I’m a HUGE fan of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. In fact, I’d have to say that it ranks up among some of my favourite movies ever. So when I heard that a Bollywood film, Phillauri appeared to be a live-action Corpse Bride inspired movie, I was quite excited. For those of you unaware, Corpse Bride is a stop-motion animated movie. It’s about a man, Victor, who accidentally marries a corpse, Emily. The marriage in fact, sort of “revives” Emily from a deep sleep. Unfortunately, Victor is in love with the very-much-alive Victoria and in order to be “married” to Emily properly, he’d have to die. The rest of the film deals with the conflict.
Phillauri begins with a similar story. Kanan (played by Suraj Sharma) has recently returned from Canada and immediately, his parents set up his marriage with his childhood love, Anu (played by Mehreen Pirzada). Kanan has cold feet and due to his horoscope, must first marry a tree to ensure that he has a happy married life (?). As he marries the tree, in turns out, that he ends up marrying a ghost named Shashi (played by Anushka Sharma). While dealing with being married to a ghost and his cold feet, the movie also flashes back to Shashi’s past. Shashi was a young woman in an Indian village named Phillaur. During her youth, she used to write poetry and was in love with a singer named Roop Lal (played by Diljeet Dosanjh).
The movie actually played quite similarly to Corpse Bride, beginning from the male leads having cold feet, to the corpse/spirit bride having unfulfilled love stories preventing them from passing onto the next world. However, despite the unique premise, I felt that Phillauri fails to bring forth the heart and emotional depth that Corpse Bride did. There seemed to be a number of things off about Phillauri, for me at least, that prevented me from loving the film.
Firstly, the focus of the story. Phillauri focuses on two love stories simultaneously, those of Anu and Kanan and Shashi and Roop. However, the former story lacks any sort of warmth whereas the latter one is left too long. In other words, Kanan and Anu’s love story never really went anywhere. Anu was shattered with Kanan’s cold feet, but was willing to go through with the marriage anyway. Whereas Kanan’s cold feet never really got resolved, nor did the movie really divulge why he had them in the first place. It just felt so unresolved and void of emotions. On the other hand, Shashi and Roop’s story was definitely sweet. Theirs had a lot more emotion, despite the stereotypical aspect of it. And yet, the stretched-out scenes kept their story from fully impacting the audience. Instead of being enthralled in their romance, viewers just got bored and kept on waiting for one scene to end and another to begin.
Secondly, the acting was a little uninspiring as well. Suraj Sharma started out well. However, his scared act and high pitched squeal started getting grating about halfway through. I especially hated the high pitches squeals whenever he was caught unaware/ scared. Mehreen Pirzada, on the other hand, had nothing to do except look weepy. She was so boring onscreen. The only time where I liked her a little bit, was when she finally saw/ talked to Shashi; but other than that, I didn’t care for her. Diljit Dosanjh was also okay. He gave a respectable performance for sure, but again, it was nothing new or to talk home about. The only person who stood out for me, surprisingly, was Anushka Sharma and the actor who played her brother, Manav Vij. I had initially found Anushka’s looks to be a little too modern and urban for her to play a village belle, but she ended up winning me over. She acted really well. Manav Vij was also spectacular, probably the star of the movie for me. Not for a second did I doubt that he was an actor and not Shashi’s brother; again, fantastic acting.
Thirdly, directing was decent. From what I’ve been able to gather online, this was the directorial debut of Anshai Lal and I think he did okay. Nothing too amazing or standout, but okay enough. If anything, I think what killed this movie (at least for me), was the lack of editing. Some scenes just went on way too long (especially the end scenes), other scenes were just too stereotypical, and some necessary explanation scenes never appeared. A little bit of firm editing could’ve gone a long way. It could’ve saved the movie and move it into “decent” category vs. the just “okay” category.
My rating: watch it if you’re a fan of any of the actors, but you wouldn’t miss much if you don’t.