Anjaana Anjaani (Siddharth Anand, 2010)
MEGA SPOILER ALERT GALORE
Anjaana Anjaani is based on an interesting, if by now slightly unsurprising premise: 2 strangers meet one night on
San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate bridge some bridge in New York that TOTALLY failed to make ANY KIND OF IMPRESSION ON ME AT ALL (see the comments) where each of them are trying to kill themselves. Their respective suicide attempts fail, and the two strangers go their separate ways, but when fate keeps throwing them together, and thwarting their suicide attempts, the two embark on a roadtrip together to tick off a list of final wishes before their final FINAL attempt on New Year’s Eve on the bridge where they met. EDIT: I wasn't completely on crack, I'm pretty sure they do end up in San Francisco at one point. I wasn't just totally conflating this film with Love Aaj Kal. Promise. (If you have to pick one though, here's a hint: pick the one that stars Saifu and Deeps, and PROMINENTLY FEATURES THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE).
In a parallel universe, somewhere light years away, Anjaana Anjaani is a deeply disturbing, hilariously dark comedy, twisted and ironic and cynical and wonderful.
Unfortunately, that’s not the film we get in this universe.
First, let me tell you about the good. Priyanka Chopra is UNDENIABLY one of the most skilled actresses of her generation – there are a couple of scenes in Anjaana Anjaani where she is just riveting. Ranbir Kapoor is good too (not a surprise, the kid is a great actor from a long line of great actors) – but his role in this film is a) totally meh; b) relies way too heavily on gratuitous shirtlessness and intertextual references to his previous films – and it’s not actually like he has a huge back catalogue ; and c) nothing new or challenging for him, and marks the point for me where I am officially weary of seeing him play yet another variation on the disaffected urban youth he was in Wake Up Sid, Bachna Ae Haseeno, Raajneeti (to some extent) and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. Seriously…I’m feeling a touch of the Michael Cera about the kid, so hopefully Rockstar nips that in the bud quick smart.
BUT ANJAANA ANJAANI HAD THAT TRAILER THAT LOOKED SO CUTE WITH RANBIR DRESSED UP AS BATMAN AND FROLICKING IN LAS VEGAS AND ACTUALLY VOMITING RAINBOWS! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
I’m so glad you asked.
1. Suicide – the premise the whole film is based on - just isn’t funny.
Call me amazingly old fashioned and a total downer if you like, I’m sorry, but I’m just never going to find people trying to kill themselves hilarious. I certainly got the feeling that I was supposed to, watching Ranbir and Priyanka wrap each other in plastic wrap and stagger around the room pratfalling as each of them asphyxiated and then struggled to pull the plastic wrap off when they realized the suicide pact was turning into a murder pact and thus going all wrong. Suicide is just. Not. Funny. Certainly not presented as “screwball comedy”. There’s a difference between “black comedy” and “slapstick” and the gulf between the two is very, very, very, wide.
Sure, there’s an argument that it’s presented so callously and lightheartedly to show just how little regard Akash and Kiara have for their own lives; a point rammed home later in the film in a scene that channels pure oldschool Bollywood melodrama when a doctor (A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL!) mouths off resentfully about having saved Kiara’s life though she doesn’t deserve it since she’ll just try and kill herself again; “look at the poor cancer patient, now there’s a DESERVING patient even though he’s gonna die anyway, none of these stupid people who might actually have depression or something ew why would we waste our time treating them?” is what the doctor says, more or less. If you are depressed, do not watch Anjaana Anjaani, because it will not be good for your mental health.
But there’s also an argument that says that the whole flimsy suicide aspect of the story is an unnecessary plot device that is just thrown in as some kind of lame USP to bring the two strangers (who by the way, don’t even remain strangers, THEY KNOW EACH OTHER’S NAMES AND EVERYTHING, so add “MISLEADING TITLE” to my list of complaints) together and give them a reason to spend three weeks in each others company. Pretty sure there are a million other ways the script could have brought two strangers together on a bridge, and kept them together for the duration of the film.
2. MISLEADING TITLE.
Anjaana Anjaani = Male stranger/ Female stranger. See above.
3. Look how liberal we are about sex, except when it comes to gays.
This film got a lot of positive attention from some quarters for its realistic depiction of premarital sex - not something dealt with very often in Hindi mainstream cinema. And actually, this aspect of it is one of the parts of the film I do like – I particularly like the way it deals with the relationship between Akash and Kiara and how their attraction blossoming into an implied one night stand changes things. I’ve read a bunch of positive reviews praising how no judgement is passed on women in the film for being sexual beings, there are no depictions of slutty Westerners seducing the men or evil rapists punishing women for their promiscuity.
But. Of course. A film so liberal about sexuality is too good to be true. Because of course, there is an extended sequence in the middle of the film set in a gay bar, played for laughs, in which Akash seduces and humiliates a gay man…so we will laugh? At the big tough man shaving a love heart into his chest hair? That’s funny because?
What would have been good is if that entire sequence had been left out, because it is entirely unnecessary, and is utterly, utterly cheap.
Unfortunately, that the two leads don’t sleepwalk their way through the film is the best I can do in terms of praising the film. Anjaana Anjaani is AMAZINGLY uneven, so while there are a few scenes I really do like, and moments I enjoy, and I do really like Priyanka and Ranbir (even though it seems like I just dissed him, Ranbir is still my third favourite Kapoor*) the final result is…a hot mess. A messy, timepass film at best.
*All-time Favourite Kapoor = Rishi; 2nd Favourite Kapoor: Lolo
*All-time Favourite Kapoor = Rishi; 2nd Favourite Kapoor: Lolo