Meri Pyaari Bindu is an achingly lovely film. It has sweetness and sadness, nostalgia and music. Classic Hindi film songs like ‘Aaiye Meherbaan’ and ‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani’ have the presence of characters here. Debutant director Akshay Roy captures beautifully how these songs aren’t merely songs – they are punctuation marks on our lives. They are a shared language. I laughed and cried. And I fell in love with music all over again.
The film’s title also comes from a song – ‘Meri Pyaari Bindu’ from the 1968 comedy Padosan. This is the story of Abhi and Bindu, two music-crazy, childhood friends who become lovers. But Bindu is whimsical, a tad selfish and ambitious. She’s is a force of nature who keeps falling in and out of love. Abhi is the opposite - low-maintenance and steady. He is besotted from the minute he first sets eyes on her as a child. He becomes her sanctuary from herself and the world. Her dreams of becoming a singer occupy their lives. Meanwhile he becomes a famous writer of pulp fiction. Abhi writes novels with names like ‘Awara Dhoban' and ‘Chudail ki Choli’. In a very funny scene, his publisher sagely advises him: Gulzar banne ki koshish mat karo. Style mein mat phaso. Just bung in sex instead.
This isn’t a plot-heavy film. Akshay and writer Suprotim Sengupta are more interested in characters, their emotions and their motivations – why they make the choices they do. It’s a tough high-wire act and the first half works seamlessly. From the opening sequence, which seems like an homage to the opening sequence of La Dolce Vita – except that here it’s the goddess Durga being helicoptered across the city instead of Christ – you sense that every detail has been carefully crafted. The supporting characters – Abhi’s loud, excitable family, his Big Boss loving friend, Bindu’s prickly father – are sharply etched. DOP Tushar Kanti Ray paints this world with a warm light– so it’s beautiful but not so much that you don’t believe in it. The atmosphere feels authentic and lived-in.
And at the heart of Meri Pyaari Bindu is a wonderful performance by Ayushmann Khurrana. He’s in almost every frame of the film and he nails it. The look of love and longing in his eyes will break your heart. Parineeti is also strong – a scene in which she sings 'Do Naina' in college will make you cry. But she can’t match Ayushmann’s effortlessness. For me, her styling became a stumbling block. She looks gorgeous but the emphasis on her making her look a certain way breaks the slice-of-life illusion that this film aspires for. Even in the flashbacks, she seems to have emerged from the pages of a fashion magazine. The weakest parts of the film are when she is trying to become a singer.
The second half doesn’t hold as well as the first. The story thins. It feels like Suprotim doesn’t know where to take his characters. But the film’s tender and affectionate tone doesn’t waver. These are all good, flawed people, grappling with life in the best way they know. And eventually, what matters is family and compassion.
At one point in the film, Bindu commiserates with Abhi who is struggling to write a love story. It’s been three years since his last book. Bindu understands why it’s such a challenge because, she says, what’s left to say about romance, how can you make it new. Akshay, Suprotim and producer Maneesh Sharma have the answer. They manage to make love fresh and invigorating again.