“I choose to love you in silence, for in silence I find no rejection.
I choose to love you in loneliness, for in loneliness no one owns you but me.
I choose to adore you from a distance, for distance will shield me from pain.
I chose to kiss you in the wind, for the wind is gentler than my lips.
I choose to hold you in my dreams, for in my dreams you have no end.” -Rumi
Rumi’s words seem to be pillars on which filmmaker Imtiaz Ali builds the foundations of his love stories. And it is once again evident in the latest presentation from Imtiaz, a modern day take on the famed Laila-Majnun tale from the Persian folklore, that of ‘virgin love’, of the obsession and the madness. Debutant Sajid Ali’s Laila Majnu is such a tale about a boy who was so madly in love, that the lover itself becomes inconsequential in his world. As per him his love is meant not for rules of this world, of its people and time, but for a place beyond. In other words’ the epic tale of Laila Majnu is right up Imtiaz’s alley. This idea was touched upon in Rockstar and the folklore of Laila-Majnu also made its way into Tamaasha.
Laila, like most of the Imtiaz-heroines is one with ‘bubbliness’ incorporated into her, a loose cannon of sorts given the opportunity. Here she gets a kick out of being the attention of all the local boys. But though she talks the talks of facebooks and whatsapp, her romance is planted firmly back to the ages of ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya’ where she with her pigeons, dreams of a charming prince to come to sweep her off. Thankfully we are spared of the legendary lines about ‘dost’ and ‘dosti’ from the Salman starrer in this one.
Thanks to one of her college mates who puts the idea of a wishing Spring, she too decides to wish at a nearby spring for some romance in her life, and presto, she runs into hero in the oddest of situations – she finds herself in the arms of the man who just stepped out to answer nature’s call. Don’t even ask how!
Meet desi Romeo- Qais, who is immediately smitten by Laila and decides to stalk her around town. Laila decides to confront the ‘rich spoilt brat’ and even asks him to back off. Qais decides to heed to her wishes and leaves things to fate. But fate, as expected, decides to throw them back together.
And fate also throws movie clichés one after another. Qais and Laila hits it off, over messages and calls, and before you know it, the harmless flirting becomes full blown romance despite them knowing that their warring families will be dead against this alliance. The parents whiff out the relationship, family heads have a spat, and eventually lover boy sees lady love getting married off hurriedly to someone else.
The second half, takes place four years later, when we have Qais returning to Kashmir to attend a funeral. And that is where Qais meets Laila yet again. Has the love between them been dusted and buried? Or does the forgotten flames rekindle and reignite? This is where the story decides to let the madness of this relationship take over, and along with it, taking the movie places.
Like Imtiaz’s works such as Rockstar and Tamaasha, this debut feature from his brother Sajid Ali can be both a captivating as well as a frustrating experience. It is one that would easily split audience depending on whether they are in the zone for this kind of mood and feel. It would speak strongly to a few sections while a major lot may not even get empathize with the lover’s pain. To top it, consistency is not the movie’s key features. You must make peace with watching it soar at certain points, while witness it dipping badly at others. However even in the cliché ridden first half, the makers make room for some freshness like the only scene Qais shares with his father, where he coaxes him to ask Laila’s hand in marriage. Also, in the second half, there is a notable sequence where Qais compares his conversation to his lover akin to the conversation of the religious with their God.
However, it is still a tricky subject we are dealing with. And to convincingly translate a state of depression and madness, onto the big screen is no easy task and is more of a tightrope trick which can backfire easily. Sajid Ali may not have successfully managed to pull it through but does make a very good attempt. And that is brave stuff, especially considering it is his debut feature.
Despite its inconsistencies, the movie deserves to reach a larger audience. Mainly because of its two huge strengths – the music and the brilliant lead performance from newcomer Avinash Tiwary. They end up elevating the movie by a great deal.
Music from Niladri Kumar and Joi Barua brings together the voices of Arijit singh, Atif Aslam, Shreya , Mohit Chauhan, Jonita for some dazzling tracks and each of them, most importantly, blends so well with the soundtrack without sticking out or hampering the pace. Hitesh Sonik’s background score also works well.
And then the performance. Avinash Tiwary who is a great find in the role of Qais. He starts off with the charm of Ranbir Kapoor but comes out in flying colors with the madness of a Ranveer Singh and if given the opportunity, looks all set to step into their huge shoes. He brings an authenticity to the portrayal of this Majnu making it one of the biggest reasons for one to check the movie.
However, the same cannot be said about newcomer Tripti Dimri. Though she appears fine enough to look pretty and cute, it becomes too much of a herculean task when the character of Laila is asked to take on more complex layers. Yes, you may call it the ‘Nargis Fakhri syndrome’ we saw back in Rockstar. Or maybe it is just the writing where the focus was too much on Majnu’s descent that did not make room for Laila. As a result, the film ends up become more about Majnu rather than about the lovers, Laila-Majnu. Also certain shifts in Laila’s characteristics is too sudden and seem conveniently forced.
Among the supporting cast, Sumit Kaul makes an impression as Ibban, Laila’s husband even though a tad overdone in the initial scenes. For a first-time director, Sajid Ali, shows he is a risk taker and capable of more like his brother.
Kashmir is captured beautifully by cinematographer Sayak Bhattacharya and works beautifully as the backdrop to this tale without infusing any political angle to it, it remains like Laila, completely unclaimed between her suitors.
Laila Majnu is certainly not for those who like their love stories sugar-coated and packed in standard ready-to-go delivery packs. Like the Imtiaz brand of love stories, this one requires you to dive in to the experience and savour it. And then the feeling may linger on. Either of love or of hate. Either ways, you need to try it first.
Cast: Avinash Tiwary, Tripti Dimri
Directed by Sajid Ali
Produced by Ekta Kapoor, Preety Ali
Music : Niladri Kumar, Joi Barua