Unfinished business in a previous life brings together Saira (Kriti Sanon), Shiv (Sushant Singh Rajput) and Zakir (Jim Sarbh) in the present one in Dinesh Vijan’s directorial debut Raabta. Predestination fills many of the holes in Siddharth-Garima’s script, such as Saira’s attraction to Shiv despite his loutish behaviour and her inability to resist Zakir’s pallor and signposted creepiness. Raabta reincarnates a tried and tested formula without capturing the mystery and sense of aching loss that mark the better entries in the genre. Some experiences don’t last beyond a single lifetime.
The 148-minute movie begins in the present in Budapest, showcased even better than a tourism video. Shiv makes the moves on every local woman he meets, and they are unable to resist this singularly unreconstructed Indian male specimen. A chance encounter with Saira puts an end to Shiv’s wandering ways, and they have all but named their grandchildren when Zakir gets off a helicopter in search of Saira.
Described as a millionaire but clearly one who can’t afford good nutrition or a shave, Zakir manages to momentarily sweep Saira off her feet. Is he in Budapest to convalesce or seek to correct the previous birth’s events? Jim Sarbh made his debut as a Palestinian terrorist in Neerja (2016), and he is in full 1970s eye-rolling and dialogue-munching villain mould in Raabta. Compared to his risible histrionics, Rajput comes off as a thespian.
The connection suggested by the title keeps the first half moving along. Although the chemistry between the good-looking leads boosts the pre-interval bits, Raabta begins to sag under the weight of its expectations as soon as Zakir’s chopper has touched Budapest. The filmmakers fail to chip away at the calcified reincarnation theme, suggesting that choices and mistakes from the previous birth neatly carry over to the next one.
Rajput reinforces his tough guy act, frequently shedding his shirt and leaping in and out of water bodies, while Sanon efficiently waxes and wanes on demand. Budapest too survives the frequent attacks on its character (there isn’t a single law enforcement official in sight) and the strange Indian ways of wooing and achieving sexual congress.