Phillauri is Anushka Sharma’s second home production, and much like her first, NH10, it tries to tell a different story. The film has a simple storyline. It starts off in the present day, as Kanan Gill (Suraj Sharma) returns from Canada to get married to his childhood sweetheart, Anu (Mehreen Pirzada) in a big fat Punjabi wedding. There is a problem, however. The priest tells the family that Kanan is ‘Manglik’ which means that he has to symbolically marry a tree first in order to ward off evil influences that might affect his life with Anu. Much against his will, Kanan agrees and gets married to an old tree. Unknown to anyone though, the tree has a resident ghost, Shashi (enter Anushka Sharma) who now considers herself to be married to Kanan. Thus, begins a Love Aaj Kal-esque love story where the past guides the present through, to find the real essence of love.
Shashi shares her backstory in flashback and we are taken back to pre-partition India, more precisely to a small village called Phillaur, which is steeped in tradition. Shashi lives with her strict brother, who is a doctor who believes that music and arts are tabooed pastimes and must be avoided. The doctor, who has a sympathetic corner for the freedom fighters of the time, is unaware of the fact that his own sister Shashi is a talented poetess whose poems are loved by readers all over Punjab. Keeping in line with her brother’s beliefs, Shashi keeps her identity hidden and writes under the pseudonym ‘Phillauri’. All is well until she comes face to face with Roop (Diljit Dosanjh) and what follows is a beautiful love story that will make your heart skip a beat.
Shashi and Roop’s love story offers audiences a window into a very different world. A world where love isn’t transient, it holds and lives on through distances where all lovers have are stolen glances and infrequent letters from the other. In that regard, Phillauri’s tale of love will appeal to audiences of all ages; in today’s age people may not believe in love that lives on beyond death but the idea is still an endearing one. The director Anshai Lal lends subtlety to the romance, which I wish he brought to the modern day couple of Kanan and Anu as well.
While Phillauri’s basic premise may have shades of Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’, the treatment is different. Phillauri is also much more than just a love story as the writer, Anvita Dutt, adds a lesson or two about the importance of letting women pursue their dreams and the value of respect and dignity in a relationship, but without making the narrative preachy and that is always a win!
Phillauri is a musical treat. Shashwat and Jasleen have put together an album that takes influences from folk melodies and gives them a refreshing feel. From the soulful Dum Dum to the melancholic Sahiba, the music is hard to forget; a much needed, pleasant break from the auto-tuned songs that we have been subjected to of late. Anvita Dutt’s meaningful lyrics add to the magic.
In the acting department, Anushka Sharma is a clear winner. She delivers her hilarious wisecracks with a straight face and does an equally good job emoting the pain of love lost. During the flashbacks, she looks every bit a strong, yet vulnerable girl. A special mention must be made of the costumes – from the traditional shalwar suits to the silver jhumkas – everything adds to the authenticity of the story. Diljit, who brings honesty to his role shines as a kohl-eyed musician who is transformed by love. Mehreen Pirzada doesn’t have so much to play with but she still makes an impact – I particularly liked her in the second half. The only let down is Suraj Sharma, who albeit brilliant in his Hollywood outings, just could not express himself in Phillauri. So much so that in the first half it feels like he pretty much has the same expression of bewilderment on his face.
Overall, Phillauri has more positives than negatives and despite its weak moments, it is a film you need to watch, especially if you like love stories. You will leave the theatres with a smile on your face!