Synopsis – When Sahil met Mittee in hotel management school, it was love at first sight for both of them. Their love was everything – picture perfect and flawless. But an unlikely event at school turns their dream-come-true romance into a nightmare and makes them realise how important it is to know your partner thoroughly before getting into any kind of romantic relationship.
My Take – It is highly unfortunate that amidst the huge line up of releases starring recognizable names, backed by affluent production houses, many smaller films, with significantly lower marketing budgets find themselves ghosted upon release, no matter how competent their content is.
But thanks to the rise of OTT platforms, most of these films are successfully finding second life online. With this film being one said example. Helmed by debutante director Cherag Ruparel, the thriller which introduces Shivaleeka Oberoi and Vardhan Puri, grandson of legendary character actor Amrish Puri, arrived with little to no noise back in November 2019, but caught immediate attention the moment it premiered on Zee5, thanks to its twisty premise and execution.
Sure, its revenge plot isn’t something new, and consists of some events which conveniently take place to benefit the protagonist, but here, director Cherag Ruparel who co-wrote the film with Vardhan Puri, manages to depict the dark shades of love in an interesting format, and keep us hooked on till the end credits roll in.
The story follows Sahil (Vardhan Puri), a quintessential small-town orphan, who despite a sustainable bank balance, interns at a local restaurant while studying at a hospitality college in Shimla. While his introvert nature keeps him at bay from others, except for his roommate Venu (Jesse Lever), his life takes an interesting turn when he immediately falls for his new classmate, Mittee (Shivaleeka Oberoi), an ambitious middle-class girl who dreams big.
With Mittee too reciprocating his feelings over a period of time, at first it seems that they are both destined for each other, until a simple misunderstanding pulls them apart with their relationship taking a downward spiral, leading to Sahil becoming the local mental asylum’s latest inmate.
His quest to understand the truth takes him through a maze of sidesteps and blind alleys, with a part of the journey winding through an asylum whose treatment methods date back to a few decades ago. Some of the plot turns make sense and others don’t, but the screenplay is confident and clever, always making sure to steer its turns with dexterity.
As aforementioned, the film gleefully shatters clichés and rejects conventional plot turns to surprise you at every available opportunity. The turn of events continues to keep you engrossed, immersed and takes the film to an all-time high. Yes, the transformation of a simple boy to a hardened man is never really convincing, but the film’s nail-biting crescendo is completely justified in the end.
Director Ruparel’s storytelling abilities are apparent here, and the expertise with which he has handled the tense-filled moments should win him all-round praise. He strikes the right balance between realism and commercialism, between form and content. With an aim to expose the dark side of the human psyche the film makes its position on gender wars all too clear in the scene in which a character declares that men are unsafe too after having hacked into an apartment’s security devices and slipped in while a woman is having a shower.
The psychological thriller is resolutely old-fashioned in its devices, and very contemporary in its anxieties about the true nature of women. Films with such an audacious theme generally ignite debates and this film is sure to meet with severe reactions. The makers ought to be prepared for some bouquets and bricks. But what makes the film immensely watchable is its raging ambition and commitment of its cast.
Here, Vardhan Puri shines not just as a promising actor but also as an impressive writer. While he does start on shaky note when it comes to the romance bit of the film, he does manage to successfully transform his image in second half. Shivaleeka Oberoi is quite excellent too and convincingly portrays the many shades and moods of Mittee with command.
In a smaller role, Ruslan Mumtaz brings in fine display of depth and is adequate. Jesse Lever (Johnny Lever’s son), also makes his presence felt in a supporting character. On the whole, ‘Yeh Saali Aashiqui’ is a deliciously twisted romantic thriller which keeps you intrigued with its gripping narrative.
Directed – Cherag Ruparel
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 137 minutes