Dear Kanika Dhillon
When you got top billing over director Vinil Mathew in the trailer of Haseen Dillruba and a relatively unknown male writer-director took a swipe at you over it, I was on your side. He had made the snarky remark that to get top honours of the sort you got, a writer would probably have to be married to someone influential in the production banner. Hmmm, we do know you’re married to Himanshu Sharma who wrote many of Aanand L Rai’s films like Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhanaa, and is one of the listed producers of Haseen Dillruba too. But to give the credit to who you were married to and not to your work, had to be the comment of a very disgruntled man.
So when I saw Haseen Dillruba – and hats off to Netflix for sending me the screener well in advance – it was your work as writer that I looked at closely.
And I must disappointingly state that while your writing is so distracted with strewing feminist statements all over the place, you don’t seem to understand its very concept. Do you really think a woman’s emancipation is solely about having pre-marital and extra-marital sex? One thought the unconventionality had freshness in some of your earlier writing. But now that I think about it, whether it’s Rumi of Manmarziyaan or Rani of Haseen Dillruba (both played by Taapsee Pannu), the trailers establish the ‘feminist’ with badass lines about condoms or about not making fritters (pakode). Supposed to be humorous cultural shockers, the wit doesn’t extend to any other piece of dialogue. In the film itself, beyond the young wife making love to either an ex-boyfriend as she did in Manmarziyaan or to a new sexual attraction like her husband’s cousin in Haseen Dillruba, why are your heroines so singularly empty headed with no substance in them? Unless you truly believe that’s what sums up the women of small towns like Jwalapur.
Morning after morning, Rani wakes up to step out of her bedroom in sexy, colourful sarees after one more night of demoralising her perfectly decent husband, Rishu (Vikrant Massey). And good guys end up looking like wimps.
Sure, don’t make pakodas, Ms MA in Hindi Literature, and don’t lend a helping hand to your ma-in-law. But how is a wife with a vacuum in her head, a motor in her mouth and no cerebral occupation, a symbol of emancipation? Looking gorgeous, having blunt conversations about sex, being insensitive to her husband and bedding his hairy cousin Neel (Harshvardhan Rane) is not the definition of feminism. In fact, it’s rather contradictory that the only way Rani reacts to a man she’s attracted to is by going into the kitchen to knead tons of dough and make tea and mutton curry for him.
To do justice to the truly modern woman, do progress beyond the sexually active heroine, Kanika. It’s also unimpressively juvenile when the dialogues (supervised by Ankana Joshi) pun on ‘cum’ and ‘come’, refer to an ancient story about the emperor’s new clothes and Rani beats a lie detector the same way a dozen spies have in the past, including John Abraham in RAW.
Haseen Dillruba is a thriller about a woman who’s accused of murdering her husband. A husband who was so besotted with her that he had ‘Rani’ tattooed on his forearm, the only piece that miraculously survives a fire that has destroyed the rest of his body, rendering it unrecognisable.
Inspector Rawat (Aditya Srivastava of CID fame) attempts to re-construct the crime scene but instead of getting his basic forensics and DNA tests right, most of the screen time is invested in the feather-brained wife’s narration of her marriage.
The scenes at the police station also seem disconnectedly fictional with a posse of cops gawking at Rani being interrogated and seniors suddenly asking Rawat to close the investigation and move on to a new honour killing case.
The twist in the tale is the supposed meat in the story. But the mutton curry detour derails much of the mystery.
Watching Taapsee with her bullet-speed dialogue delivery and the occasional smart-alecky line spoken with a cheeky drawl, is like watching Rumi of Manmarziyaan all over again.
Ultimately, Haseen Dillruba, with average performances, is an interesting thriller that could’ve been engrossing, like Sujoy Ghosh and Taapsee Pannu’s Badla, if only there had been real sparkle in its telling.
CC Ms Taapsee Pannu