Phillauri is a spirited attempt that soon loses steam, says Sarit Ray | movie reviews | Hindustan Times
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Phillauri is a spirited attempt that soon loses steam, says Sarit Ray

The first half is funny and on point, but then it starts to drag and, quite oddly, turns into a sob story set in another time.

movie reviews Updated: Mar 24, 2017 15:43 IST
Sarit Ray
Young Kanan, played by Suraj Sharma, is a manglik. So naturally, he has to marry a tree first. Then the tree is chopped down, and it turns out it was haunted by a beautiful, 100-year-old ghost (Anushka Sharma).
Young Kanan, played by Suraj Sharma, is a manglik. So naturally, he has to marry a tree first. Then the tree is chopped down, and it turns out it was haunted by a beautiful, 100-year-old ghost (Anushka Sharma).

PHILLAURI

Direction: Anshai Lal

Actors: Anushka Sharma, Diljit Dosanjh, Suraj Sharma

Rating: 2 / 5

There’s potential for humour in any Indian wedding — and the grander it is and the longer it lasts, the funnier it is likely to get. The rituals no one understands, the relatives revealing their eccentricities, the obscene shows of wealth, the harried young couple being shunted around.

Oddly, though, in Bollywood, the grand wedding is celebrated in earnest – a culmination of a love story, a chance to break into a sangeet number – rather than as a backdrop for humour or satire.

Debut director Anshai Lal’s Fillauri, seen simplistically, is two films in one. As satire, it’s pretty on point. Unfortunately, there’s a full-blown romance rolled in that goes from briefly interesting to really dull and much too long.

Twenty-six-year-old Kanan (Suraj Sharma) is not sure he’s ready for marriage. But as is often the case, his parents are. Especially since he has an eager childhood sweetheart waiting for him. He flounders through it, helped along by endless joints and Freudian dreams about drowning. Into this fray comes the ghost of Shashi (Anushka Sharma), after a tree is cut down.

The humour remains measured and sharp through most of the first half. The absurdity of a manglik marrying a tree – still a prevalent custom; the loud music, the endless drinking and partying, as seen from the perspective of a skeptical 100-year-old ghost.

There are too many flashbacks, too much song and dance. The idea shows so much promise that you’re rooting for it to work. Perhaps it might have worked as a shorter film.

A nearly silent humour sequence, with lots of caricature and running around, is especially remarkable, almost Chaplin-esque, and sees Suraj at his best.

But as it goes into flashbacks – increasingly long, and often oblivious of the contemporary plot – the story begins to meander. Here, it’s all golden dawn lighting, people dressed in Fab India-ish ethnicwear, and way too many songs, even for an old-school romance over music and poetry.

Yet, there is a solid, redeeming twist that could have held and justified Shashi’s back story. As the educated girl with a deep interest in poetry, young Shashi is a feminist ahead of her times. Even her romance with the local village bard (Diljit Dosanjh) is a match of intellect rather than attraction.

Unfortunately, the film takes on too much – rituals and superstition, patriarchy, class divide, even a bit of colonialism.

By the climax, you’re sick of the retro yellow light filter and the melodrama; the witty writing of the first half has long been forgotten. What started as comedy ends up as sob story.

Perhaps it might have worked as a shorter film. Perhaps it needed a punchy ending. The idea shows so much promise that you want it to work. And yet, in the end, just like those long-drawn-out Indian weddings, you just can’t wait for it to be over.

Watch the trailer for Phillauri here