It’s been a little past an hour since I walked out of the movie theatre after watching Anurag Kashyap’s Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat, and I am still waiting for the penny to drop.
To be honest, if the film wasn’t made by Anurag Kashyap I would not have spent so much time questioning my reaction to the film, but because it is him at the helm I keep looking for the subtext.
What am I missing? Is there a subversion of some kind? If so, then it is very difficult to understand. Because, otherwise, this film is a commentary on how entitled and stupid rich girls can be and how astoundingly gullible men are. Misogynistic much?
Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat tracks two young pairs — both played equally well by Alaya F and debutant Karan Mehta — one in the hills of Himachal and the other in London, woven together by soliloquies by Vicky Kaushal’s DJ Mohabbat. Both are interfaith couples. Amrita in India is a school-goer, while Yakub is an uneducated DVD peddler who is taken with her and wants to take her to see her favourite DJs show.
Ayesha in London is a Pakistani and is obsessed with Harmeet, who is a brooding DJ. Both the female characters also happen to be minors (!), something that is only taken into consideration when it is needed as a convenient plot point.
Amrita is a ‘Ting-Tonger’ who makes videos challenging social issues, talking about love jihad and questioning why elders have a problem with love when there are more important things like climate change to be worried about. Yakub is a simple sort who takes joy in the little things, though he feels like a simpleton by the end of it.
Ayesha is a spoiled brat who parties hard and can’t get over the fact that a guy she likes ignores her. Harmeet has a broken but loving family with a gay father and he just wants to make music and travel to India to play there.
You are thinking ‘where’s the problem?’. Well it starts after. Amrita is woke but doesn’t take her family’s threat to Yakub to stay away from her seriously. She runs away with him to see the concert without thinking about the consequences for him in a country where communal tensions can run strong. Yakub might not understand the nuances of hate politics but even he gets that there is no going back from what he had assumed was a fun trip to see a music concert. Amrita still keeps insisting that he would be safe. Well, Amrita leaves Yakub halfway through the trip because she couldn’t stand her father crying for her and the trip doesn’t end very well for Yakub.
In London, Ayesha, who has a fake ID, harasses Harmeet, mentally and physically, forcing him to take selfies and share his dal chawal and pushing her way into his flat. She sheds fat tears and he gives in. Only to be hauled away on charges of ‘raping a minor’ (the only time the serious issue of both the girls being minors comes up, and it feels like the writer didn’t want to work too much to think of another reason and used this conveniently) that Ayesha’s wealthy father slaps on him. It doesn’t end well for either her or him.
Here’s the problem. Why are both female characters so selfish, wilful and spoilt? You might say, ‘tsk, they are minors’. But then why are the guys, who are older, so gullible? And sorry for the spoiler, but does the ending mean that everything will be okay now that religion is not the central conflict?
If anyone in the audience can point out what I am missing, I will happily be proved wrong. Because this is not a film one would expect from Anurag Kashyap.