Ek Paheli Leela invests little effort in character development or setting, notes Paloma Sharma.
Meera (Sunny Leone) is a London-based supermodel who cannot travel around the world because of her fear of flying.
However, her friends/colleagues/enablers -- ‘fashion king’ Andy (VJ Andy) and Radhika (Shivani Tanksale), a professional photographer who can't take a single decent picture -- trick Meera into coming to India.
Once here, she meets Prince Ranveer (Mohit Ahlawat).
The two fall in love and get married. However, their happily ever after is interrupted by Karan (Jay Bhanushali), who recognises Meera as Leela, a girl from his past life and the key to answering all the questions that have been tormenting him.
Compelling plot, much?
Nevertheless, let’s look at this realistically: No one’s going to watch Ek Paheli Leela for the acting or the script or the cinematography, except maybe the four-year-old in the middle row, who was tricked into it by his mummy (mothers are devious that way, I tell you).
Ek Paheli Leela can be effectively summarised by one of its posters.
There’s Sunny Leone in extravagant, revealing costume(s) sitting on an unimaginatively designed throne and wielding power over pretty much everybody.
The film never stops telling us how Meera/Leela(/Sunny?) is the most beautiful girl to ever walk the planet and how her beauty is such a curse that it ruined her life not once, but twice.
Not only is Leone unconvincing as both the glamorous Meera (her performance as a drunk is cringeworthy) and the village belle Leela, she strangely has the most awkward intimate scenes in the film.
There’s one with Rajneish Duggal, who plays Leela’s penniless lover, Shravan, where the two of them make love in the desert and pour sand over each other.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.
Moreover, if you’re a linguistic purist from the Hindi heartland who was mad at Leone for murdering your mother tongue, wait till you hear her speak Rajasthani.
Duggal, for his part, puts in significant effort into his performance even if he can't be deemed an award-worthy performer.
However, the same generosity cannot be extended to Bhanushali and Ahlawat.
Both are terribly cast.
Jay Bhanushali carries that melodramatic streak over from his past life on the small screen and Mohit Ahlawat has the entirely wrong body language.
Ahlawat moves more like a body-building, Bhai-obsessed local goon than a wealthy, refined member of an erstwhile royal family.
For a film with a budget of Rs 15 crore, Ek Paheli Leela has the exact same production value as Spark, another recent Duggal starrer.
Despite having a script that demands high quality art design and recreation of a historical period, Leela chooses to spend on Leone’s highly embellished costumes (which are laughable).
The film features dialogue that is too poorly written.
The good thing about Ek Paheli Leela is that the film is aware of its identity and purpose.
It also realises at the end of its almost two and half hour-long run time, that there are wide loopholes in the script and questions that still need to be answered.
Hence the film attempts to bring subplots to a close by hurriedly revealing everything without much coherence.
Uzair Jaswal and Tulsi Kumar’s Tere Bin ditty is a redeeming factor, in spite of embarrassing tunes such as Desi Look and Glamorous Ankhiyaan.
Ek Paheli Leela invests little effort in character development or setting.
For example, no one tells us why a young man and woman are allowed to run free and indulge in public displays of affection in a desert village in the early 1700s.
In the modern day, archaeologists are (obviously) white men who seem to have been copy pasted from a Nat Geo spoof video.
Though there are more flaws in the film’s execution, at the heart of it Leela is a genuinely intriguing, if slightly predictable story and the twist at the end could have been a game changer had it been played out better.
Nevertheless, critical analysis is not going to make much of a difference for this film is clearly a one woman show and as far as the film is concerned, it is always Sunny in Rajasthan.