Laila Majnu is a re-telling of the love story between individuals hailing from warring families. What makes this version interesting though, is its leading couple. Especially Avinash Tiwari’s (playing Kaes Butt aka Majnu) performance is as sorted, real and believable as it gets. It's hard to believe it's his first film. Avinash nails every emotion in both halves of the movie, beautifully capturing the growth of his character from a self-assured young man in the first half to a heart broken, clinically depressed lover to eventually a lunatic in the second. He really captures the essence of Majnu, completely submitting to the helplessness of the character, without a care of how he looks on screen. Three words. He. Is. Fab.
Tripti Dimri (Laila) has a fabulous screen presence and is earnest too. Unlike Avinash, she seems more self-aware but she delivers well in some emotional scenes.
However, some parts of the film felt weak to me. For instance, the first date of Laila and Kaes could have been much more. A love story of this magnitude deserves some chemistry, some connection and some magic. Alas it leads to a song? A dream sequence? Yes! Change of clothes? Yes! Dancing in slow motion? Hell yes! Oh no. I know!
But there are some sequences that simply stand out. The scene where Laila and Kaes meet after four years encapsulates the sheer longing and pain of the lovers. It moved me to tears.
Laila Majnu also breaks away from stereotypes. It humanizes the conflicting parents. We see their love for their children yet they are torn by emotions of pride and worldliness. This pull of contrasting feelings makes them real and relatable.
The tragedy of Laila Majnu hence doesn't become too external but is largely internal. Towards the end of the movie when all worldly issues seem to resolve, the film takes on an intangible emotion and makes the struggle more internal. I am not sure if the Indian audiences are ready for it yet.
The famous "koi pathar se na maare mere deewane ko" sequences (where a mob attacks Kaes mistaking him as a loon) has been done interestingly. There is heartbreak and pathos, even hallucination here. You will find traces of Rockstar as the dreamy fluidy woman in white lurks around haunting the desolate man.
In this realistic, swipe left, swipe right world of hook-up culture, I am not sure if Laila Majnu still makes sense or even will find its place. But the wonderful performances, including that of the supporting cast makes it a fair watch. Watch out for Sumit Kaul who plays a sinister politician, Ibban who evokes disgust, as he must, giving quite a memorable performance.
Laila Majnu sticks close to the idea of equating love with God. Whether it's Kaes challenging men during their prayers, equating their love for God to his love for Laila or another scene where he calls Laila, La-illah. The film stays close to the theme of the famous Laila Majnu story we have heard since time immemorial. If you can break away from your tinder date for three hours, you might enjoy the film.