Kundan (Dhanush) has grown up in the lanes of Benaras, the city of temples. He is the son of a Hindu, Tamilian priest. He has grown up loving a Muslim girl, Zoya(Sonam). When as a child, he first laid eyes on her; she was saying her Islamic prayers. ”Benaras ka bhang, Bholenaath ka zehar,mujh mein aa gaya tha…namaaz who padh rahi thi ,dua humari poori hui thi..”Such is his fervor and intoxication of love at first sight.
The madness continues to grow with each Holi. A.R.Rahman’s brilliant music and Irshaad Kamil’s lyrics,…”tum tak...tum tak”…the splash of colours; set the tone for playful love that knows only a passion for joy and endless hope.
The optimism only grows with time. Kundan knows Zoya doesn’t love him. But it is only a matter of time and several slaps from her that he will win her over. So like all the hopeful lovers of Uttar Pradesh, either he will go stalking her…”apne Uttar Pradesh mein ladkiyaan do tarah se patayi jaati hai,ek to mehnat se..subah se sham peecha karo, school ke bahar,bazaar ke bahar, sadko pe, cycle pe, riksha mein, tempo mein..ro do, khana khana chor do, wazan ghata do, aur ladki ko itna thaka do ki woh thak ke haan bol de.” Or he will try scaring her by cutting his wrists…”Doosra tarika hai,ladki ko dara do.”
He tries both. He chases her during school days, says “I love you” every day, gets slapped every time until she agrees to meet him alone. She comes. There is awkward silence. He tells her his name is Rizwaan and gives her a “I miss you’ musical greeting card. He starts reciting poetry, forgets the lines halfway, she completes them, comes close to him, her hands on his chest touches his janieyo (religious thread).Realising he is Hindu, she slaps him and leaves. This is not just one scene full of humour, laced with Benaras mannerisms which starts with one tone and ends with the opposite. The entire film gets better and better with every scene, every line and every twist. The latter half stretches in parts but maintains the crazy characterization.
It is not just Kundan who can be mad in love. His childhood neighbour , Bindiya ( Swara Bhaskar,striking ), will go any length to win him over. His best friend, Murari ( Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub,great diction) will root for him and take him to hospital very time he cuts his wrists. Simply because he understands the pain of silent one sided love from the film “Saajan” where he watches Sanjay Dutt look longingly at Madhuri Dixit and cries out with desperation..”Sanjuuu..” in the cinema hall. Then there is Zoya who too stops at nothing to marry her love (Abhay Deol,miscast) even if it means changing his identity from Sikh to Muslim.
So we see Kundan’s every effort at romance, every fall and every rise in his passion. He gets slapped by Zoya 16 times but dances with joy every time she slaps him. Such is his optimism that even when she turns down his marriage proposal, he asks her to pretend to be his girlfriend on a bike ride. He chirps happily,” Mere peeche bethna padega,main brake maaroon to mere upar girna padega, meri baaton par hasna padega, girlfriend na sahi,feel hi de de“ She agrees, sits on his bike, her arms around him and laughs at his jokes.
Soon, the mood gets intense. Rahman’s background score is ominous. Kundan is no longer smiling. He drives the bike straight into a river, deaf to Zoya’s screams. She lands up alone, shivering in the cold water as he walks away in painful silence.
The anger erupts later.”Tumse pyaar karna mera talent hai,tumhara koi haath nahin…ab maine tumhara naam liya to main ek baap ki aulad nahin.”
His love reaches a boiling point, the drama builds into a shocking and unpredictable screenplay, plunging you into the agony of love. We see Kundan madly rushing around in a bright orange sherwani ,sobbing bitterly ,tearing down the streets and forgetting his own wedding day. It is to the director, Aanand Rai’s credit that the scene is both funny and tragic.
The actors, especially, Dhanush (of Kolaveri fame,Rajnikanth’s son in law)) despite his Tamil accent, lend utter credibility to their roles. Sonam, very pretty in Delhi salwars and stoles, surprisingly matches Dhanush in his spontaneity and intensity. Both are outstanding in a particularly crucial and emotional scene towards the end.
Watch Raanjhanaa to experience the madness of love,the joy, the craze, the pain and the agony. Watch it to see how a Benaras ka launda is a lover crazier than Shakespeare’s Romeo . As the lines by Himanshu Sharma (Tanu Weds Manu) say, watch because ”ek ladki bagal mein baithi thi, ek dost tha, Benaras ki gaaliyaan thi..”