A scene from ‘Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat’
There comes a phase in the career of filmmakers when they test their relevance in the minds of young hearts. Looks like director Anurag Kashyap is going through that phase. Years later he broke the conventions of love stories Dev DHis latest attempt at rediscovery is a timely and well-meaning but scattered and almost laborious take on the perils of modern love across cultures.
Through two parallel narratives, where the same actors almost play lovers, the film addresses intolerance towards relationships of faith and class, harmful patriarchy and the naïveté of the internet generation. The entrance of a caring but bigoted and homophobic elderly couple provides an unsettling sense of generational gap. Add to this a layer of violent homosexual behavior and we have a series of aspects that are disturbing. The way Anurag attacks the idea of Izzat is commendable and the indispensability of a Muslim in our society sends chills down the spine.
Having said that, Anurag fails to convert genuine concerns into a compelling screenplay. He remains more of an observer than a participant and hence fails to emotionally integrate with the plight of any of the characters. In love, sex and cheating, Dibakar Banerjee got out of this dilemma by using the concept of found footage. Here, it works like a dramatic representation of a news story, juxtaposed with half a dozen Amit Trivedi numbers, which seem to be genetic aberrations of the creations we’ve come to appreciate Dev D And wishes, Only love will bring revolution Sticks in the mind as it captures the core emotions of the film; It is only love that can keep hate away.
The setting is interesting and the premise is promising. In Dalhousie, Amrita (Alaya F) finds a friend in the neighborhood when she befriends Yakub (Karan Mehta). The inter-religious bond is tested when the two step out of their homes to watch a show by DJ Mohabbat (Vicky Kaushal). Amrita’s family, already worried about her talking to a Muslim, consider their daughter’s sudden disappearance to be a case of kidnapping and love jihad. In a parallel story, Ayesha (Alaya F), the daughter of a shady Pakistani businessman, falls in love with Harmeet (Karan Mehta), a reticent musician. As Ayesha is only on the threshold of adulthood, the relationship is not legal and Harmeet has to suffer humiliation in jail.
Socio-political commentary has always been almost an integral part of the story in Anurag’s films, but here it is loose. DJ Mohabbat, the thread between two stories whose romantic vocabulary is spread between Ghalib and Gulzar, turns out to be a poor man’s Rumi who adds more chaste than spark to the narrative and dilutes the experience. The comment on the generation nurtured by the internet is repeated after a point and so is Amrita, a popular YouTuber imitated.
Karan’s rawness works for the theme. As the hermit, he makes us appreciate the scars on his soul, and as Jacob, he gets his simplicity right. Improving with every film, Alaya is relatable as both the idealistic but unrealistic Amrita and the entitled but loving Ayesha. However, both are let down by uneven writing that’s more issue-driven than heartfelt.
Dj Mohabbat Wala Almost Pyar is currently running in cinemas