Onir’s new movie is an improvement on his previous underwhelming outing, Shab (2017). Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz is an update on the epistolary romance, the one in which lovers exchange notes and letters for a long time and meet in person only in the movie’s dying moments.
Alfaaz (Zain Khan Durrani) is a radio jockey in Kolkata, who dispenses poetry and advice on a highly popular daily show. Despite his pin-up looks and baritone that sends his listeners into paroxysms of delight, Alfaaz is a loner, a man who has been so scarred by a traumatic past that he prefers the company of a stray dog to humans.
Archana (Geetanjali Thapa) is quite the opposite. She works at a meme creating agency, goes on Tinder dates, and keeps her obviously smitten friend, Apu (Shray Ray Tiwari), at arm’s length. Archana’s freewheeling romantic life is sought to be explained by vitiligo, which has left patches on her face and body. Abhishek Chatterjee’s screenplay would have worked just fine without this clumsy attempt at character shading. Even the discoloured patches cannot take away from Archana’s radiance and the actress who plays her.
Archana is among the Kolkata residents who stop all activity to tune into Alfaaz’s ruminations. When she accidentally dials Alfaaz’s number without knowing his true identity one day, a phone romance begins.
The movie is self-consciously designed to communicate with the smartphone-wielding generation whose heartbeats are charted by the pings of incoming WhatsApp messages. There is absolutely no irony in the scenes in which Archana deems her meme creations to be works of art, or her statement that “All we wanted to do was create something beautiful!”
Some of the drama, with its numerous close-ups and episodic nature, has the intimacy of the video that is best viewed on the smartphone. There isn’t much of a plot to stretch over 116 minutes, but there are enough cute moments of youthful angst and Kolkata chic to prevent a total washout.