She, a wannabe figure skater, cannot see. He, a bare-knuckles street-fighter, doesn?t need to. But both Pinky Palkar and Nandan Kamtekar have their sights firmly set on a better life, a life beyond the mean backstreets of Mumbai. The path out of this morass is, needless to say, littered with countless snares.
This is just the kind of narrative raw material that is inherently primed to yield loads of drama, some dirty dancing and a bit of daredevilry. But does it?
As a love story of a somewhat different timbre, Pradeep Sarkar?s third directorial vehicle is youthful, nimble and sure-footed, a far cry from his previous outing, the rather stodgy Laaga Chunari Mein Daag.
For the most part, Lafangey Parindey trundles along at a fair clip, although it never turns into anything more than a predictable ride. On the way, there is much bump and grind, and flying fists and bloodied noses too. But behind it all is a wholesome human tale that celebrates the doggedness of those that are down and but not out.
Not everything that Lafangey Parindey delivers is likely to strike the audience as convincing, but on the whole the impact of this effervescent entertainer is pretty rounded, which, given the many recent misfires from the Yash Raj Films (YRF) cannon (Tashan, Pyaar Impossible, Dil Bole Hadippa, Badmaash Company), is saying a lot.
In Lafangey Parindey, the Bollywood tapori makes a clean break from his usual moorings. Well, his lingo still reeks of the street, his wadi buddies answer to names like Chuddi, Gulkand and Diesel and, like all good aamchi Mumbai mulgas, they have a customary go at the dahi handi.
But this is a YRF film, so the gang here isn?t of the grubby, crude, foul-mouthed variety. These boys mimic their upper-class counterparts: the Barista crowd of numerous Bollywood flicks.
Even the supposed grit and grime of a Mumbai bustee assumes a soft halogen glow in Lafangey Parindey. The cluttered neighbourhood wears a well-scrubbed look and the rough and tumble of life here ? the cops and the underworld are never far away ? is lent a romanticised halo.
But the film?s edgy, go-getting soundtrack (music: R Anandh, lyrics: Swanand Kirkire) is a marked departure. Aided by the informal ways in which the songs are filmed and edited, the music captures the sprightly spirit of the film to perfection. Kirkire?s Gulzaresque Mann lafanga bada/Apne mann ki kare and the grungy rhythms of the peppy Dhatad tatad number are truly striking.
One Shot Nandu (Neil Nitin Mukesh) ? the name is derived from his uncanny ability to lay his opponent low with one blow ? talks tough, acts rough and is blessed with exceptional wiles. He fights blindfolded every Friday for satta king Usman Ali (Piyush Mishra, as exceptional as ever). He always wins.
Pinky (Deepika Padukone), a shopping mall employee, dreams of winning Rs 50 lakh from India?s Got Talent, but an accident throws her off track. She loses her eyesight, job and confidence. Egged on by Nandu, she learns to refocus herself on her goal. She uses all her senses ? touch, smell, sound and heart ? to offset the absence of sight.
Nandu and Pinky form an unlikely pair, and as fate and life-altering twists throw them into the same ring, they learn to wriggle their way out of the mess.
The story of two underdogs from the wrong side of the urban divide fighting tooth and nail for their place in the sun may not be strikingly original. It might not be particularly rousing either. But Lafangey Parindey has enough energy going to hold the interest of the audience. Particularly stunning are the figure skating sequences. Full marks to the choreographer and the lead pair.
Deepika Padukone has several hits behind her. Neil Nitin Mukesh is still looking for the first real blockbuster of his career although he has figured in films like Johnny Gaddar, New York and Jail. Neither of the two is a finished article yet but they are getting there. Lafangey Parindey offers a canvas that allows them to use just the right colours and moods. The duo does a fine job.
Lafangey Parindey soars just high enough to stand a fair chance of garnering mass applause.
The publicity machinery had, in the days leading up to the release, let on that the film?s fight sequences and stunts were performed by the lead actors themselves, without the aid of body doubles. Wow! But why would young, promising actors who have their lives and careers ahead of them risk their limbs for a film like this?
What are a few bruises on the body if a box office hit is the reward? Lafangey Parindey has the makings of one.
(Saibal Chatterjee is a National Award-winning film critic who has covered film festivals around the world, including the ones in Cannes and Toronto. He will be writing reviews exclusively for NDTVMovies.com)