Based on a 1907 short story by the American writer O Henry (‘The Last Leaf’), this Bollywood period romance is a sumptuous visual and emotional triumph. Set in 1953 in West Bengal, India, archaeologist Varun (Ranveer Singh) is new in town and charms a rich aristocratic family, and in particular their spoilt pretty daughter Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha). Romance predictably blossoms (via enchanting songs), but when the relationship is revealed, Varun does a runner. Determined to move on, Pakhi heads to another city to rebuild her life only to re-encounter Varun.
There is much to admire in this big budget Hindi film that never falls into the trappings of the ‘masala’ formula. Instead, director Vikramaditya Motwane adopts a leisurely, understated pace with a little dialogue speaking volumes about the characters. Performances are uniformly impressive, with Sonakshi Sinha finally getting the meaty role she deserves. Amit Trivedi’s dreamy soundtrack is evocative of a bygone era and adds to the old world charm of the film. It mourns the demise of stormy love while affirming the strength of the human spirit. Modern day Indian audiences may find it difficult to engage with a film that treats its audience with respect and even intelligence. Discerning fans of sensible Bollywood are in for a treat.