Raksha Bandhan gives an emotional high at the right time

Akshay Kumar in Raksha Bandhan Photo: Raindrop Media

When both the heart and art are in the right place, we have a winner. Add the fact that Raksha Bandhan has released on the perfect occasion (the Rakshabandhan festival itself), and we have a film that makes us laugh, the susceptible (males more so in this case!) cry and everyone leave the movie-hall inspired to educate and protect not just their sisters but also daughters against the monster that dowry is.

Yes, Raksha Bandhan starts off as a brother-sister drama set in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk precinct and turns into a film that shows the evils of dowry more from the submissive giver’s side. A crisp 110 minute narration describes how Lala Kedarnath (Akshay Kumar), owner of the most popular chaat shop in the area, suffers while he does anything and everything to arrange moneys for greedy prospective in-laws and then finds that nothing is enough for avaricious men and women. There is also the subtle look at how male offspring are longed for even by young, would-be mothers!

The film initially looks regressive, as Lala wants his obese sister (Deepika Khanna) to go on a diet, suggests creams for whitening the skin of the dark-complexioned one (Smrithi Srikanth), wants his tomboyish sis (Sahejmeen Kaur) to wear proper outfits and only pampers the sweetest, most mature of them all, Gayatri (Sadia Khateeb). More important, as Gayatri is married off after a hefty dowry of 1.7 million is paid, he is left with the responsibility of marrying the others off too because he has promised his dying mother that he will not wed until he has fulfilled all his brotherly duties.

This also involves his childhood sweetheart Sapna (Bhumi Pednekar), whose father (Neeraj Sood) is hell-bent on marrying her off before his retirement eight months away. As Lala moves heaven and earth in every way to arrange funds for dowries and even insults an anti-dowry campaigner in his neighborhood, he finds that he has several lessons to learn, especially after a terrible and unforeseen tragedy.

What is remarkable about the film is the number of happenings packed into 110 minutes and the fact that even the occasional preachy content does not jar. Yes, I found that the film overtly stretched the morbid portions of the mid-film tragedy too much, almost resembling the over-the-top 1960s and 1970s melodramas, but overall, the movie still wins over the viewer, thanks to Aanand L. Rai’s deft handling (I have now forgotten his directorial aberrations after Tanu Weds Manu Returns, like Raanjhanaa and Zero!) and the concise script and editing (Hemal Kothari).

Technically competent (Sumit Basu’s splendid re-creation of Chandni Chowk and the interiors stands out and is award-worthy), the film has yet another powerful asset: a music score that is classic Hindi cinema after eons, much like Dabangg was in 2010. Himesh Reshammiya’s songs, and especially Irshad Kamil’s lyrics, show us how Hindi film songs must be conceived, created and employed within a film. In terms of audio value, Tere saath hoon main and Done kar do top the list.

Akshay Kumar is in his element as the harangued brother and the helpless, yet a shade egoistic, sweetheart and businessman. Bhumi Pednekar is alright, as also Neeraj Sood, who plays her father, and Seema Pahwa as the matchmaker. Sadia Khateeb makes a mark as Gayatri, and from the others, Sahejmeen Kaur as the tomboyish girl does better than the other two.

This film may not be without flaws, but it is a perfect recipe for family entertainment and makes a strong case for making girls self-dependent, rather than being overtly conscious about their physicality and traits.

Rating: ***1/2


Cape of Good Films, Colour Yellow Productions & Zee Studios present Raksha Bandhan Produced by: Aanand L. Rai, Himanshu Sharma & Aruna Bhatia  Directed by: Aanand L. Rai  Written by: Himanshu Sharma & Kanika Dhillon Music: Himesh Resshammiya  Starring: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Sadia Khateeb, Deepika Khanna, Smrithi Srikanth, Sahejmeen Kaur, Sahil Mehta, Seema Pahwa,




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