BOLLYWOOD: “Don’t act too smart with me,” warns the girl, staring down the boy stalking her around the streets of Srinagar. To this, the boy has a peculiar objection: “But I have to work hard at being smart. Shakal achchi nahin hai na (Because I’m not good looking, you see).” He then rattles off his smartness regimen, from dressing sharply to “maintaining a stubble” but already both the girl and the audience have been caught off guard because, well, the boy may not be the most conventionally dashing leading man – but he has the elegance to point it out before we can. Talk about disarming charm.
Laila Majnu has a fair bit of this. Directed by Sajid Ali from a script by his illustrious brother Imtiaz Ali, here is a romantic drama that has the capacity to surprise. This is no small feat considering we have known of the age-old Persian legend about the star-crossed lovers for longer than we can remember, and it has been interpreted by artists as far removed as Rishi Kapoor, Orhan Pamuk and Eric Clapton. It is about young lovers torn apart by their families and the world, till they lose their minds and their lives.
In this adaptation, Laila knows when the boys are looking at her. This they do a lot, but — similar to the boy’s studied smartness – this is more because of the coquettishness with which she carries herself than due to any unreal beauty. The daughter of a Kashmiri politician, she’s pampered and invincible till one fateful night, when she locks eyes with a boy who has just urinated on her sister’s head. (Like I said, this is a film full of the unexpected.)
True to the story, he is the enemy. Or at least, the son of her father’s enemy, which damns the young lovers. They know this but are thrilled by the forbidden. Helplessly, they are drawn to each other, giddily spending all day talking on the phone or mooning around the same Srinagar cafe as if there is only one decent cafe in Srinagar.
Director: Sajid Ali
Cast: Avinash Tiwari, Tripti Dimri
Watch the trailer here: