Director: Dinesh Vijan
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Kriti Sanon, Jim Sarbh
Raabta is the stuff of nightmares. This isn’t even a pun on its theme of reincarnation. This thing transcends jokes and wordplay. It transcends time. It is singularly deluded, consistently clueless, atrocious, illogical, incompetent, interminable, badly acted, outdated, fruitlessly indulgent, culturally detached, aimless and committedly awful on so many levels that I don’t even know how to criticize it. It is immune to goodness.
Raabta is the Donald Trump of bad cinema – in the sense that it richly presents itself before you with a pompously desensitized face, daring you to fault its shallow ambitions. It has some nerve.
Sushant Singh Rajput plays a red-blooded Amritsari chap named Shiv, who moves to Budapest with his fat best friend (Varun Sharma, again) to work as a banker. I should’ve known what to expect when we see them eating noodles with their hands on the banks of the Danube. Or maybe when an 800-year-old comet called ‘Love Joy’ is presented as the reason for the imminent hokie pokie that follows. ‘Hate Sorrow’ is the only comet I needed to end this hellish experience.
Shiv meets, affectionately stalks and falls for Saira (Kriti Sanon; a hat-trick of dreadfulness after Heropanti and Dilwale), an orphan chocolatier who keeps getting flashbacks of drowning, CG fish and blood from a previous lifetime, and whose sole duty is to look confused and attribute her chronic infidelity – she cheats on her boyfriend to be with Shiv, and then proceeds to semi hook up with Jim Sarbh’s villainous Zakir when Shiv is away, before semi cheating on Zakir to go back to Shiv – to some punar-janam destiny-type jargon. Maybe she just doesn’t believe in monogamy. How difficult is that to admit?
I can’t really blame her, though. Shiv is quite cringe-worthy; he thinks he is an Imtiaz-Ali-movie charmer in a foreign land, but has zero swag, minus-level charisma and scrunches up his face like a horny lizard to express passionate love.
Rajput enacts him as if he were a mutant cross between all the bad hamming traits of Shah Rukh Khan and R. Madhavan with the self-sabotaging energy levels of Hrithik Roshan from Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon. As a warrior in the (unnecessary) period flashback, he sounds as if he were trying to hide a bout of laryngitis after overdoing the husky Vijay Deenanath Chauhan baritone. Far from being a star, I’m beginning to wonder if Rajput knows the difference between wanting too hard and trying too hard.
I actually fear for an entire generation of desi kids that will now grow up dreaming of seducing a stranger in Europe only by sounding as inane, creepy and downright woke as humanly possible. This is not how we interact with our own countrymen abroad, kids – it’s usually over a thepla, cuss word or humorous reference to the clean air/weather/skin of the First World.
You’d think the initial wooing phase would be the bearable portion of a film populated by characters that are frankly terrible human beings. But Shiv is too busy making a romantic fool of himself, while Saira is too busy trying to figure out the link to her cheating tendencies centuries ago as a princess on Mel Gibson’s rejected Apolcalypto sets – even there, it is revealed that she had left one warrior to be with the other. So that wronged psychopathic lover, Jim Sarbh (the terrorist from Neerja), returns as an eccentric liquor baron to execute revenge and kidnap her to his island castle in Croatia.
Stage performer Sarbh speaks Hindi so much like a drunken teleprompter that you wonder if he has been sent by a secret shadowy society of Theatre excellence to condescend on – and permanently destroy – the heightened art of film acting. One believes him when he sincerely tells Saira that he didn’t speak till the age of seven.
There’s also an unrecognizable cameo by Rajkummar Rao as an ancient chieftain-type tribal, who, I suspect, might not have wanted his disguise to be called out, there by opting for a ‘Special Thanks’ credit instead of an actual acting one.
There is literally nothing more I can write that would tell you anything meaningful about an aggressively meaningless piece of storytelling that can best be described as a deformed, desensitized and costly adventure directed by a bored producer who might have cashed in on every ounce of goodwill to buy this shiny new toy.
Nothing else can explain the quizzical existence and whimsical pointlessness of Raabta. Not even that lovely Agent Vinod ballad. I won’t buy the age-old “oh, they went on a 55-crore European vacation” excuse anymore. Or maybe I will. Budapest was always next on my list – till today.