Directed by: Anu Menon
Starring: Ali Zafar, Aditi Rao Hydari
All pictures courtesy of: http://www.glamsham.com
If Hindi film genres were desserts, then the romantic comedy would certainly be the souffle which relies not only on careful preparation but equally attentive execution. Get it right and you have a perfectly risen souffle, which will always be remembered fondly and give you a quiet kudos on the culinary front. Get it wrong though and therein begins the post-mortem; too long in the oven, ingredients not mixed together correctly or better luck next time. Such was the extended metaphor running through my head as I went to see London, Paris, New York (LPNY). Having had my rom-com taste buds burnt by Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, it is not unfair to say I approached LPNY with a degree of caution.
Luckily, the caution was not necessary. After a slightly bumpy by numbers start, LPNY warms up nicely, getting into its own stride and then confidently asserting itself with a very real voice at its heart. As the love in foreign climate story has been done to death, the key to a good Hindi romantic comedy is in the treatment and this is perhaps LPNY’s greatest strength. Firstly, I loved that we had such a fantastic three dimensional female protagonist who knows her own mind but is still vulnerable as well as a male lead who the viewer will root for and is more real than most cardboard cutout heroes. My favourite element of LPNY comes near the end where the viewer is delicately nudged to look at the whole story from another angle – is it Lalitha’s fault or Nikhil’s fault that things don’t work out?
LPNY isn’t without flaws though – the biggest being the interval which killed the momentum that LPNY worked hard to build up. Whilst I understand commercial demands dictate an interval, an LPNY without an interval would have worked just as well if not better. The other main flaw is when the film occasionally doubts itself, for instance with the lip synch songs which for me, felt out of place and could easily have been done away with. There are also a few holes in the story but I was prepared to overlook these as when LPNY is on form (which is most of the time), the positive more than outweighs the negative in every sense.
Performance wise, I loved both lead performances. I still haven’t seen Tere Bin Laden (shame on me I know) but I thought Ali Zafar was very good, really giving everything to the role but being careful not to go over the top or into caricature. I also thought LPNY was the perfect vehicle for Zafar and gave him ample scope to prove himself which he does. He is matched step for step by the wonderful Aditi Rao Hydari who gives a superb performance as Lalitha – I liked the way she brought out the conflict in the character in a very measured manner whilst still being a lead who audiences can relate to, empathise with and ultimately regard fondly.
I was pleasantly surprised at how LPNY proved me wrong – it could have fallen by the wayside as another pretender but instead does what most Hindi romantic comedies try to do in half the time and half of the budget. LPNY treads the fine line between filmi and reality with a quiet confidence and certainly marks Anu Menon as a talent to be encouraged and supported. In a month where romance has dominated Hindi cinema releases, it is pleasing to see that at least one in four makes for a better than average film. In other words, LPNY makes for a great souffle!