In his 12th movie as a writer, Imtiaz Ali introduces his brother Sajid in the modern update of the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi's virgin’ love between the 7th century Bedouin poet Qays and Layla, in India’s 10th movie on the star crossed lovers – LAILA MAJNU that continues to give an example of ‘dewangi’ (madness) for your beloved more on craziness, pain and suffering then devotionally/spiritually sufi.
Messing with LAILA MAJNU is nothing new, as said earlier, this is the tenth time in Indian cinema, the classic 7th century tragedy of undying and unrequited love is explored. This time LAILA MAJNU is based in Kashmir (it may be a metaphor as the place once regarded as heaven for its stunning beauty is a disturbed land nowadays).
Laila (Tripti Dimri) believes in living life for the moment, the modern day Laila enjoys the attention given by the boys and like any other Mills and Boons heroine dreams of her prince charming coming one day. What begins as a playful mischief with the town’s spoil brat Qais (Avinash Tiwari) turns into a passionate love saga where the love of Qais and Laila becomes the victim of the growing feud in their family leading to pain, melancholy, suffering, obsession and madness.
No doubt the word ‘Majnu’ is associated with someone who is lost or has lost everything in love, a Majnu is a picture of sadness, untidiness and loss. Writer Imtiaz Ali and director Sajid capture this essence in their modern take which interestingly pays ode to the traditional tale and its tragedy. It will be equally interesting to see the result of this litmus test to find out how wiling is the today’s audience to accept such extremes in romance on screen which every now and then gets occupied by feel good rom com and its enthralling to find one of those known enthusiast in feel good rom com genre Imtiaz Ali opting this route.
Apart from LAILA MAJNU, we have played with other classics on love as well and seen adaptations like DEVDAS etc. Kashyap’s DEV D being the most radical. What works in favour of LAILA MAJNU is that it never claims to be a classic love story and goes by the flow, beginning with an innocent adolescent mischief, it turns dramatic and gains intensity as the love goes insane and out of hands.
Success of any classic saga is determined by two vital factors: the competence of the narrative, and the ability of the main lead. While the writer director duo – The Ali brothers Imtiaz and Sajid maintain the tragic fervor, Tripti Dimri makes an endearing Laila that has a striking combo of strength and innocence. Avinash Tiwari is competent as Qais, Avinash is successful in making his character intoxicatingly getting established with the audience, they even start hating him at one point and in the end when the madness sets in, the ‘passion’ is felt as Avinash surpasses himself as the crazy Majnu. Plus the new pairing adds freshness and there is that raw emotion felt at times. Parmeet Sethi as Laila’s father and Benjamin Gilani as Majnu’s father land adequate support. Sumit Kaul as Ibban is fine.
Exquisitely shot in those breathtaking locations in Kashmir, Cinematographer Sayak Bhattacharya does a class act. Production values are first rate. Niladri Kumar and Joi Barua’s music adds to the ‘Kashmiri’ flavor.
The problem with LAILA MAJNU is that after gaining the momentum and reaching at the point to deliver the promised crescendo, it hurries up and threatens to spoil it completely, almost like committing a suicide.
In the end however, the latest cinematic version of the 7th century love saga LAILA MAJNU remains loyal to its basic essence and innocence. Sajid Ali makes a promising debut as director. Tripti Dimri and Avinash Tiwary add noticeable nuances to their acting and for a change we have a ‘virgin’ love story – a tragedy in the age of romantic comedies that garners more acceptance as a love saga on screen then rejection.