Ratings: *** ½ (3 and a half stars)
There is something sinisterly dishonourable about honour killing. Films on the theme, notably Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat (which does appear overrated in hindsight and which serves as the current film’s main source of inspiration) and its poor remake Dhadak have attempted to capture the sheer barbarism of the act of killing love by butchering lovers.
I think this oddly entitled film (the title comes from the ever-wry Sanjay Mishra who in a relevant cameo, notices the young couple on the run pretending to be what they are not) succeeds in putting across the theme with a shudder of disgust and dismay. There is a sense of dread running through the narrative as the privileged upper-class girl Janhvi (newcomer Jyoti Kapoor) elopes with the underprivileged sugarcane juice vendor Sonu (debutant Bhavesh Kumar).
The lovers are callow, clumsy and short-sighted. There is a fantastic sequence post-interval where a sexually experienced woman (played with gusto by Neha Joshi) wonders why the young lovers haven’t done it yet. All this is done without a trace of vulgarity. Though the characters are roughnecks there is no torrent abuses in the dialogues.
Without wasting time, the narrative, buoyed by a sense of social purpose that it wears unabashedly on its sleeve, embarks on a tense, gripping journey bathed in blood and swathed in doom. We follow the two naïve lovers through some of the harshest hinterland from Mathura to Delhi , none as harsh as the unrelenting patriarchs’ mindsets which occupy and invade the film’s rugged spaces with patriarchal arrogance.
Playing brothers in arms, Kumud Mishra and Jimmy Sheirgil turn in resonant redemptive performances that go a long way in camouflaging the young inexperienced lead pair’s awkwardness (a quality that suits the script’s purposes). Both Mishra and Sheirgil fill every frame with fire and fury.
The second-half of the narrative pauses from the elopement to pursue some pertinent questions on the subject of caste and class discrimination. Veteran Girish Kulkarni puts in an outstanding performance as a relative who helps the couple at the risk of his own life and introduces them to a peculiar nomadic existence where caste seizes to matter and where moral values are benignly blurred.
There is also a very pointed reference to cricket being given undue importance in all sports discussions of India. The young hero is a javelin thrower with dreams of escaping his social backwardness by competing in the national games.
Director Manoj Tiwari negotiates these tricky transitions in the plot without tripping on his sense of social responsibility. Till the end P Se Pyaar F Se Faraar remains a crisply written, judiciously performed film on love on the run. Well done.