Small town India, where everyone knows everyone. The inhabitants here love to poke their noses in the neighbourhood businesses. Here, life begins with the 7 am tea and ends with watching TV along with the rest of the family, at the dinner table. In this small quaint town, one day, an earth-shattering explosion jolts everyone from slumber. Among the countless pieces of burnt fleshes, there lies a hand, torn away from the body, adorning the name of its beloved in the form of a tattoo. Director Vinil Mathew’s ‘Haseen Dilruba’ is an interesting exploration of the dynamics of the newlyweds in small-town India. It begins with an explosion and ends at an even explosive climax, which frankly is not very difficult to deduce judging from where the film seems to be going. However various inconsistencies and a tad uneven tone of the film mars things for a delectable viewing. 

A pulp fiction loving, Dilliwali Rani sets her foot in the neighbourhood of Jwalapur, after getting married to a meek Rishu. Arranged marriage, mother-in-law’s sky-high expectations and a below-average performance in bed thanks to a bumbling husband, she’s naturally disappointed. Opportunity presents itself in the form of a hot bod guy, who she cannot resist despite her best efforts. A messy affair occurs which threatens her married life and eventually ends in an explosion. Entangled in a bloody triangle of love, lust and murder, Rani becomes the primary suspect in her husband’s death. What happens next? Well, the film’s streaming on Netflix isn’t it? Watch it to know the rest.

Kanika Dhillon, the writer of the film, loves to paint her women in shades of grey. The rebellious Rumi from ‘Manmarziyaan’ is again seen here, although she seems to have lost her edginess. Rani is every bit of Rumi, with her ability to call the spade a spade. Crime novels are her passion and her idea of romance is often founded seeded in pulp fiction. Her men are the two extremes of her life. One provides stability, the other provides the thrill. But when her husband starts displaying the murderous streaks, after he becomes aware of her adultery, that’s what turns her on. Eventually, she gets what she seeks – a man! A script on paper with murder and mayhem may sound felicitous yet many a time, it gets lost in translation by the time it appears on the screen. The film rushes in parts while establishing the central crisis. What begins as a comedic tussle between the newlyweds, soon becomes psychological warfare between the two. Frankly, the third angle of the love story just falls off the radar, after doing the deed, if you get my drift! Maybe an emotional investment into the relationship could have made the woman’s predicament even more interesting. Vinil Mathew who returns to direction, 7 years after his quirky comedy ‘Hasee To Phasee’ directs the film with gusto until the screenplay runs out of meat.

Tapsee Pannu and Vikrant Massey shine in their roles. Both being the director’s actors, sink their teeth into their respective characters. Harshavardhan Rane is a miss because he isn’t allowed much scope. From the ensemble cast, Aditya Srivastava as the interrogating officer and Yamini Dass as the sassy mother-in-law are brilliant. Eventually, the film ends at a note that tells you that crime pays, albeit at a cost. ‘Haseen Dilruba’ becomes an intriguing watch if you’re ready to cast aside the obvious flaws in the screenplay. 

‘Haseen Dilruba’ now streaming on Netflix. Run time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. Rated adult for violence, language and sexual content. 

The Cinemawala Rating: 2.5/5

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