Bachna Ae Haseeno

2008, Movie, NR, 155 mins


Siddarth Annan's light romantic comedy takes an abrupt, 11th-hour turn for the melodramatic that imbues it with unexpected resonance without seeming completely contrived.

The story of feckless chick magnet Raj Sharma (Ranbir Kapoor) unfolds in three segments. In the first, set in 1996, he's a callow 17-year-old whose goofy charm makes girls swoon. While touring Switzerland with his pals, Raj spots fresh-faced Punjabi beauty Mahi (Minissha Lamba) traveling with her family. Sheltered and more than a little naïve, Mahi falls for Raj when he impulsively comes to her rescue after she gets left behind during a station stop. But though Raj seems like the quintessential nice guy w ho inevitably loses the girl to someone smoother, he's actually a cad in the making and winds up breaking Mahi's heart.

By 2001, Raj is living in Mumbai and forging a career as a video-game designer. He falls for his next-door neighbor, ambitious aspiring model Radhika (Bipasha Basu), and in no time flat they've combined their apartments and lives. Raj gets cold feet when it appears marriage is on the horizon, and thinks he's found the perfect out in a transfer to the firm's Australian offices. Radhika, unfortunately, assumes the imminent move means Raj will want to get married ASAP so they can start a new life together in Sydney; he lacks the nerve to tell her otherwise. Radhika too winds up bitterly disappointed.

In 2008, as he's nearing 30, Raj meets his match in Gayatri (Deepika Padukone), who's driving a cab while planning to attend business school. This time, she's the one for whom romantic commitment isn't a priority and he's crushed. Finally realizing that his love karma needs a thorough overhaul, Raj tries to make amends to Radhika and Mahi. But to his naive surprise, they're both still plenty mad and not at all interested in letting him off the hook.

The son of Indian movie stars Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, Ranbir Kapoor made his debut in the lavish SAAWARIYA (2007), whose MOULIN ROUGE (2001)/ONE FROM THE HEART (1982)-like stylization flopped in India and abroad. But Kapoor's sophomore effort plays to his strengths -- offbeat good looks and the ability to handle both broad comedy and drama -- and wraps them in a glossy, standard-issue Bollywood coccoon of brightly costumed beauties, gorgeous locations, bouncy musical numbers and breathless romance. The result is slick, mainstream entertainment with just enough surprises that you don't have to feel like a fool for enjoying it. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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