It isn't the audience alone that's at the receiving end of the battering-ram that is Mirza Juuliet. Shakespeare, too, is merrily driven to the ground. The film foists the burden of an extra 'u' upon the fair name of the bard's most famous heroine (which, of course, is the least of its offences). It also proceeds to maul the character totally out of shape (and that's absolutely unforgiveable, but then what did we expect from a film that can't get its spellings right?). Mirza Juuliet is a rough-hewn, rambunctious tale of a gratingly garrulous small-town girl who is sucked into a blood-spattered conflict between her three loutish brothers and an exploited and disillusioned Muslim youth who has nothing to lose. This, as you've guessed, isn't a melancholic tale of star-crossed lovers. It is a tragedy of colossal proportions in more ways than one.
Given its title, it might appear logical to expect the film to shape into an audacious inter-religious romance set in a climate of rising bigotry and intolerance. But it's too tame and scrappy to traverse that topical terrain. Notwithstanding an early sequence in which two massive religious processions teeter dangerously on the brink of a communal bust-up, the film pulls back and throws no meaningful, relevant punches.
As two political leaders square off at an Allahabad city intersection, tension rises, a gunshot is heard and a body slumps to the ground. Much ado about nothing: Mirza Juuliet does not explore the ugliness of the politics of hate beyond that point. It settles instead for a scrappy, confused yarn about the pet peeves of Bollywood's cow belt cauldron sagas: patriarchy, misogyny, political trickery and murder. Pre-marital mayhem and sexual transgressions are added to the mix.
The heroine's randy, dirty-talking fiancé is fixated on sex. She frets and fusses and falls back for advice on a prodigal childhood buddy who has returned from the cold. But even this thematic strand, raucous and repetitive, isn't sustained long enough. It segues into a final chapter built around a violent face-off that plays out along predictably schlocky lines.
Mirza Juuliet is the handiwork of Rajesh Ram Singh, who stirs up a superficial combination of Shakespearean tragedy and the hoary traditions of the Mirza-Sahiban love saga and makes an unmitigated hash of both. The film is peppered with trite inanities made much worse by miscast actors who are clearly at odds with their respective roles. The multiplicity of characters thrown arbitrarily into the pot yield no more than a meaningless, mindless rumpus.
In the badlands of Uttar Pradesh, Julie Shukla (Piaa Bajpai) is no mean badass herself. Feisty, fearless and footloose, the Mirzapur girl travels ticketless on bus-roofs, picks up fights with all and sundry, and roughs up boys who dare to make advances at her. But her ways are more galling than glorious in a town where everybody revels in breaking the law.
Julie is engaged to Rajan Pandey (Chandan Roy Sanyal), the only son of a slimy Allahabad politician Veer Pratap Pandey (Swanand Kirkire). While the father is desperate to groom his ward to take over the family's political mantle, the boy is a maniac obsessed with carnal pleasures. He purrs obscenities to the girl over the phone and cannot keep his hands off her when they meet.
Julie's unruly brothers, led by Dharmaraj Shukla (Priyanshu Chatterjee), have no qualms about going ahead with the liaison because they hope to acquire a great deal of clout by sending their sister to Veer Pandey's venal family. The plans of the siblings go awry when Julie's childhood buddy Mirza (Darshan Kumaar) returns to start over after years of being a contract killer.
Having just bumped off Veer Pandey's brother, Mirza has blood on his hands. But that doesn't stop him from renewing his friendship with Julie. The word love, however, isn't uttered even once. It is talk of sex all the way because that is all that the girl seems to have on her mind. When matters turn really nasty, all her apparent spunk evaporates into thin air and the film sinks into utter chaos.
The only redeeming feature of Mirza Juuliet is Darshan Kumaar. Last seen as the supportive husband in Mary Kom and a murderous brother of a runaway girl in NH10, he brings a modicum of sanity to bear upon his first lead role. But Mirza Juuliet is an abomination, hardly the sort of vehicle an actor as good as him is likely to benefit from. What's amazing is that even in this mucky muddle, Darshan Kumaar manages to keep his head out of the sludge.
Piaa Bajpai, who has a reasonably thriving career down South, overdoes the bubbly babe act, turning her character into an irksome caricature. But if Julie Shukla is a bundle of contradictions, it isn't just the actor's fault. While it is fine that she is a girl who gives as good as she gets, it is difficult to grasp why she takes such a load of crap from her bumbling, boorish betrothed.
Chandan Roy Sanyal, who definitely cannot be faulted here for lack of energy and enthusiasm, is saddled with a character that is a mixture of a clown, a villain and a whipping boy. The screenplay reduces him to a pathetic clod.
Mirza Juuliet is a crass, clammy and cliched concoction that is best avoided. The single star isn't for the film. It's for Darshan Kumaar.