Film: Almost Pyar with DJ Mohabbat. Duration: 122 minutes.
Cast: Alaya F., Karan Mehta, Vicky Kaushal and Sapna Pabbi.
Director: Anurag Kashyap. Music: Amit Trivedi
IANS Rating: ***
The young, on any given day, seem to be having a ball. Or so it seems. Partying, dancing and doing what they wish to be engaged with, they go about doing their daily chores without a care.
But do they really get a kick out of diverse and varied passions that they seem to be immersed in? Far from it, the young mind is also agitated. Having multiple choices for anything and everything, they can also be messed up. And this new-found independence that exists across cities, countries and small towns could also be a burden not just for their parents but also for the adolescent minds.
Anurag Kashyap, who has been straddling multifarious genres lately, has come up with 'Almost Pyar with DJ Mohabbat', yet another of his relationship-based films. Tackling multiple issues, Kashyap looks at the complex lives of some young people who are forever endeavouring to find themselves, as also finding love, and looking for and being hungry for it.
They also have their prejudice: be it their obsession with a passion they wish to pursue, sexuality, homophobia, and an incessant reluctance to toe the age-old line and move on.
The film stars Alaya F. and debutant Karan Mehta as an inter-faith couple in two parallel stories. The first story is set in a small-town in India, and the other in London. The titular DJ is played by Vicky Kaushal who, with his gyan on love, has a following that remains unparalleled. The two scenes are set in worlds where the family's honour is impacted by their children falling in love.
Set in Dalhousie, there's Amrita with a couldn't-care-less attitude who rises to fame as a video maker. When she spots the "weird" but dynamic and spirited Yaqun (Karan Mehta), she falls head over heels in love with him. Together they make an odd couple agreeing and disagreeing on minor things but nevertheless, getting attracted to each other at the same time. The trouble is that Amrita is still a minor and no matter how hard she tries, she cannot attend a music concert scheduled on the day of the festival of Holi. Now, they have a plan; they both would sneak out stealthily at the crack of dawn, stealing her brother's motorcycle keys and wallet.
That this act could be termed reckless and not brave is something they seem to be least bothered about. Of course, all hell breaks loose when her parents and two of her older brothers come to about their sudden disappearance. The brothers are baying for the blood of this guy who has dared them.
Around the same time, we get introduced to DJ Harmeet in London, who Ayesha is besotted with. What follows is a back and forth narrative encircling Amrita's relationship with Yaqun as well as Ayesha's interest in Harmeet. As expected, both the stories have deadly consequences.
At a time when Hindutva and its supporters wage a war in the name of 'love jihad' Kashyap's film handles a much maligned subject of love between two individuals. No inter-religious marriages, especially between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy can be tolerated by the custodians of morality and righteousness. Subtly telling us that nothing can ever change in a scenario where the powers that be get incensed by a particular community's 'brazenness' to do as they please.
In the midst of all of the above, there is yet another DJ who serves as a link between the two independent stories. He is DJ Mohabbat (Vicky Kaushal), who uses his voice and liberated and self-governing viewpoint as a sane piece of advice for the youngsters and uncovers many lessons that may harm all those who claim to be pure-hearted and madly in love.
The film is not at all violent. Rather, it is a musical with an excellent score by Amit Trivedi's pulsating beats and some wonderful lyrics by Shelle. Alternating between love and the miserable lows that love could hit, it constantly tells us that if we belong to different faiths, then a lawful culmination of love is not possible.
Eye-catching locales of London and Dalhousie are a treat beautifully used by cameraman Sylvester Fonseca.
It's Karan Mehta's first film and he makes the most of it. He may be slightly unconventional in terms of looks but is every inch the energetic aggressive gutsy guy that is expected of his character.
Alaya is another actor whose potential remains underutilised. Here, she behaves precisely the way any other teenager would, revealing a vulnerability that is often mistaken for defiance.
Kashyap deserves kudos for the brilliant portrayal of the two actors in roles that aren't regular. Mostly, it's their passion that comes across intensely and fiercely, and the key role players lift the entire film on the strength of their acting. Kashyap's understanding and perception of two people with unbridled desire and rage is poignantly written and performed competently.
For all those who may be sick of the hackneyed themes of terrorism in recent films and series on OTT platforms, this one is refreshingly bold. And honest! C'mon, go for it!