Phillauri is the second film from Anushka Sharma’s production house after NH10. Like the first film, Phillauri too is entrenched in the Indian social milieu, neither promoting nor condemning, just showing as is. The story starts with a young man Kanan (Suraj Sharma), returning to India after three years to get married to his childhood sweetheart. Since the intervening three years in Canada, Kanan is no longer sure about marriage, but is too compassionate to break off the wedding. Added to that, an astrologer from the bride’s side declares him Manglik and supposedly the wedding can go on only if the groom is married to a tree first to ward off impending doom. Reluctantly, and at the prodding of his fiancée Anu (Mehreen Pirzada), he goes through the ritual, only to find himself married to a ghost (Anushka Sharma) who lived on the tree. Adding to the chaos, the tree is cut down after the ceremony leaving the ghost shelter-less. Now married, the ghost follows him home, leading to chaos and confusion.
The film however is not about confusion, though that does form the backdrop of the story. The film is about a hundred years old failed love story between the ghost Shashi and a poet who went by the pen name Phillauri (Diljit Dosanjh). Shashi teaches the young Kanan the meaning of deep love while the latter helps her discover what happened almost a century ago that wrecked her life.
The writer deserves full praise for an original story at a time when “inspired” ones are the norm. The tone of the film is prefect – whether showing the boisterous, whiskey swishing families in present Punjab or the more somber and restrained folks in the early 1900s. Cinematography is luminescent.
For all the positives, the film tends to get lazy in the middle especially in parts that show the burgeoning romance between Shashi and Phillauri. The scenes stay on too long, they should have been cut sharper. The other downside is the frequent switching between the current track and Shashi’s story almost a century ago. I can draw parallels with Rang De Basanti where the shot jumped from angry youths in contemporary India to angry freedom fighters during the British Raj. There was continuity in emotion. Here, the two tracks are emotionally far apart. Kanan’s track is more funny than anything else while Shashi’s story deals with serious romance. Switching between the two tracks in quick succession takes away the impact of both the stories. Perhaps, it would have served better if Shashi’s story was told in a linear fashion rather than cutting in and out between present and past.
Anushka Sharma is spot on as the ghost. She has the right mix of sadness and bewilderment in her act. Suraj Sharma is solid in the comic scenes. However, he tends to keep the befuddled expression throughout the film even when the goings-on get serious for him. We know Suraj can act from his earlier films. I suspect he may have been asked to keep the expression by the director. Diljit Dosanjh has an innate likeability which comes in handy in the role of a mild mannered lover. Mehreen Pirzada impresses in her Hindi film debut.
The concept of the film is novel. Performances are top notch. The film could have been gripping were it not for the stretched parts in between. Still, Phillauri is worth a watch.
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Rating : 3/5
Starring: Anushka Sharma, Diljit Dosanjh, Suraj Sharma, Mehreen Pirzada
Director: Anshai Lal