Why We Absolutely Need More Films Like Phillauri Today

Supriya Baid Supriya Baid in Bakkar. Chai. Sutta on 31 March, 2017

An interesting coincidence that I saw Phillauri on the first day of the New Year! You must be wondering how, because it definitely did not release on January 1st; it is just a week old film. Before you dismiss me as a confused film buff, let me clarify that I’m talking about the day now known, acknowledged and celebrated only by Hindu hardliners and some Hindi language activists – the Hindu Nav Varsh, Vikram Samvat 2074, Chaitra Shukla Ekam.

While my Facebook newsfeed was devoid of the ‘noise’ that ‘New Year’ usually generates, my own status update on it looked as lost and as irrelevant as  ‘begani shaadi mein Abdullah diwaana’!

Such is the pride with which we flaunt all the marks (scars) of colonialism. More ironically, such is the ease with which we forget our own culture and ethos.
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With this prelude, if you think Philaauri has anything to do with ‘patriotism’, preaching you to ‘do your bit', let me tell you, no. Phillauri is a love story. It is a beautiful film. But it is also a very smart film! Smart because beneath all the promos and promotions, it neatly hides the central theme of the film, which is nothing what you would imagine.

It engrosses you in a simple love story and suddenly shakes you up about your unmindfulness of Indian history. It reminds you of the past that you and I belong to, even today! And what seems mere numbers to us is flesh, blood, and emotions.

The plot starts off as a story of a modern-day, beat-boxing, confused NRI Kanan who becomes a victim of ‘superstition’ and is married off to a tree before his actual marriage, to ward off his ‘mangalik’ traits. Enter ghost Anushka who is ‘unwillingly’ trapped in this marriage with Kanan. While she gets a culture shock of how values and ways have changed over time, the audience gets a visual treat as the film cuts to her love story set in pre-independence era!

Shot in sepia tone, the Anushka-Diljit tale is slow, smooth, and poetic. Every frame of the past era is like a painting you can hang and hang on to.
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The production and art direction team deserve a special mention for this. So does the music of the film. Sahiba and Dum Dum are the souls of the film. Diljit Dosanjh adds immense love and believability to the character. Anushka Sharma, Suraj (Life of Pi) Sharma and the rest of the cast are effective too.

The film seems to be in no hurry! It’s this slow pace that it maintains even after the climax, is what I think works best. It lets you absorb the shock and embrace the beauty. The way culture and folklore have been intertwined and placed contextually in the current scheme of things, is what makes even the exaggerated fantastical treatment of the final sequence heartwarming.

A passing mention of the Bollywood biggie Badrinath Ki Dulhania released prior to Phillauri, is important here.

It’s a pseudo-feminist film where good looking privileged people go about romancing and dancing and creating scandals in exotic locales, meanwhile blurting out some ‘revolutionary gyaan’ that changes a staunch patriarch into a liberal human overnight.

The problem is that such faulty projections tend to create false ideas of society and love in young minds. The ‘heart’ of these films is spelt as ‘commerce’. Phillauri is not a masterpiece nor without its flaws but with the heart in its right place, it does strike a chord.

Phillauri begins like a simple horror-comedy, turns into a heartfelt comparison of the complexities of love today and simplicity of love in yesteryears, and finally graduates into a film with a fine purpose. Watch it and you’ll probably know the relevance of what I wrote in the first stanza.