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‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’ review: Amala Paul shines in this recreation of Mahesh Bhatt’s universe

The filmmaker has created a web-series that is heavily inspired by not only his bond with Parveen Babi, but also his early struggles in the film industry

One of the unwritten truths of Hindi cinema is that top filmmakers keep recycling their best work. In the case of Mahesh Bhatt, it is Arth. Based on the filmmaker’s relationship with actor Parveen Babi, the film is one of the most abiding takes on the extra-marital relationship in Indian cinema. Over the years, he has created many variants of this forbidden romance where he has held circumstances rather than man and woman responsible for straying from the straight path, and has imbued it with different shades of his life.

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With Ranjish Hi Sahi, Bhatt has created a web-series that is heavily inspired by not only his bond with Babi, but also his early struggles in the film industry. Directed by his protege Pushpdeep Bharadwaj, the influence of the fractured relationship between Bhatt’s Muslim mother and Hindu father — something he successfully explored in Zakhm — also lends a significant layer to this semi-biographical account spread over eight episodes. So does his relationship with his first wife that has already spurred two versions of Aashiqui.

Of course, it is Mahesh Bhatt’s truth and the other real-life characters are seen from his point of view but the streaming canvas provides an opportunity to create a more well-rounded take on why he did what he did.

Bhatt has this knack for unclothing his soul to the public gaze. While opening a window to his heart, he taps into the audience’s conscience and presses it ever so gently that one begins to enjoy the pain. Here, apart from his usual tropes, he brings in a look-alike of his spiritual guru U. G. Krishnamurti to justify his decisions and give them a philosophical tinge. Perhaps, to put the lid on a festering wound and provide his followers one more dose of melancholic nostalgia.

In Amala Paul, Bhatt has cast a competent actor who brings alive the spirit of the title. As Aamna Parvez, the reigning star who finds herself lonely in the glamour world, Amala’s eyes twinkle even when brimming with tears. They consistently suggest what Ahmad Faraz meant in the popular ghazal sung by Mehedi Hassan: “If it is grief so be it, come to break my heart again.”

Amala has an uncanny resemblance to Deepika Padukone, but Amala looks more malleable and one would like to see more of her in the Hindi space. It is her heartfelt performance that keeps you invested even when the proceedings become increasingly predictable.

Tahir Raj Bhasin essays the director whom Aamna beseeches to come back to put off the last candles of hope. It is a complex role and Tahir strikes the right note as Shankar, a struggling but uncompromising director whose relationship with Aamna becomes his most significant story.

When Aamna’s passionate pleas threaten to break his family, Shankar finds himself in a quandary. He cannot resist the magical spell of a popular actor whose deteriorating mental condition is becoming a threat not only to her, but also to those around her.

At the same time, his mother’s (Zarina Wahab) experience with the other woman doesn’t allow him to leave his wife (Amrita Puri) fend for herself. Tahir has added some kilos for the role, but a tacky hairdo lets him down. The makers seem to have cut corners in production design as well as the series comes across as a soap mounted for a general entertainment channel with a limited budget. It is the earnest writing, poignant tunes, and Amala’s magnetic appeal that keeps you away from pressing the pause button.

Ranjish Hi Sahi is currently streaming on Voot Select

 

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