Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat
Onto the first theatrical release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Hindi film Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat directed by one of my favourite directors Anurag Kashyap. Now being a Kashyap fan, I am always excited every time his new film is out. The reason being that in each of his previous outings(Bombay Velvet included), he has tried to do something different, be it in his craft(Raman Raghav 2.0 for example) or from a narrative standpoint(Choked or even Mukkabaaz). All his films may not strike a chord with the audience instantly but over a period of time, the film does find its audience.
The trailer of Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat was unlike a regular Anurag Kashyap film. It did seem like two parallel love stories blossoming in two separate worlds. Almost like the poster of the film that represented a cassette having Side A and Side B, it did form an intriguing premise to begin with. But knowing and having followed the filmmaker for years, I knew that Anurag may well have a few tricks up his sleeve which wasn’t quite revealed in its trailer. But a couple of days before the release, an article about the film read that this was a film on Love Jihad, and that did get me curious and how! In between the song from the album that I was listening to on loop, ‘Mohabbat Se Hi Toh Kranti Aayegi’ did start to make a little more sense. With a lot of hope and excitement, I did venture into Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat. Does it bring ‘Kranti’, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat follows two parallel ‘teen’ stories set in totally different worlds. But the common factor between both tales is love and politics(of the situation and not any political party). There are two ways to view this film – one being almost dismissive of the frivolous nature of the story amidst political undertones or the other trying to read between the lines as much of the material lies in its second layer. The screenplay standing at about 2 hours does ensure that the usual trope of the filmmaker being a tad too indulgent doesn’t come back to haunt him this time. It is brisk and to the point.
The drama does open with a bit of confusion with all the four protagonists(2 each essayed by Karan Mehta and Alaya F) being introduced together in two separate worlds. Slowly when their identities are revealed, the picture starts to get a bit clear. The introduction of names(of characters) brings with it a sharp sense of religion bias that the maker tries to address by highlighting that the situation may not be very different despite the change of setting. The undertones of religion and the politics surrounding it are clear from the beginning with a lot of action taking place outside the screen.
The thing that you need to also keep in mind is that both the love stories are teen love stories, so there will be an element of frivolousness to them and intentionally so. Be it the ‘Ting Tong’ videos or the ‘Fakebook’ application, the ‘reel’ culture is cleverly integrated in the storyline. But at its core, the film is a reflection of how adults, in the name of ‘Mohabbat'(love) for their children, try to impose things rather than looking at things from the point of view of their kids. It is much deeper rooted given that children see the world differently given that they do not understand it the way adults do. As the line goes in the film, ‘Insaan Jitna Bada Hota Hai, Utna Hi Na Samajh Hota Hai'(the more old you get, the more rigid you are). But the core idea of ‘Mohabbat’ is true for every generation. The philosophies thrown in the narrative through the character of ‘DJ Mohabbat’ are almost life lessons, something that do have a deeper meaning to them. I could watch the film again just for those monologues.
The proceedings here are a slow burn and so if you go in expecting a typical Yashraj Love Story, then this ain’t that film too. This is more in the Imtiaz Ali space of relationships being explored across two worlds which are so different yet similar in terms of the political wind surrounding them. And so some of the social issues which are touched upon along with the politics, include the LGBTQ angle too, thereby painting all of angles with the same coat of paint which is love. As one character says, ‘Woh Jo Chahe Karein, Atleast Woh Khush Toh Hain'(They can wish to be whatever they want to but atleast they are happy). It is moments like these that formulate the narrative which would perhaps get better with a second viewing.
The screenplay here might seem simple but it is a niche in many ways. It also has the ability to grow on you as I weirdly found myself thinking about it, long after the film had ended. While the story did not touch me enough for me to emote, it did get me thinking about all the prejudices that thrive in this world. As one characters rants, ‘There are so many problems in this world, lacs of people are dying of hunger, yet the biggest issue for a few people is love'(paraphrased). And I couldn’t agree more.
I was almost dreading the events which were to follow and that is when Anurag Kashyap – the filmmaker steps up. If anything, the simplicity was one angle which could have been traded with a layered approach given that there wasn’t much buildup as well surrounding two major events. But it did make for a profound viewing. Another minor drawback can be some of the threads in the screenplay which were just left hanging. But the final scene does make for a satisfying end, almost like a homage to the title of the film, Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat. Some might be letdown by the writing but it is a niche which may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are sharp, capturing the lingo of today’s generation but also being profound by forcing the viewers to see the world through their lenses. The music by Amit Trivedi is an absolute banger. In fact the film is designed to be a musical and the songs made so much more sense(with appropriate lyrics by Shaily) when I did watch it with the film. The mood, tone and vibe of the drama is wonderfully captured here. The cinematography is decent here, the editing is crisp for most parts(apart from a couple of instances which did feel choppy). Director Anurag Kashyap is in experimental mode and it ‘almost’ pays off here. His approach here relies on how much the viewer wishes to dwell deeper in the relationships of the two couples. What might seem like a hollow musing is actually a storm brewing within, if you allow it to embrace you, you shall enjoy this film better. This may not yet be his best work in years but still it is way better than other filmmakers on their good days! I still believe in the Anurag Kashyap Supremacy!
The performances are excellent here. Sapna Pabbi as Sapna manages to impress in an extended cameo. Vicky Kaushal as DJ Mohabbat is fabulous here and some of his monologues were insightful and soothing as balm on a wound. But the show did belong to Karan Mehta and Alaya F(restricting their names on purpose to avoid spoilers) , both of whom are stunning. The former in his debut vehicle has a quiet charm which he did bring to both his character with an element of ease. He does get the lingo of his characters bang on as well which sums up an impressive outing from him. And Alaya F is a star in the making. I have never seen such a nuanced and heartfelt performance by a young actor since Alia Bhatt from highway. One look at her twin performances and you would know the talent that Alaya possesses and it is just a matter of time before she attains new heights. It is a spectacular performance that did have a sense of responsibility and maturity of a seasoned actor. More power to you gal!
Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat is a niche and may not be everyone’s cup of tea as it relies on the viewer to dwell deeper in its drama. Yet, it is a searing drama coupled with a pulsating soundtrack and stellar performances that makes for a good watch. Available in a theatre near you.