“In the main, ghosts are said to be forlorn and generally miserable, if not downright depressed. The jolly ghost is rare.”
Blending reverie and realism, debutant director Anshai Lal illustrates the existence of senseless superstitions most families still continue to reckon with. One such family is that of Kanan, played by Suraj Sharma, that compels him to get married to a tree to manumit him from all the evils.
However, a sudden and unexpected encounter with a spirit leaves him befuddled. The spirit here is Shahshi (Anushka Sharma), who has some unfinished business.
The first half of Phillauri locomotes leisurely as we see the wedding preparations of Kanan and Anu (Mehreen Pirzada in a terrific debut). The narrative, however, livens up upon the introduction of the protagonist, Phillauri, played by Diljit Dosanjh. His romance with Shahshi is both charming and heart-warming. Infusing warmth and yearning into his performance, Diljit is unquestionably one of the biggest strengths of the film. With a captivating screen presence, he creates an old-world charm with Anushka Sharma.
The leading lady, meanwhile, has a complexed character to portray. Drawn towards Phillauri’s melancholic voice, their sweeping romance forms an epoch in her life. Sharma not only essays the emotion of love as a human being, but also showcases her longing as the solicitous spirit. It’s a heartfelt performance by one of the most dependable actors of her generation.
Life of Pi fame Suraj Sharma, who forays into the world of Hindi Cinema, makes his fears and reluctance fully relatable. There’s immense earnestness and honesty in his role and the actor doesn’t disenchant.
A period world, amalgamated with the contemporary, is another takeaway from the film. That said and done, Phillauri may not be embraced by all, it has its share of blemishes, particularly the snail-paced narrative in the first hour and a slightly stretched climax. However, it’s a confident, courageous debut, powered by completing performances and soulful music.