the kind of clueless posturing displayed in content created by Y-Films - the digital arm of Chopra’s production company, Yash Raj Films - which tries to encapsulate the spirit of its target audience (young India) with similar broad strokes.
‘Befikre’ is just that—a filmmaker’s statement on the youth of today, who are meant to be, apparently, befikre (careless) in their approach to relationships, and constructed from scraps gathered from other films. The Paris setting seems more like a cop-out than an actual backdrop; it’s as if setting a story about Indian characters in a more liberated society would give them the license to emulate what they don’t even seem to fathom.
Of course, there are resources at Chopra’s disposal that are maximised for effect—the locations are woven into the story to provide eye-filling frames, every scene is shot with flair by cinematographer Kaname Onoyama, and two young actors let go of inhibitions for their director’s benefit. While Vaani Kapoor displays dignity and grace in portions, her character rarely displays traits that make her seem like a person we can relate to. Singh seems to overcompensate for his co-star’s softness with zest and energy that drives you up the wall after a point. Towards the tail end of the film, where the drama allows him to not behave like a four-year-old kid on speed, Singh shows glimpses of restraint and maturity—not just as a character, but even as performer.
‘Bekifre’ isn’t just Aditya Chopra’s most insufferable film yet, but also one of the worst movies of 2016—a year where filmmakers, incidentally, seemed to treat audiences with more respect than before. Watch it only if people jumping on each other in a church is your idea of fun. Or just wait for ‘Housefull 4’.