Raabta is one of those films that I file under the yeh-kya-ho-raha-hai category. You remember the iconic climax from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron? A dead body in a sari and roller skates is Draupadi. Duryodhana decides not to do the cheer haran. Dushashan is pushing him to go for it. And poor, bewildered Dhritarashtra keeps asking yeh kya ho raha hai. That’s going to be you if you decide to see Raabta.
This film veers from flat-out silly to unintentionally funny to tear-your-hair-out tedious. There’s a present-day love story in Europe. There’s also an 800-year-old love story in some tribal Game of Thrones-inspired land with folks called Muraki. And half way through, Rajkummar Rao turns up as an old man with a miniature fox sitting on his head. Honestly I’m not making this up. There’s also an obsessed lover – a Rahul from Darr descendent. But this guy is so committed to stalking a woman that he comes back in another life and tries to force her to marry him.
The story, written by Siddharth and Garima, is an unholy mess. Debutant director Dinesh Vijan tries to dress it up with gorgeous European locations, sparkling cinematography by Martin Preiss, killer styling by Anaita Shroff Adajania and Deepika Padukone – she gets the film’s best song. But even Martin Scorsese couldn’t infuse coherence or sparkle into this tripe.
The first half is the standard foreign romance fantasy. Shiv is a banker though of course we never see him do anything but party and chase women. Saira makes chocolates – this is the type of job that Bollywood writers consider sexy - along with cinematographer, painter and tour guide. Shiv and Saira form an instant connect but then they decide to check out other people to test this connection. Enter liquor baron Zakir Merchant, who is straight-up creepy. Saira even tells him – you are damn ajeeb man. But that doesn’t stop her from going out to dinner with him and then all hell breaks loose. A comet called Love Joy and a strange, soothsayer also make an appearance. And just when you think that the story has reached the high point of absurdity, another level gets added.
The actors struggle to make these characters believable. The first time we see Shiv, he is bare-chested so we can admire the ripped muscles and abs. On this painstakingly chiseled body, Sushant layers on the roguish charm but it doesn’t come naturally. He is more interesting as the deep-voiced warrior with kohl-rimmed eyes. Kriti is lovely-looking but she can’t make sense of a character as muddled as Saira. Saira is an orphan so she speaks to herself in the mirror because she thinks she can see her mom and dad in herself – go figure. And poor Jim Sarbh – he gets to play the entitled psycho. At one point, he is telling Saira about the ways in which he plans to kill Shiv. He says, usse shock lag sakta hai toast banate huye. I admire the detailing.
After a while, I started focusing the clothes and accessories. Saira wears a leather jacket with flowers that I am lusting after. A pair of gorgeous turquoise earrings also feature in my list. The rest of Raabta is a blur.