When I first saw the trailer of “Haseen Dillruba, the first reaction was “oh cool, this looks like a fancy Bollywood version of a crime patrol episode”. And believe me, that was meant as a compliment, because “Crime Patrol” is one those rare shows I would call myself a ‘fan of’. There is nothing better than a serialized ‘true crime’ show with stand-alone episodes.

Directed by Vinil Matthew, “Haseen Dillruba” did turn out to be like a bigger budget ‘Crime Patrol’ episode, with a talented cast, and a little more heart. The plot is pretty straightforward and more predictable than most crime shows – the cops are investigating an explosion that clearly looks stage-managed, the victim is an engineer called Rishu (Vikrant Massey), the prime suspects – wife Rani (Tapsee Pannu) and his cousin who she has an affair with. There’s motive – an unhappy marriage. But with little proof, the cops are clutching at straws to solve a murder that is just not what it looks like.

What keeps the viewer hooked to the story is Vikrant Massey’s earnest emotional performance as the shy introverted Rishu. His character believably evolves from a ‘quiet loser’ to a ‘scorned husband’; his aggressive side is foreshadowed right at the beginning – he takes two years to get over a girl he fell in love with, after he met her just once as part of an ‘arranged marriage’ screening session. (I don’t know how else to put it). Rani is the second girl his parents make him ‘see’, and it doesn’t take him long to fall in love again either. But their union soon turns sour due to lack of passion & Rani’s transgression.

Tapsee Pannu was decent in her role, her demeanor was very reminiscent of her performances in ‘Badla’ and ‘Thappad’. A large part of the problem was that Rani’s character is written very inconsistently, she seems bipolar – one minute she is an unapologetic bad-ass outspoken Delhi girl, next minute she transforms into some small-town demure damsel who doesn’t know how to take control of her life. It comes across as a little disconcerting.

Actors Yamini Das and Daya Shankar Pandey play Massey’s onscreen parents, and both of them were low key brilliant in their limited roles, delivering measured performances that serve as comic relief. Yamini Das was especially adorable as the typical Indian mom who is scared that her daughter-in-law is “too smart” for her simple son. Harshvardhan Rane as Neel, the man who lures Rani into an affair looked right for the part. His acting needs more work. Aditya Srivastava as the inspector looking into the case was barely noticeable, because he slips right into the part with ease, thanks to all the C.I.D (the very popular Indian crime show) experience.

Shot in Haridwar, the movie is visually pleasant to look at. The mood flits between light humor, dark comedy and a serious thriller. It’s an interesting mix, but the script is quite hare-brained, reminded me of the pulpy Hindi crime magazines with sleazy/violent love stories that used to sell like hot-cakes in the 1990s. Although ‘Haseen Dillruba’ isn’t sleazy and a little slower than the usual racy fiction of the genre.

The climax was very predictable (or maybe I read/watch too many crime stories) and even then some questions are left unanswered due to the sloppy onscreen investigation into the murder case. It’s all just Rani’s version to the cops and their own hypothesis. We are shown close to zero groundwork by the police, which was annoying. Instead of some of the initial comic scenes at the beginning of the film, the writers should have given us some more scenes to establish the chemistry between the protagonists and more insights into the probe.

Overall, it’s an entertaining enough movie, the very typical script is held together by good performances. Vikrant Massey is the heart of this film, managing to move the viewer by his character’s plight. It’s a 7/10 from me.

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Listen to episode 29 for some fun movie recommendations.