Phillauri Review

Suraj Sharma and Mehreen Pirzada in "Phillauri." (Photo provided)

Fox Star Studios’ & Clean Slate Films’ present “Phillauri”

Produced by: Anushka Sharma & Karnesh Sharma

Directed by: Anshai Lal

Music: Shashwat Sachdev& Jasleen Royal

Starring: Anushka Sharma, Diljit Dosanjh, Suraj Sharma, Mehreen Pirzada, Nidhi Bisht, Samrat Raichand & others

We have had friendly ghosts before, as in “Chamatkar,” “Bhoothnath” and its sequel, and even the puerile “Hello Brother.” None of these films were appreciated widely, though the first two were quite entertaining and have done reasonably well in television circuits. The problem, as so often happens in Hindi films, is two-fold: one, all such films have an overseas inspiration, and two, the excitement of the subject’s novelty lets filmmakers think that a good, meticulous script need not be there. Here, too, there are supposed references to an old Hollywood film.

Oh, yes, we forgot “Ghazab” (1982). Here, the friendly ghost is friendly only to his twin brother, as both want to avenge the former’s murder. Now, that was a well-scripted film, inspired by a South movie, but again did not create b-o. magic.

But this film will not rake in the numbers either. Shoddily scripted, a drag in the second half, the predictable humor shown in the promos being among its ‘best’ examples, and the most ridiculous climax that a colleague felt was as outrageous as that of the 2004 disaster “Jaani Dushmun—Ek Anokhi Kahani”—the net result is a woebegone-in-spirit misadventure. Haunting? No. Daunting? To our patience –Yes!

Again, as in the music review of this film, let us nitpick a shade. The ambience is so heavily Punjab-rooted and so the connectivity with a pan-Indian audience should have been worked on better. “Phillauri,” also, tries to send a subtle message on disregarding traditional superstitious beliefs but ends up being at least two decades outdated in Hindi cinema! In effect, it thus worships some retrograde elements of Hindi cinema while pretending to be very 2017!

In their last production, “NH10,” the two Sharmas had constructed what was a 2015 interpretation of the ‘80s “Phool Bane Angaarey”- “Pratighaat” kind of vendetta potboilers, masquerading as “new-age” (sic)! Here, they are no less in their retrograde direction! No wonder, a tiny section of pseudo-GenY critics and and, maybe, an even tinier percentage of such audience, that has never suffered that kind of stuff then as they were not around, had gone overboard over “NH10” sufficiently to have the makers dare call their film a “hit” (untrue) as well as “critically appreciated.”

This story is about the unfulfilled love of a ghost, Shashi (Anushka Sharma), so her spirit ‘resides’ in a tree on which she committed suicide because of that. Absurdly, the film starts off with a Canada-based youth Kanan (Suraj Sharma)’s dreams, in a ‘plane. The boy is on his way to India to get married to childhood sweetheart Anu (Mehreen Pirzada). But he is not quite sure about keeping this commitment now.

After his arrival in ‘apna des,’ it is found that Kanan is a ‘maanglik’ (a fault in his horoscope that can have unpleasant repercussions). An astrologer suggests a traditional solution – he has to first marry a tree! Then the tree should be chopped off before he can marry the girl!

So what do we find? The same tree is chosen and he ends up getting married to the spirit of Shashi, who has been there since 1919 (note the year!).

Kanan gets terrified of Shashi and her actions, but gradually, he not only befriends her but also makes her meet an equally scared Anu. Shashi reveals her unrequited love story with Roop Lal Philauri (Diljit Dosanjh). Gradually (we stress that word!), the fun and emotional angles resolve into an end where the ghost leaves them and Kanan and Anu are free to marry.

But how and why? And why 1919? Well, that was the year of a famous incident in British-ruled India. But what is the connection between Shashi and that year?

Despite the film’s concept having immense potential, writer Anvita Dutt makes the script dated, confusing and, above all, induces restiveness in the viewer in the second half. The comic portions are alright only in parts, but the drama and emotions do not even score that high.

Director Anshai Lal, in the second more crucial half, finds himself cornered to deliver a plausible mix of fantasy and reality. Here is someone who, as of now, does not excite us a director to watch!

Anushka Sharma’s past wonderful turns in “Sultan” and “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” notwithstanding, this one is simply a film that shows more of what we may term the Anushka-ian ‘template’-ized acting seen in her lesser films, which includes her previous production!

Suraj Sharma generally does well, goofy and endearing enough as a loser and even a moron, while Pirzada has nothing much to do, and just strikes an average note but for a scene or two. Diljit Dosanjh’s role is abbreviated, but he has a charming presence and persona. His roles in Hindi films will always be curtailed because of his turban, but this superstar of Punjabi films needs to hone his script sense in pan-Indian cinema if he wants to be accepted.

The film’s music is hardcore Punjabi and is unlikely to resonate with anyone

outside that region. Vishal Sinha’s cinematography and the VFX enhance the film, though the editing (Rameshwar S. Bhagat) is sloppy, surprisingly from this ace editor.

Rating: ** (Just About)

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