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Director Vinil Mathew makes a stellar debut with a light-hearted entertainer ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’ [2014]. After 7 years, he is back with his next outing, Haseen Dilruba. This time he has chosen a dark subject with thrills and whodunit. The casting and interesting trailer has already got people curious. So does Haseen Dilruba manage to surprise and entertain the audience? Or does it fail to impress? Let’s analyze.

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Haseen Dilruba is the story of a wife who is accused of murdering her husband. Rishabh Saxena aka Rishu (Vikrant Massey) lives in Jwalapur with his mother Lata (Yamini Das) and father Brijraj (Daya Shankar Pandey). He is looking for a girl to marry and her search leads him to Rani Kashyap (Taapsee Pannu) in Delhi. Rishu immediately falls for Rani. Lata learns that Rani is not the simple and homely girl she is looking for. But Rishu is adamant. Marriage takes place. A panicked Rishu fails to complete the marriage. Meanwhile, Lata starts scolding Rani for lying that she can cook. One day, Rishu overhears Rani talking to her mother (Alka Kaushal) and her aunt (Pooja Sarup) that Rishu is not good in bed. Rishu gets injured and retreats into a shell. The queen becomes alone. One day, Rishu’s cousin Neel Tripathi (Harshvardhan Rane) comes to stay with Saxena. Neel is flamboyant and well built and the queen is mesmerized by him. Neil learns that Rani is attracted to him and the two start flirting. Rani falls in love with Neil to such an extent that she learns to cook so that she can feed him her favorite dishes. One day, Neel expresses a desire to eat mutton. Rani, who is a vegetarian, agrees and goes out to buy meat. The same day, she tells Neil that she wants to end the marriage and be with him. A commitment-stricken Neil panics and runs away. Rani is hurt and she tells the truth to Rishu. Rishu wanted to make a fresh start but this confession hurts her even more. A few months later, an explosion occurs at the Saxena residence, killing Rishu. Investigating officer Kishor Rawat (Aditya Srivastava) is convinced that Rani has killed Rishu. What happens next becomes the rest of the film.

Kanika Dhillon’s story works only in parts. The characters are interesting and with the setting, the story had the potential to become a great murder mystery. But things get worse in the second half. Kanika Dhillon’s screenplay is not consistent. Some scenes are very well written and thought out. The first 45 minutes raise the expectations of the next hour to be thrilling and keep you hooked. But the later parts suffer due to inept writing. Kanika Dhillon’s dialogues are sharp and fine.

Haseen Dilruba starts on an exciting note and sets the mood instantly. The scene where Rishu meets Rani for the first time is hilarious and goes for the same scene where Lata protests by pretending to kill herself. Then the sequence in which Rani blasts Rishu in the bedroom is going to make the audience laugh. In other words, the first 45 minutes to 60 minutes doesn’t give the audience any reason to complain. Later, however, the film slows down and even becomes disjointed. Some developments are not easy to digest and will surely be loved by the audience. The pre-climax once again picks up interest, especially in the lie detector scene. But the finale serves as a disappointment.

Vinyl Mathew’s direction could have been better, especially when we saw what he is capable of in his debut film. The story is like a see-saw – where the film takes another level at some places, there are also scenes where the interest level drops. The opening parts are interesting and even Neil’s entry adds spice to the story. However, the biggest problem of the film is the climax. In a suspense thriller, the audience is curious to know the suspects, the real killer and the motive behind the murder. The climax where the identity of the killer as well as the motive is revealed, is a low, outright disjointed and difficult to fathom.

Talking about the performance, Taapsee Pannu has once again given a great performance. The actress has stood a certain level for herself and luckily, she has been able to live up to the expectations through her acting. The role and screenplay required her to switch between being vulnerable and bold, and she manages to be completely convincing. Vikrant Massey also gives his best shot. In fact, there is a lot of color in his role and it is a treat to see how he plays the role. Harshvardhan Rane’s entry is late and his screen time is limited. But he has performed brilliantly. Aditya Srivastava definitely reminds me of one of his roles in the TV show ‘CID’. But he is very good and also laughs in some scenes. Yamini Das is hilarious while Daya Shankar Pandey is fine. Alka Kaushal and Pooja Sarup are good in their small roles. Ashish Verma (Afzar) is fair.

Amit Trivedi’s music is forgettable. ‘Heart Melt’ Kept in great condition. ‘Lakeeran’, ‘Phisal Ja Tu’ and ‘Found you’ Failed to register. Amar Mangulkar’s background score is good and makes a mark in the thrilling sequences. The cinematography of Jayakrishna Gummadi is apt and the locations of Rishikesh are well shot. Madhur Madhavan and Swapnil Bhalerao’s production design is straight out of life. The costumes of Varsha Chandnani and Shilpa Makhija with Taapsee’s clothes are realistic. Vikramjit Dahiya’s action is convincing and not over the top. Shweta Venkat Mathew’s editing is not perfect as the film should have been shorter.

Overall, Haseen Dilruba is decked out with some great performances, but the disjointed narrative and disappointing climax in the second half spoil the show.

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