Friday, December 9, 2016


Release date:
December 9, 2016
Aditya Chopra

Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor, Armaan Ralhan, Julie Ordon, Ayesha Raza, Akarsh Khurana, Aru Verma
Hindi with a bit of French

First let’s get this out of the way: Ranveer Singh has a cute bum.

A flash of derriere on screen is no big deal in some parts of the world, but in India where the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has so far deemed the display of certain desi body parts a non-desi, un-kosher activity, here is a surprise. Singh gives us a clear look at his wonderfully firm backside as he runs into a hotel room to make love to his girlfriend in Befikre.

And the Censors have not scissored out that shot! Nine years after they sought to preserve our collective innocence by chopping out a glimpse of Ranbir Kapoor’s bottom in Saawariya’s towel dancing scene, mere Bharatvaasiyon, they have risked ruining our sanskaar with the sight of a man’s bare behind! A moment of silence please, at this great honour bestowed on Indian adults by the CBFC. A moment to express our deep gratitude for this acknowledgement of our maturity.

Thhoda zyaada ho gaya, na? You get the point though? Okay then, I’m done with mocking the Censors. Now onward to the review.

Director Aditya Chopra’s Befikre stars Singh and the girl from Shuddh Desi Romance, Vaani Kapoor, as lovers-turned-friends Dharam Gulati and Shyra Gill. He is a Delhi boy who has just moved to Paris to perform as a stand-up comedian at his brother’s nightclub there. She is a Parisian of Indian origin, a tour guide who occasionally helps her parents run a restaurant.

Dharam is perennially horny and a (sometimes creepy) pile-on, Shyra is not interested in commitment but is up for a roll in the hay. They are two people perfectly suited to each other’s wants and needs at the point in time when they first meet. The film takes us through the year between their hook-up and eventual break-up, and what follows.

Viewed entirely from the surface, Befikre is fun. C’mon, of course it is. Singh, as we all know, is a delightful bundle of energy and an absolute charmer. Like him, Kapoor is not a conventional pretty face, but like him she too has an arresting presence that makes her extremely attractive. She also has one of the loveliest voices I’ve heard on a new Hindi film heroine in a while: soft and delicate, like cotton candy.

An insensitive dare involving begging and a fleeting rape joke from Dharam require a separate – long – discussion. Set those aside, and his shenanigans are by and large amusing. The duo also play off each other well.

Combine the lead pair with Vishal-Shekhar’s foot-thumping music (not counting the decidedly ordinary Khulke dulke / Ishq ki bungee), an unusual blend of Hindi and French in Jaideep Sahni’s breezy lyrics and Vaibhavi Merchant’s infectiously lively choreography, and you have an entertaining package in place.

I scrutinised the entire end credits but could not find a mention of Kapoor’s fitness instructor and dance teacher. Could someone give me their names, phone numbers and the money to afford them, please? During an extended dance sequence between Shyra and Dharam, at one point she faces him with both legs wrapped around his waist and bends her torso backwards dipping her head deep towards the ground, then raises herself up ramrod straight again, her legs still around his waist, without any assistance from him, purely on the strength of her abs. If that was not camera trickery or a product of special effects, here’s an aside to salaam you for your muscle power, Ms Kapoor, and you for your imagination, Ms Merchant.

(Spoilers ahead)

The heart and soul of the film though leave much to be desired. How many times will Bollywood re-visit the story of a commitment-averse individual or couple who are buddies, find what they think is love in the arms of others and finally realise they are meant to be with each other instead? Films like Kunal Kohli’s Hum Tum (2004, produced by Aditya Chopra) and Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal (2009) had novelty value and depth. Ayan Mukerji’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) and even Ali’s Tamasha (2015) added new dimensions to the discussion. Befikre is entertaining at a superficial level, but at the end of the day it is nothing but old wine in a glossy new bottle.

So yeah, the couple have lots of sex and make their own decisions unlike the sanskaari ladka-ladki who bowed to the girl’s despotic desi Daddy in Chopra’s debut film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), 21 years back, but these are significant changes only if you assess the director’s filmography in a vacuum without the context of everything else that Hindi cinema has done since 1995. Besides, ultimately this film – like most Bollywood films – is designed as reassurance for conservative viewers that marriage can be the only acceptable conclusion to a relationship between a hero and heroine (especially if they have had sex).

Despite the generous dose of smooching between the leads, Chopra cannot camouflage his underlying conservatism. Note that after Shyra and Dharam break up, we see her in only one romantic relationship, and she does not sleep with that guy. Dharam, on the other hand, remains sexually obsessed, sexually active and has a long-term involvement with a French hottie.

Note too how lightly Dharam and, more important, the film take white women. They are nothing but bodies and sources of sex for him, creatures you proposition, not human beings to be taken seriously like the desi kudi he slept with.

None of this should come as a surprise if you look back at the extreme regressiveness of DDLJ. The difference between then and now is that, for the most part Befikre is not regressive. What it is is a film pretending to be subversive, revolutionary and evolved, when all it does is endorse a status quo.

That’s why Aditya Chopra’s fourth film as a director (his first in eight years) is watchable for its packaging alone and not for what lies beneath. Even Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor’s boundless verve, all that kissing, unbridled sex and tiny Western clothing cannot mask the story’s traditionalist core.

Rating (out of five stars): **

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
132 minutes 47 seconds

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

Poster courtesy: Yash Raj Films

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