Cast: Tapsee Pannu, Saqib Saleem, Nidhi Singh
Director: Aleya Sen
Rating: 1.5 Stars (Out of 5)
It all begins with a girl in a tearing rush. She is about to elope with her lover. Bites of brinjal sandwiches, loads of airy-fairy talk and a diamond ring later, the flaming red car carrying the twosome veers off a highway and plunges into a river. The duo survives the mishap and ends up in a jungle. The trek through the forest does them no good at all. They disappear ever deeper into the woods as they seek to shrug off the repercussions of the accident.
Their fate mirrors that of Dil Juunglee, written and directed by debutante Aleya Sen. The shallow, soulless rom-com never finds a clearing large enough for sunlight to filter in and illuminate the goings-on. Neither the heroine, a corporate scion who is obsessed with romance and aspires to be a writer of love stories, nor the hero, a Lajpat Nagar gym instructor and Bollywood star aspirant, evolves into believable characters that we could wrap our hearts, if not our heads, around.
Sumeet Uppal (Saqib Saleem) is hopelessly aquaphobic. The staid Koroli Nair (Taapsee Pannu), who teaches spoken English to the former in order to prepare him for his foray into Mumbai filmdom, keeps coming within inches of being drowned. But the love story of the two, when it plays out on terra firma and wanders off in no particular direction, first in Delhi and then in London, holds no water.
It takes the girl nearly two hours to figure out that "we sound really, really boring together". O yes, they do! But by then the boy is too far down the path of unreason to take her seriously and attempt a course correction. "Get a life, Sumeet," Koroli suggests. He refuses to. And so does the film. Dil Juunglee looks pretty in a superficial sort of way, but at no point of its sloppy narrative arc does make any sense even in a superficial sort of way.
The female protagonist, who is constantly berated by her entrepreneur-dad for not taking any interest in the thriving family business, is a strange creature. Despite being a girl apparently with a mind of her own, she is willing to surrender to a mamma's boy who is easily swayed by the reservations that his mother (Supriya Shukla) has about the prospect of her only son bringing home a manglik bride.
It is only when Sumeet refuses to come to her aid when she falls into a river from a rope-bridge that realization dawns on Koroli. She wakes up, discovers her spine, and walks away from a temple wedding, leaving the hero high dry.
Sumeet seems to regard Koroli as his personal property. The girl's suave but feckless fiancee is no better. He repeatedly refers to Koroli as a "deal" - she's been the best deal ever, I know when a deal is off, and so on. It is hard to believe at times that Dil Juunglee isn't Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, that it is a film that has been conceived and executed by a woman.
Everything about Dil Juunglee is a bit on the wild side, completely arbitrary and illogical. The screenplay does not, for instance, care to explain why Koroli would want to spend as much time as she does with her ex-flame when her life has moved well and truly away from Sumeet's orbit. Of course, the audience knows where the narrative is headed as Koroli and Sumeet loiter around the city, allowing the camera to take in the sights of London. Without any convincing psychological underpinnings to help it along, the romantic drama can only limp and lurch without striking any highs.
The acting is rudimentary although it must be said that Taapsee Pannu looks fetching and Saqib Saleem tries his very best to rise above the limitations of the script. In both cases, the effort shows. They both deserve, and are capable of, better.
The other actors in the cast, notably Nidhi Singh in the guise of a garrulous movie starlet for whom the hero falls on the rebound and Shristi Srivastava as the heroine's bestie, ham their way through the film.
In one scene, the heroine, dismissing the possibility of her ever reuniting with her former lover, confesses that "we were just kidding, it was a joke". Indeed. But Dil Juunglee does not work even as a joke. It is more pain than fun.