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Cast: Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor
Director: Aditya Chopra
Being the maker of an iconic film like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge must come with its own singular ache. How do you carry the burden of a film that continues to run after 21 years? How do you live up to your own legacy? I'm thrilled to report that with Befikre, Aditya Chopra reinvents himself. And in doing so, he gives Bollywood romance a buoyancy and exhilaration.
Much of this adrenalin comes from the leading man Ranveer Singh. He plays Dharam, a Karol Bagh ka launda. Think of him as a spruced up Bittoo from Band Baaja Baaraat. Dharam comes to Paris to work as a stand-up comic in a club catering to Indians. When we first meet him, Dharam is like a testosterone-fuelled teenager. All he's looking for is a good time. He meets Shyra, a second-gen Indian immigrant who takes him on.
Their mercurial relationship is driven by a need for excitement. They keep daring each other to do crazy things. This portion seems directly inspired by the 2003 French film Love Me If You Dare. But Befikre never gets into the dark, unsettling spaces of that film. Instead Aditya, who has also written the story, creates a delightful take on modern love. Dharam and Shyra slowly discover that the essential ingredient in a relationship isn't love at all. It's friendship.
In an open letter, Aditya wrote that he would not have made Befikre if an actor named Ranveer Singh did not exist. I believe him. Because Ranveer brings this smartly written script to life. He has an industrial strength charm and vitality that makes Dharam as endearing to us as he is to Shyra. This man is impulsive, immature and stubborn. But we love him any way and we are rooting for him until the last frame.
Ranveer also captures the nuances of Dharam's growth. His expressions of hurt, rejection and anger feel authentic – Dharam's evolution gives this rom-com an emotional weight. This is Vaani Kapoor's second Hindi film but she's remarkably at ease in front of the camera. She admirably holds her own against Ranveer.
Befikre is also enhanced by Vishal-Shekhar's lilting soundtrack and Jaideep Sahni's lyrics. I especially enjoyed Labon ka Karobaar. In fact the writing overall is first-rate. Adi creates some lovely moments, including a mother-daughter scene that is a throwback to the classic moment in DDLJ when Simran's mother asks her to give up her love.
Now of course no such societal constraints are in place. Shyra only has to battle herself to figure out what her heart desires. The new millennial romance has no space for archaic Indian values like chastity but Adi can't resist bunging in the importance of Indian-ness. Shyra might be a Parisian hipster but when she's low, she seeks comfort in a paratha.
With this film, Adi does for Paris what Yash Chopra did for Switzerland. The beautifully lit city seems like a magical playground of cobbled streets, cafes and gorgeous men and women swooning and smooching in every corner. When I walked out of the theater, my own life felt a little grubby.
Befikre is much too long. There is also a noticeable dip in the second half and the farcical ending isn't entirely satisfying. But there's enough magic here to leave you with a smile.