When one sees the promos of ‘Phillauri’, one is not sure as to which genre the film belongs to. It has one of its principal characters playing the role of a ghost and the trailer indicated the film to have a blend of romance and comedy. Anushka Sharma and brother Karnesh Sharma, who co-founded the production company Clean Slate Films have shown a penchant for offbeat films. ‘NH10’, the duo’s maiden production venture was quite different from the regular fare and one expects ‘Phillauri’ to have a unique story in the offing. ‘Phillauri’ has been directed by debutante Anshai Lal and written by Anvita Dutt, who has films like ‘Queen’ and ‘Shaandaar’ to her credit as a writer.
Kanan (Suraj Sharma), a 26 year old Canada based musician, comes back to India to get married to his childhood sweetheart Anu (Mehreen Pirzada). After reaching India, Kanan is informed of the fact that he is a ‘maanglik’ (an astrological combination considered to be inauspicious) and he needs to get married to a tree before tying the knot with Anu. Getting married to the tree and then chopping it off, the astrologer suggests, would help Kanan get rid of the bad omen attached to him. Unwillingly, he gives in to the pressure put in by everyone around him and gets married to the tree. The same night, Kanan is woken up from his slumber by Shashi (Anushka Sharma), a woman who died 98 years ago and has now turned into a ghost. Shashi informs him that he did not get married to the tree but to her. After going through the initial shock of encountering a ghost, Kanan and Anu sit down and listen to Shashi’s story as she recounts her relationship with Roop Lal (Diljit Dosanjh) and what led to her untimely death.
Even in the 21st century, India is still grappling with age old customs or outdated ideas that, ideally, should have no relevance in today’s modern world. The film touches upon one such custom here but does not address it beyond a point. One does not blame the writer as probably, that was not the intent either. As the film is primarily a romance which explores the dynamics of the relationship shared by the two couples, one would have liked to see the writer put some more emphasis on it. Shashi and Roop Lal’s story takes some time to grow on you. And, the conflict between Kanan and Anu, a modern day couple, is never really brought to the fore.
‘Phillauri’ advocates the fact that love is eternal. That is does rather well – courtesy an emotionally charged climax that puts across the message rather well. However, that does not discount the fact the film suffers from uneven writing and has a plethora of scenes that serve no purpose. The second half moves at a sluggish pace and too much time is devoted to building up the characters. It is the second half where the film, despite some predictable turns, gets you really interested. The best is reserved for the last what with the film throwing up a hugely rousing climax which could make you reach for a tissue to wipe your tears with.
Anushka Sharma lends an understated humour to her character of a ghost and brings out the finer nuances of the well-read Shashi who is a part of a patriarchal society equally well. Diljit Dosanjh also strikes a fine balance between making Roop Lal come across as a sinewy and vulnerable person at the same time. Though saddled with a a fairly underwritten character, Suraj Sharma delivers a highly effective performance. Mehreen Pirzada looks pretty and plays her part of a docile, would-be-bride with elan. Manav Vij is terrific as Shashi’s overbearing but loving brother.
Anshai Lal manages to make a very fine distinction between the two starkly different worlds the film moves back and forth between. The control he has over emotions is incredible. The writing (Anvita Dutt) is sketchy and falters in the initial portions of the film but the climax makes up for a lot of shortcomings in the script. The music (Shaswat Sachdeva and Jasleen Royal) is in sync with the film but barring a couple of tracks, the soundtrack does not really linger in your mind. The background score (Sameer Uddin) is better. VFX has been used extensively in the film and the film, undoubtedly, has got some of the best visual effects one has seen in a Hindi film recently.
‘Phillauri’ rests on an interesting premise that could have made for a much more engaging film with a tighter screenplay. The subliminal climax is a treat for people who, like this writer, cry at the drop of a hat.