Raabta review: Sushant Singh Rajput, Kriti Sanon, Jim Sarbh make this interesting story work

As Raabta opens in theatres on Friday, 9 June 2017, all eyes are on its lead pair Sushant Singh Rajput and Kriti Sanon. Raabta could be the big ticket that both these fairly new, but partly-successful, actors need.

While Sanon’s last release was Dilwale, Raabta will finally be a platform for her to shine and show what she can do as an actor.

This is a litmus test for Sushant because his last film was MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. A lot of the film’s success was attributed to the fact that Dhoni has such a massive fan following. With Raabta, we’ll finally get to see how he manages to make the content and character his own.

Will Raabta meet the expectations that it has created? I’m also curious to see how the film explores the theme of reincarnation. If it isn’t, in fact, similar to the Telugu film Magadheera (whose makers withdrew their plagiarism plaint against the Raabta team on Thursday), then it raises much curiosity about the second narrative in the film. What’s also going to be interesting to see is how these two actors hold their own across different narratives and settings, and against the amazing Jim Sarbh and Rajkummar Rao. Their chemistry so far has been touch and go.

Sushant’s ‘entry’ is a shot of him rising out of a water body in a gurudwara, with his six pack abs prominently in focus. We find he’s moving to Budapest for work. He’s Punjabi (although his accent is a little put on and forced). He’s also supposed to be a ‘romantic’ boy. Which basically means he hits on the first white girl he finds. Through a montage of his fun times in Budapest (lots of dancing, lots of drinking) we find that he’s warming up to his loud, over dramatic character (called Shiv). Sushant definitely has screen presence.

There’s an air of karmic retribution through this all. We’re constantly told how this is a special month according to the the stars.. Enter Saira (Kriti). Her first scene is of her talking to the mirror. A bit clichéd, but we subsequently find out more about her: She’s scared of water, she’s a bit of a klutz and works as a chef/chocolatier.

Both Saira and Shiv are in Budapest, but haven’t met each other yet. When they do, the meet-cute is quite predictable. It happens at her chocolate shop, where Shiv and Saira have a moment and can’t take their eyes off each other (obviously).

Kriti reminds you of an early Deepika Padukone. She’s poised and articulate but not as emotive. At least not as yet.

Saira plays hard to get in the beginning but there’s clearly some chemistry between them. Hindi and Bollywood is what they have in common with one another. With the help of the background score and some intense acting (that doesn’t come naturally to either but they’re both trying very hard), an attraction is established and it hooks you in. There’s something there and you want to find out more, even though the surroundings and the situations are a tad clichéd.

Water seems to play an important role in these two’s lives. They both have flashes about drowning and a past life but we only get blurry flashes. Nothing coherent as of now.

Shiv’s a bit too much of an extrovert (trying very hard to channel a Delhi boy) and she’s an introvert. Therein lies their basic attraction point. Both claim to be different around the other. They also have their respective partners but can’t stay away from each other. It’s all a bit flaky at this point. At times you feel their chemistry, at others, you feel it’s forced.

Sushant especially has his hits and misses. It doesn’t help that his last role was that of Dhoni’s — a calm, Zen character. Shiv, by contrast, is the complete opposite. Show off-y, loud, sometimes even nasal/whiny but he has moments of spark.

Kriti has a pleasant vibe to her, even as she’s playing a layered character. Time is taken to establish exactly what this connection is between Shiv and Saira. Songs, dramatic but comedic scenes involving a break-up with their current partners — it’s all there.

They’re both warming up to their characters. The pace of Raabta so far is working, because it’s not trying too hard to force the story down your throats.

There’s a scene involving a psychic that proves to be the plot point in this love story. Something is going to happen. Real soon, we’re told.

And here enters Jim Sarbh. Might I add, with a three-second entry scene, he changes the tone to a high-drama level without saying one word. A good actor, clearly, doesn’t have to try too hard.

know no one asked for a comparison, but Jim Sarbh is turning out to be far better, altogether, than Sushant. This could be a good sign for a film, to elevate its antagonist to a point where audiences get confused. Saira may be attracted to Shiv, but I’m super attracted to Jim Sarbh’s character.

A triangle has been established. All three characters are at the same party, and this karmic connection seems to have permeated through, to each other. The music comes at the right points in the film, adding to the narrative — which is a pleasant surprise for a commercial film like this.

Jim Sarbh plays a business tycoon called Zakir Merchant. While Shiv is away at a conference, he tries to charm Saira. And slowly, there’s a conflict — in Saira’s mind as well as ours. She has a karmic connection with Shiv but Zakir is very, very charming.

What I love about this, is that these few scenes have been dealt with very differently than most Hindi films. We know Zakir is not the main character and yet the film, Saira and us as an audience, can indulge while she makes her choice. Who does she want to be with? It all pans off very playfully and not dramatically. A lot of credit for this goes to Sarbh, who is a complete natural on screen.

The midway break comes at a very crucial point.

I won’t give much away but so far if the vibe of Raabta was slightly playful and mysterious, it is now all about the suspense and questions.

Some observations: Sushant is far better as a serious actor. The jovial, playboy image doesn’t suit him. He does a much better job as an actor when there’s a real conflict.

There’s also no agency given to Saira, Kriti’s character. I’m patiently waiting for her to make a move/decision rather than Zakir and Shiv taking all the calls.

All I’ll tell you right now is that there’s a clear evil, clear good and clear damsel-in-distress, and I’m waiting for the secrets to be unveiled.

The past life scenes are very unique, with a Baahubali aftertaste. It’s a whole other kingdom, a whole other setting, with its own people and traditions.

All three characters belong to the past life and have their own conflicts. Remnants of it stay back in their current lives. While both Jim Sarbh and Kriti seem somewhat similar even in their past life avatars, Sushant has completely taken a U-turn. He plays a warrior in the past life and is just as serious as he was playful, in contemporary life. This suits him a lot more.

Kriti’s character from the past life is also fierce and powerful. The conflicts in this life are a lot more political and the tone is drastically different. It’s more feudal, intense and darker.

There’s a lot that doesn’t make sense in the past life segments. For example, the chemistry between Sushant and Kriti’s characters in contemporary life is attributed to their past life connection, but in the past life it isn’t explored as much. Where does this connection come from? Both belong to opposing warrior clans and they eventually fall for each other. But I wish there was a deeper reason given.

In their defense, both Kriti and Sushant play their parts perfectly. Jim Sarbh acts as the perfect foil and catalyst. For all the buzz around Rajkummar Rao, I wish he got more screen time.

The idea is there in Raabta. It’s all you see. It’s an interesting idea, one that has worked in Bollywood for decades. Karmic connections, past life conflicts, love, loyalty and passion. But there’s something missing. Some questions are left unanswered. Some plot points, unexplored.

The bridge between the two lives could have been a bit more defined. But right now a lot of the audience’s questions are kept at bay in wake of the larger story.

Raabta has potential. And it’s good to see a film that takes itself seriously in the right way — a lot of effort has been taken to establish authenticity. But I wish for more. Now whether that’s a good thing or bad, you’ll have to watch and decide.

Personally, the film worked for me in bits, and didn’t in bits. It’s interesting in parts and clichéd in others. Whether or not audiences will like it seems to be dependent on personal taste.

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