Film: Laila Majnu
Cast: Avinash Tiwary, Tripti Dimri, Sumit Kaul, Mir Sarwar, Parmeet Sethi, Benjamin Gilani, Ruchika Kapoor, Sahiba Bali
Director: Sajid Ali
Rating: * * *
Taking its pages from classic folklore, Sajid Ali’s ‘Laila Majnu,’ set in infiltration free Kashmir, is a vivid, spell-binding and intimate new age musical ode to doomed love. Like Qais Bhatt (Avinash Tiwary) – the Majnu in the picture, proclaims, their story has already been written. Fate has scripted their love and the warring families can only put up hurdles along the way.
Laila (Tripti Dimri) is a self-aware, flirtatious young woman brought up in the lap of luxury by a doting father (Parmeet Sethi). She has all, but accepted her fate of an arranged marriage, but before she gets there she wants to experience love and romance-even if it is make-believe. So she, alongside Ambu (Sahiba Bali) clandestinely set out into the night to a cemetery nearby and promptly bumps into her fate-ordained Majnu, Qais – a romantic rogue with an urban legend all his own. But Laila is secretly enchanted by his passionate wooing and heartfelt declarations of love and their romance blossoms – only to be felled by a jealous cousin Ibban (Sumit Kaul) who has been indoctrinated to believe that his political ambitions need the ‘Laila’ seal for legitimacy and wider acceptance.
The scripting and dialogues by Imtiaz and his brother Sajid Ali is strong on realism, character development and emotional depth. Sajid’s helming is confident and assured. The first half showcases Laila while the second is devoted to Majnu. Both the lead characters Laila and Majnu have personalities that are vibrant and colourful. Laila may present herself as a breathless, mouthy, ingénue but she knows her own mind and is unafraid of standing up for her desires. When her husband abuses her she hits back and threatens him with public humiliation and divorce. Qais may be a charismatic rogue, but when true love strikes he gives it his all. For Laila, her marriage is a poison she must drink to keep her beloved father alive but for Qais, the never-ending loneliness proceeding the heartbreak is unbearable.
Imtiaz and Sajid fashion a story that sheds light on egos, conditioning, emotional culpability, and mental susceptibility. The connection between drugs, trauma and mental deterioration is subtly framed here. The romantic build-up takes recourse to ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya’ hyperbole, but it’s been treated as if paying homage to the all-time hit romance. Cinematographer Sayak Bhattacharya frames Kashmir with verdant eloquence while the smart cuts keep the tempo upbeat.
Hitesh Sonik’s rhythmic background score and Niladri Kumar, Joi Barua and Alif’s folk-based numbers lend a compelling ballad like intonation to the presentation. This star-crossed love story is imaginative and heart-breaking – powered by superb performances from the entire cast. Of course, Avinash Tiwary, Tripti Dimri and Sumit Kaul deserve special praise for making this an especially elevating experience!