Movie Review: 'Phillauri'
Opened: 24 March 2017
Cast: Anushka Sharma, Diljit Dosanjh, Suraj Sharma, Mehreen Pirzada
Director: Anshai Lal
Producers: Anushka Sharma, Karnesh Sharma, Fox Star Studios
Making a fairytale is always a gamble, especially with our films, given their track record at the box office. Sridevi tried her hand at it in the early 90's dud Chandramukhi, and similarly, Rani Mukerji yielded disastrous results in the Yash Raj yawn-a-thon Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. These are a but a few examples, and in Phillauri too the odds are stacked against it because the main protagonist is female, and Anushka Sharma who also helms up as producer, is pretty much the only known name in its credits which also features Diljit Dosanjh, Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma and debutant Mehreen Pirzada. Full credit to the team then, for churning out a product that's so remarkably fresh, and which despite a few blemishes has its heart ensconced firmly in the right place.
A parallel love story featuring four principal protagonists flitting between present day and the early 20th century, Phillauri recounts the story of commitment phoebe Kanan (Suraj Sharma), who's getting cold feet at the altar of his big fat Punjabi wedding after being cornered into marrying his childhood sweetheart played by Mehreen Pirzada. A fault in his 'kundli' means he has to get betrothed to a tree, which subsequently lands him in a bigger soup, when on the night before his wedding, a spirit, Shashi (Anushka) appears at his bedside and claims to be his wife post the superstitious rituals that have just taken place. Bit by bit it becomes clear that Shashi has some unfinished business to adhere to before being granted eternal redemption – and how she uncovers the mystery behind her unfortunate past forms the crux of the story.
Phillauri is a lovely film that takes its time to unravel, with the portions between Dosanjh and Sharma standing out the most. It helps that they add gravitas to their old world story, so much so that you wish the entire film revolved around their romance and that the Suraj-Mehreen track had been done away with entirely, purely because it feels like an entirely different film with its contrived humour and often, forced gags, making its better portions appear a little disjointed and out of place. Besides, while Pirzada is likeable, Suraj begins to grate after the film's initial reels, not because he's a bad actor, but because he clearly seems out of place in a fully fledged Bollywood set up.
It helps then that the film's other protagonists Diljit Dosanjh and Anushka Sharma do the requisite heavy lifting and pepper the film with warmth and fuzziness in their earthy, old world love story where the woman, despite being oppressed dares to dream and is the driving force behind the man who was once a lout but willing to change his ways all in the name of love. Sharma particularly, is effortlessly natural and your heart goes out to her especially in the film's dramatic portions.
Besides the two what works for the film is its impressive array of special effects which provide a good distraction, when in parts the film's pace grinds to a halt. That and the folksy music add to the film's flavour especially the song 'Sahibaan', which has been ruling the airwaves in the run up to the film's release.
Despite its somewhat inconsistent writing, in an era devoid of fresh ideas, Phillauri comes as a breath of fresh air, not because it's flawless but because it dares to be original and ventures a little out of the box, despite being fully aware of its commercial constraints. For that and Sharma's effervescence, I'm going with three stars. If you're looking for a film with heart you'll find plenty of it here.