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Is love lust? Or friendship? Is it platonic? Or just an ineffable feeling? A leap taken in good faith?

Writer, producer and director Aditya Chopra turns an age-old dilemma on its head and gives it new life in Befikre.

The movie feels like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in spirit and yet it’s not. Set in modern world, it has its own identity and place. Just when you think the idea has been done to death, Aditya creates Dharam (Ranveer Singh) and Shyra (Vaani Kapoor), a new age pair  clueless about their feelings. Raj and Simran, a traditional pair, knew they wanted each other and fought an external battle. Dharam and Shyra don’t know what they want. Their fight is mostly internal, with self, about who they desire.

After his last formula offerings, one as director Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and the other, Yash Chopra’s swan song Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Aditya has quietly gone about redefining the typical Yashraj and Hindi cinema heroine. He produced movies like Shuddh Desi Romance, Daawat-e-Ishq, Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Sultan which showed her in a more realistic mould despite the stylised treatment. Some were successful, some not.

This time, it’s different because Aditya himself changes lanes. First, the trailers conveyed the bold message out loud. Then the reclusive director released statements which sealed the new deal. “My second first film,” he said. “I am stepping out of my comfort zone and into the minefield of the young and the restless”. Ok then.

At 45, without Yash Chopra to back him, he finally helmed a movie closer to his own sensibilities. So does he deliver? Oh yes, and takes it up several notches.

Is it risqué? On many levels, it is. It pushes our pre-defined concepts of how a hero and heroine should be and behave. It breaks the standard Hindi cinema format by running two parallel tracks, flashback and present, in the first half. It surprises with delightful twists and turns in the second half. Most importantly, the highs and lows are driven by characters and new beats in the story, minus frills or drama.

Right then, grab a popcorn packet, put on your seatbelts and join Dharam and Shyra. A pair driven by impulse, always up for a good laugh whatever the situation.

Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor in Befikre

Tour guide Shyra is France-born but sorted desi who is not apologetic about who she is. Anything goes, as long as she feels it’s right. She is all cool, grit and substance. Technically, the only secure choice by Aditya which rankles – French ‘values’ which justify her being more sexually experienced than the hero.

Dharam is a fresh desi from Delhi newly lost in Paris. A college pal has hired him as a standup comedian for an Indian club. His job is to charm and entertain with his witty one liners and antics. Which he does, at all times and in all situations.

They meet and sparks fly rightaway. Then they oscillate between lust and platonic camaraderie.

Two things that rankled: the secure choice made of French ‘values’ justifying Shyra’s sexual history and a stray joke about gays.

In a redeeming moment, Dharam, having termed Shyra a ‘slut’ before, apologises to her and admits his lack of experience was the issue.

I won’t give away any more of the story or how their journey pans out as the joy is in discovery.

No doubt, Dharam and Shyra are the ones who keep you hooked throughout. In A++ category are their scenes together. Their caricature-like fight in first scene, a rib-tickling Cornflake encounter at the supermarket and the tragic date at Shyra’s restaurant. Their emotional confrontation scenes are handled with flair, mapping their state of mind and changing dynamics. Shyra and Dharam’s scenes before Je T’aime are full of heart. So are their surprise encounters. That pre-climax floor dance – s.p.e.c.t.a.c.u.l.a.r.

Of the other scenes that stand out: a fresh take on the DDLJ mother-daughter scene, Ranveer’s lively comedy routines, a hilarious lift encounter, the cacophonous karaoke night-out, Ranveer’s awkward moments with Shyra’s parents and the tragicomic wedding sequence.

Peppy songs by Vishal-Shekhar move the story along perfectly, marked by refreshing, funky choreography by Vaibhavi Merchant. The electric Nashe Si Chadh Gaye, effervescent You and Me and euphoric Ude Dil Befikre dazzle. Tongue twister Je T’aime, reminiscent of Na Jaane Mere Dil, leaves you sentimentalThe sweet Labon Ka Karobaar and festive Khulke Dulke charm. Mikey McCleary provides the dynamic background score.

Kaname Onoyama’s extraordinary photography captures Paris in all its beauty ensuring the lead players look as enchanting.

Of the supporting performances: Aru Krishansh Verma (Dharam’s friend) and Ayesha Raza Mishra (Shyra’s mother) stand out.

Ranveer and Vaani share a crackling chemistry on screen and rock together, as well as solo.

Vaani Kapoor returns after SDR to deliver a remarkable, exhilarating performance. Shyra is spirited and spunky, thanks to her. Dharam pushes her buttons in several scenes (with typical notions about women), she takes it on the chin and hits back with grace. The actress pulls out all stops and matches co-star Ranveer’s energy full on.

What does one say about Ranveer? He is a class act despite the desi quirks, making him funny and memorable. His character is outrageous yet likeable but it’s mostly what the actor does with it that makes it so. He infuses the right amount of energy and fire. His comedy timing especially is A-awesome.

Finally, a salute to Sharat Katariya’s exceptional and sparkling dialogue which stands out.

At its core, Befikre remains a heartwarming, romantic comedy. Hop on for a wild, entertaining ride then.

cinemaspotter rating: 3.5 out of 5

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