Laila Majnu Review - A Heartbreaking Madness that is Intense, Wild and Imtiazy..
Before anything about the film.. I would say Laila Majnu is the greatest ode so far to Imtiaz Ali's world of storytelling. The film vignettes itself as stories between present and past.. It has characters constantly sipping Chai.. It draws parallel to a centuries old legend.. What starts as the typical Bollywood love story slowly settles down for deeper, intense emotions.. a male lead constantly intrigued to find what is beyond the mountains.. at some point, we even see him conversing with trees, plants and leaves like how Tara described the Don to Ved in Tamasha.. a screaming 'enough is enough' moment by the female lead like that of Veera's in Highway. Also, much like in Highway or Rockstar, here, in the end, we are opened to a surreal sequence of 'what could have been' with the characters, twirling timeless between past and present. But with all the midas touch of Imtiaz, Sajid Ali's film still holds a strong originality and uniqueness in it.
The film that introduces us Laila with the font 'LAILA' appearing on screen, doesn't do so when it shows Qais for the first time. The clean shaven, ogle eyed Qais reminds you a lot of Janardhan Jhakar phase of Jordan in Rockstar. Then, lot of things happen. They come across each other.. he stalks.. she lets him flirt.. together they fool around.. fall in love with each other.. roam around Kashmir.. get caught in the enmity between their parents.. torn apart.. We see Laila getting married to someone else and Qais leaving the city. And it is only after an hour into the film, after the intermission, four years after Laila's marriage, when we see the dejected, bearded Qais coming to attend his father's death rituals.. we see the font 'MAJNU' appearing on the screen. This was fascinating to me. It says a lot about the writing and the take of the character by the writers (Imtiaz Ali & Sajid Ali) and the director. Qais is not treated as Majnu just because he falls in love with Laila. It is only after the heartbreak, he turns into a Majnu.
In many ways, the film reminds you of Rockstar. Be it for trivial reasons like the vague choice of casting for the female leads or Kashmir being a part of both stories.. or the thematic connect like both protagonists, Jordan and Majnu getting their heartbroken to transit from Janardhan and Qais or them getting devastated and accepting the destruction this love is taking them into. If it is 'Out beyond the ideas of right-doings and wrong-doings, there is a field and I'll meet you there!" for Rockstar.. 'Right when I stop coming to you.. you'll start searching for me' becomes the soul line of Laila Majnu. With Rockstar, if we get Jordan at one point pleading to Khatana Bhai that he don't want his heart to be broken.. here we see Majnu wondering how can the story end so simple when Laila returns to him. He believes that this story is meant to be tragic and awaits for the tragedy to unveil.
Avinash Tiwari's performance as Majnu forms the very essence of the film. It is one of those performances that demands so much out of an actor to live up to the legend. And what he has pulled out of the role is insanely brilliant. It is very much a physical performance yet it makes you strike a chord with what's going on internally. The rate at which this destruction is happening within him is brought out in blood and bones by Avinash. The madness that's slowly taking over him spreads its spell all over the film.
In Sayak Bhattacharya's cinematography, the visual language of the film stays close to the timelessness of the story. There are few shots that will hauntingly stay with you for a long time. Like where we see Laila's body being taken over in the same street where she was hailed as the beauty of the town, amidst the same men who used to flirt around her. Like how Majnu slips over and gets hit by the tombstone of Laila. The blood that flows across his trembling face sort of symbolises the madness that is eating him over.
In a way, the film is more of a musical. Most of the sequences are crossed over as montages with the music and lyrics narrating us the story. The soundtrack by the trio Niladri Kumar, Joi Barua and Alif with lyrics by Irshad Kamil, Mehmood Gaami and Mohammad Muneem deserves a huge mention for it holding the heart and soul of the narrative on point. The entire stretch of Majnu turning out wild and drowning in madness is breathtakingly brought out by the 'Hafiz Hafiz' song.
I am not going to mind much about the caricatured characterisation of Laila's husband or the weak external conflicts that stops Laila and Qais from getting married to each other.. as the film is much more than that. I was bit off with the overt make up of Laila in the initial cheesy sequences and the silly hide and seeks, flirt games, songs and stalkings.. but it all slowly heaps down to the intense latter half of the film. Together, they both look like two different films with extremely diverse range of intensity in each. But the transition is seamless. Or should I say this story is meant to be this way? It is one of those stories where you don't question the logics with respect to how it is conceived in a screen time. Because, the timelessness is the soul here. And destiny is the screenplay that holds these character together. And do we stand a chance with questioning destiny?
Sajid Ali's debut film, 'Laila Majnu' is intensely humane.. divine.. wild.. spiritual.. and everything you would associate with the works of Imtiaz Ali. The madness of Majnu that's elicitly brought out by Avinash Tiwari hits you all the way.
Rating : 3.5 / 5