Ladies vs Ricky Bahl: Art of Con

Ranveer Singh rocketed to fame with his 2011 debut Band Baaja Baarat, opposite co-star Anushka Sharma. A film about two friends who start a marriage planning company, it was a full-on desi movie with all the flavours and sights and sounds of Delhi. Ladies vs Ricky Bahl recreates some of that same magic, but with a bigger cast that includes newcomer Parineeti Chopra. As with the first Singh flick, I enjoyed this one too, and it has since stood up to several repeat viewings, which is pretty much Bollywood gold right there.

Ranveer and Anushka have done very few films to date in their respective careers and this is their second film together, but despite everything else, they pulled off a winner here. Great songs as usual, and a great script plus great acting made this a standout movie for me in 2011. And here’s the reasons why.

Ladies vs Ricky Bahl Poster 001Don’t let my two recent reviews of Bollywood films fool you in that 2011 saw a lot of truly good releases from the Indian film industry. True, there were some gems in there but there were also a lot of duds. Some of the films that have set the industry buzz have been, in my opinion, rather lackluster as they have been saddled with extremely over the top scripts, over the top acting, and some really painful execution of the plot. That said, I am not here to talk about these duds today but another Bollywood movie that really impressed last year as a solid all-round package: Ladies v/s Ricky Bahl.

The movie is about young con-man Ricky Bahl who goes from city-to-city, fleecing young, single girls of their, or their family’s, money. After a rather big haul that causes a lot of public embarrassment for one of his victims, said victim sets about bringing together some of the other girls who have been conned and their mission now is to get their money back by beating the master at his own game. A rather simple plot, fairly linear and with lots of potential to truly fail right?

And that’s where Ladies v/s Ricky Bahl succeeds. It just doesn’t fail in any regard. The characterization is great, the script is simplistically great, the songs are perfect, the pacing is just right and the locales and all are good too. Few movies can ever get all those things right, especially in Bollywood. That would be one of the reasons why I liked this movie so much.

Ranveer Singh returns in only his second movie to deliver another fantastic performance. While the break between his highly-successful debut, Band Baaja Baraat, and Ladies v/s Ricky Bahl was quite long, he hasn’t lost any of the skills that made him a household name in December of 2010. In the former he was quite the average Delhi-guy with the accent to match. In the latter, he is a suave, manipulative and emotional con-man who really knows how to work his marks. Every scene he is in he just charges with a lot of enthusiasm and energy and you can see that a lot of hard-work has gone in the making of the film on his part. His expressions are always just right and he is not prone to any over the top grand gestures or anything. He is economical and precise in his acting. Always a good sign.

Compared to the film’s male lead, Anushka Sharma is quite the veteran, with several movies under her belt and having starred with some industry-greats such as Shah Rukh Khan (her debut Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) and Akshay Kumar (Patiala House). She was also Ranveer’s co-star in Band Baaja Baraat and the two return again for another enjoyable outing. Anushka has quite the cute look as an actress and she also comes across as quite the tom-boy in the film, although her scenes still make her look beautiful and sexy enough. She plays the lynchpin of her friends’ plan to con Ranveer’s conman and it is a role that she plays out with gusto. Her excitement and her energy are there of course but sometimes, she does drop the ball and that is mostly during her dance sequences. Her expressions change a little too abruptly going from cheery/excited to blank in a split second and for no reason. Slightly off-putting but otherwise another great performance from her.

Dipannita Sharma in contrast fails to have any impact at all. It is something that has categorized her acting since her debut 16 December, opposite Milind Soman and industry veteran Danny Denzongpa. You never really get the feeling that her motivations are actually that strong and it all adds up to her performance just being rather wooden. She has some really decent scenes and she does make good use of them but largely her performance fails to impress at all. The words “wasted potential” come to mind since her character was too safe as a concept and so was the execution by the director, the actor and the others involved.

