This is the sort of film you’d bump into accidentally, or you might buy the ticket to kill some time or you’d see it on a recommendation. At the same time, this is a film you may catch up with later and wonder why you hadn’t seen it when it was released. Divided into two halves, with the second half dedicated to revenge for the wrong done to the protagonist in the first, Yeh Saali Aashiqui may lack star attraction but it more than makes up for it with a tight plot.
Vardhan Puri is being talked about everywhere as the grandson of the late Amrish Puri, but he rightly makes no effort to be his grandfather on-screen, as he has a persona of his own, the kind needed for this role that a star could not have done justice to, given the baggage the identifiable faces come with. He won’t evolve to be an Aamir Khan or a Shah Rukh Khan who had experimented with their characters during their formative years. If guided properly, Vardhan would occupy that vacant space for ‘heroes’ in Indian cinema who we see as a colleague working in the next cubicle in our office. While a Rajkummar Rao moves a bit left, Vardhan could move rightward.
Shivaleeka Oberoi was behind the camera in Kick and Housefull 3 (as was Vardhan in a few YRF productions), but not to the extent Yeh Saali Aashiqui takes out of her. She has the kind of face that wouldn’t let you predict the whole story after you have seen the initial shots.
What promised to be romance turns out to be a thriller as the affair between Sahil Mehra (Vardhan), an adopted son of a restaurateur in Manali, and Mitee Deora (Shivaleeka), from a lower-middle-class family of Delhi, go wrong in the hostel of an institute of hotel management. But this is not the only domain of the story that has subterfuge. There is someone who wrongs without batting an eyelid elsewhere. That the protagonist would settle the score was always known. ‘How’ is what makes the story interesting.
There is no yawning moment in the storyline. You stay hooked throughout. There is no item number; even the actors don’t sing; the three songs play in the background. That’s again remarkable coming-of-age from run-of-the-mill Bollywood stuff.
There are nuggets that men would relate to. When, for instance, a Sikh man who helps Sahil says he has been through similar pain. But then, it’s hardly misogyny when girls from the hospitality college come together with the boys. And, to stay clear of judgements, one could even sympathise with the few in our midst who. we find, are ready to go any distance, ethical or unethical, to see their material dreams come true. We have seen so many of them in Delhi. Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai and all have, too.
The screenplay by Vardhan-Cherag could have but come up with a catch better than identical twins, which was an escape route to make things easy for the ‘hero’. Yeh Saali Aashiqui would do better with smart marketing, which has been conspicuous by its absence, Jayantilal Gada of PEN must take note.
Director Cherag Ruparel needs to work on lighting. Even with bankable stars, Mukul Anand (Agneepath starring Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty, 1990), KC Bokadia (Insaniyat ke Devta with the cast of Rajkumar, Vinod Khanna and Rajinikanth, 1993), Deepak Pawar (Platform featuring Ajay Devgn, 1993), to name three filmmakers of yesteryears, did not work. That was partly because of bad scripts, which Yeh Saali Aashiqui cannot be accused of, and partly because the source of light was behind the characters on screen, which strained the eyes. No, Yeh Saali Aashiqui isn’t film noir, and this isn’t the lighting arrangement for film noir, the theme of retribution notwithstanding.