Behen Hogi Teri
Behen Hogi Teri is set on familiar turf (Lucknow) in Hindi cinema’s favourite community (Punjabis) and features a good-for-nothing’s obsessive love for his neighbour (every other romance). And yet, director Ajay K Pannalal’s debut, based on a script packed with many repeat-worthy jokes by Vinit Vyas, is full of surprises. The very premise induces cringes in plenty – why are young men asked to treat all the young women around them as sisters? Sure, the issue of honor killing is touched upon, but it seems more as an after thought, when the writers realised that the premise is not virtuous enough to hold ground for an otherwise done-to-death “family vs. lovers” theme.
Ajay Pannalal’s “Behen Hogi Teri” begins with the premise that the biggest threat to love in India is rakhi, the thread Hindu women tie around the wrists of their brothers. Every year on Raksha Bandhan festival, young men run scared, hoping they don’t get the sacred thread from the object of their admiration. One of the first scenes in the film has family members forcing their daughter to tie a rakhi on the man she loves, thus putting an end to any thoughts of marriage between the two.
Gattu (Rajkummar Rao) dotes on the gorgeous girl-next-door Binny (Shruti Haasan). Gattu has managed to escape the local custom of killing young love by insisting that all men are like the brothers of the women. Gattu’s distinctly unbrotherly feelings for Binny survive the tests to which she subjects him, but he meets the biggest challenge of his sad life when a series of crossed signals convinces Binny’s brother Jaidev (Ninad Kamat) that Binny is canoodling with Gattu’s best friend Bhure (Herry Tangri).
Binny is a tease and remains disappointingly so all the way till the climax, but Pannalal bestows every other character with a satisfactory arc. Gattu, beautifully played by Rajkummar Rao, is nobody’s idea of a hero, but his very-late-in the-day courage allows the other characters to blossom in sometimes strange ways. His father Nautiyal (a hilarious Darshan Jariwala) throws himself with perilous enthusiasm into the project of saving Binny from harm. I single-handedly effected a curfew in my youth, he boasts to Gattu while showing off his collection of Bush posters (senior and junior), understandably stunning his son.
In one, Bhure’s braggadocio collapses into tears. In another, the young men drink their sorrows away at one of Lucknow’s many public attractions. Gattu does a savage imitation of Shah Rukh Khan’s romantic hero characters, and Bhure issues drunken promises of wiping out the competition (Binny’s fiancé Rahul, played by the single-dimpled Gautam Gulati).
Both scenes reflect the movie’s affectionate and refreshingly different portrayal of young hormonally charged men facing the deepest crisis of their lives. For all their swagger, Gattu and Bhure prove to be cuddly teddy bears rather than stalkers insistent on imposing one-sided affairs on their marks.
The story and dialogues by Vinit Vyas are refreshing and sincere. He brings to life every character with right degrees of dramatic shades and tension except for Binny’s. Even though there is enough slapstick comedy in the film, the real humour comes from writer Vinit Vyas gentle observations of the motley group of characters that make up this film. From Gattu’s earnest father Darshan Jariwala to his loyal friend Bhura (played wonderfully by Herry Tangiri, Vyas and Pannalal manage to infuse smart lines and lots of wry wit into their story.
Jariwala, Rao and Tangri have some of the best lines in the film, and they deliver them with deadpan precision. The romance in this romantic comedy is non-existent, but thankfully the wit and sparkle in the humour make it a fun watch. Also, other problem is that Binny, played by Shruti Haasan gets audience in perplexing situation. This character is supposed to be a phataka. But she forces her sister to forcibly tie a rakhi to a boy she likes. Binny is in love with Gattu but she’s also happily doing wedding shopping with her fiancée Rahul. Basically, Binny is half-baked and poorly written. And unlike Rajkummar, Shruti doesn’t have the acting chops to camouflage that.
Given the one line plot of a love story that is as standard as it gets, it boiled down to the angle this particular premise takes on the plot. That no man really wants to treat women around him as sisters sounds more like a frustrated rant of a many-year-old, suppressed angst. Now, would that motivate you to watch the film?