Comparitively Aditi Sharma delivers a decent enough performance. Her supporting role in her last film, Mausam, opposite Shahid Kapoor was praised by critics but to me she had failed to impress there, mostly because I could not think of her character, Rajjo, as being anything other than a thick-headed small-town girl who lacks any strong character convictions. Thankfully, that wasn’t repeated here. Her performance for her role as one of Ranveer’s many conned marks is actually quite good. She is demure and hesitant in just the right measure for her character’s background and later, when she is called on to go through a visual change for her character, she handles that nicely as well. Definitely a thumbs-up from me. If she can continue this and get some starring roles in future films, she could make quite a name for herself. Otherwise she is just going to fall into obscurity no matter how good she is because being known as just a supporting actor is not a good prospect.

The star of the movie, rather unexpected in fact, is Parineeti Chopra’s Dimple Chaddha. She is a young and brash Delhi girl, quite rebellious and really in love with her boyfriend. And she is quite sassy and out-spoken too. The fact that she happens to be related to industry great Priyanka Chopra does her no discredit as an actor on her own in her debut film. She really can act and it shows in her scenes with Ranveer, the other girls and with her family. She is definitely the surprise of the film. Even more than the other actors, her performance really gets across her vibrancy and her full-on devotion. You can literally feel the character’s passion. So good job on standing out from the rest and definitely giving Anushka a run for her money. She has also been nominated for two categories at the Filmfare awards this year – Best Female Debut and Best Supporting Actress – and I hope she wins.

Moving on to the pacing of the story. I found it to be rather good. A big flaw in Bollywood films is that they are all made keeping in mind that at the half-mark there is going to be an intermission so people can go get food and drinks and what not. That makes for a rather clumsy execution of the movie since there is such a drastic divide between the first and second halves. However, I think Ladies v/s Ricky Bahl manages to largely avoid that heap of trouble. While the divide is still clear, it isn’t overbearing and there is a very smooth flow between the two. There also isn’t too much time spent on explaining the background of the four girls. That balance is never easy to achieve, especially in Bollywood films so cheers to the director and the film crew for getting it just right. There are no real slow scenes in the movie either which only helps its case.

You can also expect a fair few twists and turns in the movie, since this is essentially a romcom with con elements thrown in for good measure to create something bigger. Of course, by their very nature, you can expect these twists and turns but they are done wonderfully and they still leave you gaping. That is a big, big plus in my book. Its like when you expect things to go one way but straight out of the left field they go another way, except better!

The music of the film is most excellent. Right from the first track, Jigar Da Tukda (A piece of my heart), to the end-credits track, Thug Le (Con them), the music is fast, it is peppy, it hooks you in and you really want to either dance to the tunes or you want to sing along. Take your pick. You can also do both of course although I wouldn’t recommend doing either in a cinema hall mind you. As always keep in mind that the huge majority of Bollywood tracks don’t really translate that well into english, a fact I am painfully aware of since I almost always cringe at the subtitles for song lyrics. Keeping that in mind, here is a video of Thug Le, my favourite track from the film.

Since this is also a romcom, it bears saying that the chemistry between Ranveer and Anushka is quite good, just as it was in Band Baaja Baraat. They work well together and they definitely have a shared timing on how to deliver their lines and all. Could be because they are rumoured to be a real-life couple but who cares really? Together the two of them sizzle on-screen and that is what matters.

Ladies vs Ricky Bahl Stills 001

But, Ranveer and Parineeti are also a great couple in the film. Their pairing is the first one you see in the film and you can definitely see that they complement each other. There isn’t much of a difference between the two of them really, other than this being Ranveer’s only second film while for his co-star it is her first. Not much of a difference at all. And their relevant inexperience doesn’t really show either. More good stuff.

And finally, the choreography. Vaibhavi Merchant, who is a long-time industry veteran and judges several dance reality shows throughout the year, has delivered decently enough. I usually can’t praise choreography since I don’t really have the head for it, but I think in this movie, there is a winner. The sets and locations are used well-enough and with Ranveer being Ranveer, his performance is the one which has the most impact. His dancing style is quite reminiscent of industry great Hrithik Roshan, who is the best dancer in Bollywood and is also Ranveer’s idol. It shows quite clearly in Ranveer’s performance but yet at the same time, he has his own quirks and mannerisms that manage to still distinguish him. The first song in the film, Jigar Da Tukda, also has some great dance steps I believe and the music video is definitely enhanced by that fact.

Posted on February 12, 2014, in Movie Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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