Film: "Pyaar Ka Punchnama"; Cast: Raayo Bakhirta, Nushrat Bharucha, Sonalli Sehgal, Divyendu Sharma, Ishitta Sharma and Kartikeya Tiwari; Writer-Director: Luv Ranjan; Rating: *** ½
"Pyaar Ka Punchnama" packs in a precocious punch. In telling the story of three friends-cum-flatmates who get into 'serious' relationships with three self-serving working-class female monsters of the concrete jungle, debutant director Luv Ranjan gives us a film that's fresh, flavourful and finally hugely rewarding.
Not that the film attempts to say anything we've not seen before. That's the beauty of this sometimes-embarrassing sometimes-disturbing, often-funny and never-dull peek-a-boo at youthful life in the metropolis where human values are frequently sacrificed for the sake of a trendy lifestyle or maybe just to get even with a fast-moving materialistic city that doesn't care how much you carry in your heart as long as the credit-cards keep working their mall magic.
Meet Rajat (Kartikeya Tiwari) who, alas, meets Riya and his life changes forever. Wish we could say, for the better. In terms of an emotional graph and dramatic momentum, Kartikeya is the screenplay's most appealing and inviting character. That the actor plays his character with great gusto, just adds to the charm of the proceedings. No doubt the Rajat-Riya track conveys echoes of the Saif Ali Khan-Suchitra Pillai lamb-and-bully equation in Farhan Akhtar's "Dil Chahta Hai".
It's not novelty for which this film wins extra points. It's the sheer energy, exuberance and sardonic humour that the director invests into building a case against young men in the city 'falling' (with a humping thud) in love with girl so ambitious they would climb the highest peak at the slightest pretext. And we aren't talking about the Himalayas.
Though there's a delectable sexual subtext to the relationships, Ranjan keeps the proceedings surprisingly free of crassness. The vast eclectic material is nimbly edited in a criss-cross of fast-moving vignettes taken from a suburban immorality tale.
Apart from an inexplicable fixation on urination in the dialogues of the first reel, the spoken lines communicate the musk of masculine prattle without getting over-lurid or picturesque.
For a first film, Ranjan shows a remarkable grip over his characters' destiny. If Rajat's track moves at a vibrant volition, the nerdy Liquid's (Divyendu Sharma) one-sided devotion to the selfish office colleague Charu (Ishita Sharma) reeks of a desperate romance that Somerset Maugham described in his novel "Of Human Bondage" decades ago.
More recently we saw Omi Vaidya do the hangdog Romeo in Madhur Bhandarkar's "Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji".
Divyendu is a solid actor. He gives to his wimpy cranky character an easily-recognisable profile.
The plot involving Chaudhary (Raayo Bhakhirta) and his promiscuous lust-interest is the feeblest of the three love-tracks. And it suffers only in comparison with the sturdy momentum that the director allots to Rajat and Liquid's rather sordid love stories.
Deftly written and edited with words and situations straight out of real life, "Pyaar Ka Punchnama" is the kind of rugged romantic-comedy that brings the smile back into the genre. The performances specially by Kartikeya and Divyendu are rock-solid, imbuing the light-hearted but never-frivolous goings-on with flavour and strength.
Kartikeya's four-minute-45-second improvised monologue on how confusing feminine conduct gets for the male species is priceless in its piquancy.
Peppery and pertinent, this is a film that no one should miss. True, it is a story about the below-the-belt follies of the young. No matter what your age you will see a slice of your own spousal relationship in the vicious circle that the plot creates around its three heroes.
The ultimate horror flick? You got it! This one is about how scary the man-woman thing gets because most of the time men don't know what women want.
You see, woman don't want men to know. That's the secret this devilishly-delightful film lets out.