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Haseen Dillruba Review: Hormonal Heroine In An Off-Kilter Crime Drama

Haseen Dilruba (Netflix)

Taapsee Pannu, Vikrant Massey, Hashvardhan Rane

Directed  by Vinil Mathew

Rating: ***

Haseen Dilruba (Netflix)It’s interesting to see how an avant-garde  writer like Kanika Dhillon is  pushing the  Hindi Film  Heroine over the edge. She can  now  crave for things  like non-vegetarian  food and  satisfying sex without being slut-shamed  . It’s okay to be  a  slut now.

The new  post-‘Covet’  guidelines  are  deliciously  applicable to the heroine  in  Haseen Dillruba. Rani Tripathi, nee Kashyap, is  the  kind of hormonal heroine who gives the smalltown  slut  a bad name. In a sequence  straight out  of  a pulp novel written by  her favourite author Dinesh Pandit , Rani walks up to a girl who’s (innocently?)  talking to her husband  and confides that they(Rani and her husband) have had sex only once since their marriage a month back and it ended in a squishy  fiasco.

“Lady to lady  main aapko bataa rahi hoon,” Rani  tells the disgusted girl(whoever she  might be).

This  crass attempt at being brutally frank about her appetites,  be  it for sex food or later murder, makes Rani an counter-deified  oddity , an  anomaly, a square  among  circles. She certainly diesn’t fit in as Rishu’s husband.

Rishu!  He  is  a problem.  You see, he  is not a wife beater  or a sleazebag. He  loves his wife to death,which  in the context  of  the way the plot pans out ,  is  quite an ironic description of Rishu’s …errr..undying passion for his unfaithful , untrustworthy, despicably  unwifely wife.

While the set -up is  intriguing and  seductive  in its sleazy  undertones, the detailing in the art direction  of a   riverbank fictionalized smalltown named Jwalapur(Allahabad? Varanasi?) is  unsubtle:  the  wife’s two suitcases  from her recent wedding are strategically  placed next to the  bed in the couple’s bedroom.

The  neatness  mocks the mess that Rani and eventually her cornered husband  make of their marriage.Jayakrishna Gummadi’s cinematography  manoeuvres  through  the cramped space  of a  smalltown home stealthily  searching  out the sleaze.

 Rishu, the husband is problematic to the plot. His  innate decency and his  determination to be  a good husband  to his truant errant  and eventually  unfaithful wife  puts  the marital  moral alignment into a fix.  How  to justify Rani’s  lustful betrayal when her  hormones start to act up? Or her earlier description of her husband as ‘phuski’  a two-minute-noodle insult that Rishu overhears.

 It is here that Rishu’s  decency  caves in. In the most  savagely noire-comic  passage of the narration Rishu is  seen  growing murderous towards his  wife. As he tries to cause her grievous bodily  harm , their marriage is  self-healing. You  know the one  about hurting the most the one  you love the most? Hold on to that thought as the Rani-Rishi marriage burns and crashes and repairs in a mode that is  at once pulp-fictional and  consciously  sloppy.

The  plot is fraught with  dangerous curves,  as  dangerous as  Taapsee Pannu’s  swinging walk as she defiantly steps  out of her smalltown housewife’s  orbit to  fancy-cut her father-in-law(Daya Shankar Pandey) ’s  hair,show the middle-finger to her  bullying  mother-in-law(Yamini Das) and fuck her  husband’s  beefy cousin(Harsvardhan Rane).

Cop Aditya Shrivastava  tries to make sense  of  the  crime of  passion, which outwardly seems  as lurid as the novels  of Rani’s favourite  Dinesh Pundit.He is the voice of reason  in  an echo-chamber  of treason.

 Like those  pulp Hindi novels  that were a staple part  of train journeys  in  the 1970-80s, Haseen Dulruba entails an acquired taste to be  enjoyed. Rani’s  hormonal  crimes are  not  easy to  accept. She is  fatal and flawed. But  damn sexy.Taapsee delivers  yet another  titillating tongue—and-taang-in-cheek performance ,rendering Rani a slut hard to slot. 

Vikrant Massey as her  dutiful husband is  outstanding. He  is  his wife’s little lamb who turns into a man-eating lion when  pushed to the wall. With  a twitch of his mouth and a flicker of an eye Massey  makes Rishu  a nice  reliable   man  who can  transform  into a  creature  of  caprice . Harshavardhan Rane’s  immoral hunk is  a well-played stereotype.

 But the  film belongs to writer Kanika Dhillon and  director Vinil Mathew who  create  a universe so denuded  of a moral centre  you fear it will topple over the edge under the   weight of its own giddy  hormonal urges.

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