‘Haseen Dillruba’: A Hastily Produced Unoriginal Love-Hate Saga
Taapsee Pannu, Vikrant Massey and Harshvardhan Rane star in Netflix’s new romantic-thriller
A devastating blast, a half-cut arm and a distraught Rani (Taapsee Pannu) is how Haseen Dillruba lures you in. Directed by Vinil Mathew (Hasee Toh Phasee) and penned by Kanika Dhillon (Judgemental Hai Kya, Guilty), Haseen Dillruba, which literally means beautiful lover, is a twisted, slightly perplexing story about hopeless love intertwined with a murder mystery.
A ‘last-resort’ arranged marriage between a “khoobsoorat and hot” city girl Rani and a simpleton small-town engineer Rishu (Vikrant Massey) turns into a smutty tale of sex, crime and passion when the tall, dark and handsome cousin Neel (Harshvardhan Rane) comes along. Like Pannu’s character Rumi in Manmarziyan, Rani is sandwiched between the perfect husband and the freedom-loving commitment-phobic eye candy. The awkwardness and Rishu’s inability to consummate the marriage push him into isolation and his suffocated and desperate wife toward the charming dudebro Neel.
Haseen Dillruba is told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator — Rani herself. She narrates her story when confronted by a local policeman Kishore Rawat (Aditya Srivastava). The investigative officer presides over the house fire incident which consumes Rishu. His only legacy left behind is a charred hand etched with the word ‘Rani.’ As expected, Rani becomes the prime suspect.
The switcheroo between the dual personalities of the characters is choppy and difficult to follow — one minute Rani is a modern, chirpy Delhiite, the next she is a submissive housewife deliberately suffering abuse because she thinks she deserves it. Rishu, introduced as a soft-hearted epitome of naivete, switches to a ravenous psychopath without a proper course of events, almost in the blink of an eye. Amid this hotchpotch, the turnover from upright to docile and from noble to spineless muddles up the storyline. Rishu has his Kabir Singh moment as an ‘angry young man’ glorifying murderous rage in response to infidelity. It makes you wonder if the fulcrum of this sequence is to establish the much-avoidable toxic masculine angromance, which, unsurprisingly, is a metaphor for undying, intense love for Rani. A disappointing characteristic, Rani justifies his actions by taking the blame and saying that if she has committed a mistake, she should be punished regardless. By getting murdered? No thanks.
So far, not-so-good. Mathew and Dhillon establish the mystery, the relationships and the characters in the first half. The main plot revolves around the couple’s thorny relationship and beats around the bush for too long. The dragged-out premise may make you itch to press that 10-second fast forward button. What ensues in the second half is a conundrum to the common eye. Our unreliable narrator makes sure you are gripped till the end as she shows you multiple versions of what might have been the pivotal crime. You are hooked till the end as the climax reveals the ultimate plot twist.
Haseen Dillruba weighs the viewer down with an unnecessarily Bollywood-ized version of David Flincher’s Gone Girl and Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter but somehow never reaches the pinnacle of compelling storytelling. Dhillon’s script seems to be loaded with character tropes set in a semi-predictable plot that cannot handle the expected depth in such little time.
While the plot may still be a unique experience to a thrill-demanding audience, a few indicators give away the overall hasty production of the movie. Where the movie truly lacks is the background music and the cinematography. The sudden lighting changes paint the plot in multiple moods, changing the very feel of the movie with a scene change. The background music demands a mention. As standalone tracks, the soundtrack, composed by Amit Trivedi, is worth a listen. However, it gets extremely jarring when a song, instead of fading away, cuts abruptly with a sequence change, giving way to a completely unrelated sound – an error made multiple times over in Haseen Dillruba.
Harshvardhan Rane (Neel) was extremely underwhelming for a sexy brother-in-law and Aditya Srivastava’s character, Kishore Rawat, could have been more than just an overly suspicious policeman. Similarly, while Yamini Das (Rishu’s mother) had something of a character buildup, albeit as a typical mother-in-law demanding for a fair, homely, sanskaari bahu, Daya Shankar Pandey (Rishu’s father) has an obscure job to only smile, get his hair dyed and be pushed around – a trophy father so to say.
Pannu’s performance as Rani is above-average; her stellar acting in Pink is unforgettable, and her potential reaches way beyond playing a softcore enthusiast with limited expressions. Massey’s emotional range is impeccable as he goes from mousy to tyrannized to tyrant all in one performance.
Still, the film tries to portray many emotions but somehow lacks the dramatic edge to drive the viewer to feel the same. Combining a series of melodramatic dialogues and over-the-top but mostly underwhelming acting, Haseen Dillruba turns out to be a bland and uninspiring watch. Mathew and Dhillon try to pack a novel-sized story in a one-and-a-half-hour long pulp fiction drama.
‘Haseen Dillruba’ is streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.