Ranjish Hi Sahi Review: The series is Amala Paul’s show more than anyone else’s


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A still image of Ranjish Hello Sahi. (courtesy: YouTube)

Pour: Tahir Raj Bhasin, Amala Paul, Amrita Pur, Zarina Wahab, Paras Priyadarshan

Director: Pushpdeep Bhardwaj

Evaluation: Two and a half stars (out of 5)

After several iterations of the story of Mahesh Bhatt’s life and love on the big screen, it is now the turn of an eight-part web series chronicling the producer, director and writer’s early years as a struggling filmmaker struggling with the aftermath of an extramarital relationship once reviews the affair and his angry equations with the industry. The result is haphazard.

Ranjish Hello Sahi, created by Bhatt herself and streaming on Voot Select, delves into personal lore to exhume the ghost of a successful but plagued actress battling paranoid schizophrenia. The story of a creative and contradictory man grappling with ethical issues and striving to be fair to the women in his life might have seemed necessary if only it hadn’t already been done to death. The fact that it spans multiple episodes only reinforces its immateriality.

The series was written and directed by Pushpdeep Bhardwaj jalebi (2018), a Hindi remake of a Bengali film (intern) that the Bhatts, Mahesh and Mukesh. It’s hard to see what he could have done to liven things up and add relevance to this lengthy, fictional version of the oft-told Parveen Babi saga.

The male protagonist of Ranjish Hello Sahi, set in the 1970s, is torn between a woman he’s wronged and a larger-than-life woman who desperately needs him by her side. “I trust you,” says his wife as he admits spending an entire night with the actress. She doesn’t ask a question. This too-good-to-be-true serenity is offset by manic passion.

The actress asks the filmmaker who she can’t live without: “Everyone wants a piece of me. Why don’t you want me?” That is the shadow of love Ranjish Hello Sahi focuses while touching on other strands of drama.

Tahir Raj Bhasin, fresh off the role of Sunil Gavaskar on the big screen and in a hot pro streak (he’s launched another web series this week and has a movie due out early next month), plays the lead with a keen flair for the Moral Gap stick that is in play here.

Ranjish Hello Sahi Amala Paul’s show is more than anyone else’s. She plays lynchpin without letting the burden weigh her down one bit. Paul frequently pulls the narrative out of its sluggish troughs, veering between euphoria and nervousness, seduction and sadness in the blink of an eye.

The series makes liberal use of fictional elements to put together an account that vacillates between tedious trotting and illuminating insight. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough of the latter to fully offset the damaging bits of dullness in this lengthy retelling of a story that begs to be laid to rest.

The title, borrowed from Ahmed Faraz Ghazal, immortalized by Mehdi Hassan, sums up the condition of a married man who doesn’t want to end up like his father – a Hindu film producer who had an illegitimate child with a Muslim woman but never worked up the courage to to publicly acknowledge the fact.

As he hesitates between his vows to his wife and his gratitude to the other woman, Ranjish Hello Sahi constructs a mishmash of narrative: a little of Art (told from the wife’s point of view), some passages Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayee (a weak melodrama, neither here nor there), tears off Woh Lamhe (the same story seen from the actress’ point of view) and parts of Sachm (dedicated in large parts to the hero’s mother).

After three resounding flops, Shankar Vats (Bhasin) is about to shoot his fourth film, his last chance to break into the industry. Hugely popular actress Amna Parvez (Paul), who has a huge following, takes a liking to the young writer-director desperate for real inspiration.

The show spans two time frames – the 1970s and 2005, the year of Babi’s death. There is also a short passage dating back to 1959 to highlight an important aspect of the male protagonist’s relationship with his mother.

Recreating 1970s Bollywood and the sleazy ways of the men who controlled the industry are competent. Many of the characters that Shankar Vats and Aman Parvez must contend with in order to move on in the face of serious obstacles have real-life parallels. As the story unfolds, seeing the connections becomes a part of the game. Not that that matters. The triangle is what Ranjish Hello Sahi depends – everything else in the show is of secondary importance, apart from Shankar’s mother (Zarina Wahab).

The backstory of Shankar’s wife Anju (Amrita Puri), a girl rescued from an orphanage by Shankar, is presented in quite a bit of detail to explain why the lady is so determined to build a happy, financially secure home for herself and her daughter. The character is eclipsed in the overall scheme of the web series. However, Puri seizes every opportunity the role offers to present a clear description of a woman struggling to protect her happiness and dignity. As Shankar’s family dissolves and the Amna decides to go all out, his mother is a helpless bystander, aware first-hand of the turmoil that lies ahead. Zarina Wahab is absolutely gorgeous in the role of a woman who never stops reminding her son that he can’t let history repeat itself.

A crucial part of Ranjish Hello Sahi is indeed Shankar’s unconditional loyalty to his mother and younger brother Ganesh (Paras Priyadarshan), who is a constant source of support as the aspiring filmmaker negotiates with powerful elements in the industry who have no patience for his aggression and will do anything would be in their power to see him fail.

Ranjish Hello Sahi is the story of a man, son, husband, father and lover whose decisions threaten to derail his life and career. Not a bad deal on paper. But with nothing new to offer, the series just stutters without exploding into anything that could be considered strikingly insightful.

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