Haseen Dillruba REVIEW: Taapsee Pannu, Vikrant, Harshvardhan’s film engages with unpredictable twists

Director: Vinil Mathew

Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Vikrant Massey, Harshvardhan Rane, Aditya Srivastava, Ashish Verma

Produced By: Aanand L. Rai, Himanshu Sharma, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar

Bollywood Bubble Rating:

Love and obsession sometimes leave no boundaries. Whether or not it is healthy is secondary, but it definitely makes for an intriguing watch. Haseen Dilruba, directed by Vinil Matthew, traces the journey of Rani (Taapsee Pannu) who is self-aware, is a ‘tota’ (a North Indian slang to describe ‘hot’), and is someone who knows what she wants. With a slight nudge from the family, she agrees to arrange marriage with Rishu (Vikrant Massey), an engineer from Jwalapur. Initially, in a forced setup, she ends up looking for love else, leading to the classic huge push-and-pull revenge story, or is it? That’s where writer Kanika Dhillon uses her writing wand to leave us slightly surprised with the twist.

Haseen Dillruba starts with a blast in the house which claims a life. All we know that it was Rani (Taapsee Pannu)’s husband Rishu (Vikrant Massey) who lost his life in the blast which the police officer believes was orchestrated by Rani herself with the help of her lover Neel (Harshvardhan Rane). Police officer (Daya Shankar Pandey) has in his head declared Rani a murderer and goes to the extent of conducting a ‘lie-detector test’ to prove it. Despite an honour killing case needing his urgent attention, he is more obsessed with ‘bhabhiji’ and the case because of some personal emotional investment in it. Though it was never clear what made him so obsessed with the case, it can be understood that it stems from some personal experience perhaps.

Haseen Dillruba flirts on difficult terrain with Rani’s character. There are some fun elements added at the beginning which questions patriarchy in the most subtle way. Rani is no damsel in distress, she is independent enough to run her own beauty parlour. What sets her apart is her ability to voice her desires. Kanika handles her character with subtlety without demonizing her as ‘that’ woman. Rani subtly smashes some victorian mindset as well when she redefines ‘shushil’ in a conversation with her mother-in-law. These are the conversation and light moments in the film which make you ponder along with it.

Rishu, on the other hand, is an engineer with zero social skills. He is nervous around women and has only one friend Azhar who stands by him. But he is a hardcore romantic at heart (he even tattoos her name on his hand). He is the true example of what happens when love turns into something more. Harshvardhan Rane plays Neel, Rishu’s cousin who in ways plays a catalyst in bringing Rishu and Rani together. He is the one who gaslights the entire story.

The second half of the movie is all about trying to find out who murdered Rishu, was it Rani or Neel or a plan devised by both? Well, that you’ll have to watch the movie today to find out. It is only befitting that novelist Dinesh Tripathi’s reference is made many-a-times in the movie who also eventually unravels the mystery.

Taapsee as Rani is top-notch. She brings in the naughtiness and hotness in equal measures and seamlessly transforms into a grief-stricken mysterious wife in the second half. It is no surprise given that Taapsee is a phenomenal performer. She plays Rani without any judgments and makes her relatable. Vikrant is a riot himself. The way he switches mode between being a rather ‘cute’ husband in the first half to an obsessed lover in the second, is rather admirable. Harshvardhan too plays the perfect villain. Despite his limited role, he leaves a mark.

Director Vinil Matthew keeps the screenplay steady without a lot of back and forth and uses subtle ways to show obsession without making it gory. The cinematographer captures the locations of the small-town well. In a story like this, the camera plays a huge role in setting the tone of the story along with the music. However, I felt the first half was a little stretched with all the major action left for the last 30 minutes. Honestly, the story of obsession and love is not novel in itself but what really makes Haseen Dillruba an engaging watch is the execution and the performance. The climax, of course, makes you wonder if this was even a murder. Oops, no spoilers!

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