Laila Majnu film review: The Persian romance comes alive once again, this time in Kashmir

Laila aur Majnu: Two star-crossed lovers whose destiny was to never have a happily-ever-after ending. Heartbreaking yet addictive; that's how the two have lived on in our folktales. So how is Sajid Ali, brother of Imtiaz Ali, any different in his version of the story that has played out in Indian cinema a number of times before?

Precisely, it’s not. The love is familiar, so are the separation and the crisis. On a note of sub-plots, this time around, the story grows on the gorgeous backdrop of Kashmir wherein titular actors Avinash Tiwary and Tripti Dimri are from two rival families with ideological as well as societal differences. Laila is this majestically beautiful woman, lost in an imaginary world of fairytale love stories. And hence, when she comes across Qaiz (Avinash), all her desires suddenly have a shape. She falls in love beyond how much she could withhold herself, and vice versa. But we know it's got to be tragic. Laila is married off and Qaiz, unable to cope with it, moves to London. All this, only to reunite after four years.

It quite felt like Sajid, the debutant director, was trying too hard to paint a visually recognizable romance. Hence, the picturesque set-up, white pigeons, moonlit nights. Slightly overdone, to be honest. Until it’s a period drama (in which case we go totally vintage), we want a 2018 love story to look close to life, and not straight from the sets of an 80s’ film.

Further, the separation doesn’t break you as much as the reunion does. A heartbroken but guilty (of having cheated her father) Laila agrees on a marriage that she knew would not be fruitful. And then arrive the most intense half-hour of the film. The cinematic language clearly belongs to Imtiaz Ali here. A failed lover haunted down by hollowness, hallucination and unfulfilled desires come back to life so perfectly, that it stirs us up. It is in those 30 minutes that we fall in love with every bit of Avinash Tiwary. But Ali’s writing deserves just as much credit. If not for him, the entire essence of chasing happiness futilely would not have taken shape.

Tripti Dimri gets her character right but is underwhelming in many places. You will be in for some true visual delights, thanks to the beauty that Kashmir is. Joi Barua’s music is situationally perfect and chances are that the title track will stay with you for a while.

Laila Majnu isn’t a must watch, but not a terrible watch either.

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