When I called Band Baajat Baarat "the Bunty & Babli of wedding planning" I clearly should have looked ahead to the next venture by the same leads and director, because Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl is essentially Bunty aur Babli turned upside down or in-out or just heavily dosed with recreational drugs. That's not necessarily a knock on the film - some of the best bits were the ones which gave me the same vibes as the best scenes in BaB do. However, the rest...
Even though wiktionary defines the Finnish term "auervaara" as simply as a casanova, the term actually carries the idea of a man who scams women for their money. Ricky Bahl (Ranveer Singh) is a 21st century auervaara, that's for damned sure - instead of old, unmarried women, like his 20th century counterpart, he romances young, pretty daughters of well-to-do businessmen and the like. But his jig is up when three women he's conned - played by Parineeti Chopra (Dimple), Dipannita Sharma (Raina) and Aditi Sharma (Saira) - decide to team up to con him, with the help of formidable sales girl Ishika (Anushka Sharma).
I went in expecting pretty much nothing at all. It was clear that The Dirty Picture (which I will see, soon I hope!) was the film to watch out for in December, and Ladies vs.. was a mere blip in the radar for both critics and audiences. I was therefore pleasantly surprised that what I got was a reasonably solid Yash Raj entertainer, with some caveats.
Probably the biggest caveat is the film's main star himself. I'll give him some slack since it's only his second film, but the weight he has to carry here is just too much. Whereas other actors might have pulled off the cheesy costumes and fake facial hair he has to don for some of his cons with just the kind of cheesy panache required, Ranveer just looks a bit awkward, or trying too hard, or trying too hard to look cool despite cheesy get-ups. Then there are a couple of scenes, where even the conman ought to bring out some true, honest-to-god emotion. I looked, and looked, and looked, and couldn't find any.
The movie asks - rightly - for its audience to root for the ladies, but the main star still ought to win me in some way, I feel, and Ranveer just didn't pull off that feat. But it's only his second film, and to his benefit or disadvantage, he started off big and is continuing big. With new stars we often speak of promise, and delivering on that promise. I'm not going to lie - what Ranveer lacks in acting he makes up in cuteness, gym-going, dancing and all this other shallow nonsense. So perhaps I am too harsh on the guy, but the ladies certainly were the reason I kept watching, not him.
So the ladies won out for me - in more ways than one, and Anushka Sharma was also a joy to watch, though we didn't get a whole lot of her, and some that we got of her was pure beach-outfit-objectification type of material. However, when she gets to act, she shines, and I am warming up to her even more than previously. It's early days for her, just as it is for Ranveer, but I look forward to her developing more than him.
But let's talk about the three women here some more. I found them probably the most real and interesting part of the film, and it's a shame the film takes at times a pretty cavalier attitude to the fact they've been conned. Of course, only Saira, whose family runs a little cloth boutique in Lucknow, really suffered financial setbacks from Ricky's con. Dimple is the daughter of a rich family, so only her heart gets broken, and her pride knocked about a bit. Raina's defeat is professional - she's the go-getter high-achieving businesswoman, unaffected by the con romantically, but nonetheless pissed off. The way they bond and find a common goal in defeating Ricky is quite charming, and generally they just fast became my favourite part of the movie.
The songs are all quite fun, though fairly standard in terms of Salim-Sulaiman's style. But they do the job, and the leads are both good dancers, so they're fun to watch.
If you'd asked me last night, I would have been far less hesitant to recommend Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, but some sleep has made me think a bit more. There's a lot I would fix in this movie, and the love story - despite being developed quite well for the time that it has to develop - I couldn't care all that much about, so it's far from being the perfect movie. But it is fun entertainment throughout most of its run, and I think the three newbies in this should all be good to watch out for.