Actors: Anushka Sharma, Diljit Dosanjh, Surah Sharma, Mehreen Peerzada
Can you ever find humour in a dark subject such as life after death? Well, Phillauri - which is Anushka Sharma's second outing as a producer after NH10 (2015) might revolve around a spirit, but doesn't frankly fit into the 'horror' genre. For it neither offers blood, gore and violence, nor will it give you the proverbial nightmares later. Instead, it gives us a ghost - Shashi - which is undoubtedly the most adorable and amicable creature at the center of an upcoming big-fat Punjabi wedding.
The film, directed by Anshai Lal begins with a dream sequence featuring Kanan (Suraj Sharma) and Anu (Meherene Kaur Pirzada). Both are young, attractive, and friends for years. While Anu who has been dreaming for her wedding day, and even imagined her life with Kanan, he fears marriage. Right from the dream sequence with which the film kicks off, Kanan, who had just come back to Punjab from Canada looks uncomfortable, unhappy and disgruntled with the idea of marrying her childhood friend. From fearing the loss of his freedom and space, to his inability to deal with emotional baggage, Kanan feels he is being pushed into something he isn’t mentally prepared for. By the time we are confident of the fact that the word ‘wedding’ weighs heavily on him, he is forced to marry a tree. Reason? Well, he is a 'maanglik' (an astrological combination that suggest ill-omen) and has to perform this during a corrective puja. Within the first 40 minutes, we get the funniest moments of Phillauri – hilarious lines because they capture Punjabi family in the best ay and also realize how comfortably Suraj masters the art of facial expressions. But is humour the real star of the film? No.
Soon, the focus is shifted to Phillaur in Punjab, and we are given an insight into the life that Shashi lived over 98 years back. Anushka plays a docile younger sister of a man who is valued because he is the only doctor of the area. However, she finds her freedom from the disciplinarian brother by getting her poetry published without mentioning her real name. She sneaks out of her house to attend a musical event. Even though she is coy and docile within the confines of her house, she doesn’t show any inhibitions in speaking her mind. This is best seen when she takes on the local singer (Diljit Dosanjh) and even slaps him. Shashi’s detestation makes him feel the need to do away with his uncouth ways, and win her love, which eventually happens.
The first half is entertaining particularly because of the way Anushka haunts Kanan.
The dialogues – which are both thought-provoking and hilarious (courtesy the ‘thaeth’ Punjabi punch) are the highlight of the film.
But nothing can really beat the ‘real’ and romantic onscreen moments that Anushka and Diljit have created. Even though they have shared the screen space for the first time, their chemistry is so good and effortless, that we wouldn’t mind watching them together again. From the way Diljit chases Anushka’s dreams with the zeal and fervor of a true devotee to the latter’s unconditional trust in their relationship, this new onscreen Jodi will make you to fall in love despite all the expected complexities.
Anshai Lal could have shot some of the sequences of Phillaur and snaked his camera into the streets to create an intimate milieu. Instead, he only gets aerial shots of Amritsar and a few shots inside in the Golden Temple. Usage of flashback sequences could have been effective, had they been handled smartly. But Lal creates linear series of full scenes that are beautifully inserted into the narrative flow of the storyline.
Phillauri’s music by first-time composer Shashwat Sachdev, particularly Sahiba and Dum Dum plays a key role in layering the narrative further.
Back to 2017, things are still messy and complex. But with Anushka’s help Kanan understands the significance of Anu in his life, and most importantly the significance of their relationship. And with Kanan’s help, Anushka gets to reunite with Diljit, as ghosts though.
What works in the favour of the film is its key cast that doesn’t try to upstage each other. The cast including Diljit Dosanjh, Anushka Sharma and Suraj Sharma have a clear understanding of their characters, and remain completely committed. But what Suraj, especially after his much-appreciated role in Life of Pi deserved was a sharper role which should have tapped his acting prowess. Dosanjh who made his Bollywood debut with Udta Punjab last year delivers a strong yet emotional performance. Anushka, as expected, doesn't disappoint.
But the climax is where the disappointment lies. While Phillauri is an engaging journey to explore what had happened in Shashi’s life, the climactic reckoning could have been handled more deftly.
All in all, Phillauri is a film which is much about pure love, and you'd want to watch it only for the effortless chemistry of the lead pair.