A poignant tale of romance in the shadows of war



Bawaal story: A young couple going through a rough patch in their marriage embarks on a journey to Europe to explore World War II sites. Will they mend their relationship amidst the historically-charged backdrop?

Bawaal review: You know what to expect from a romantic travel movie—postcard-perfect sites, adventure, and the lead pair falling in love on the escapade. Then there’s director Nitesh Tiwari’s Bawaal, which offers all this and much more. To begin with, props to Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (renowned for writing and helming quriky films such as Nil Battey Sannata, Panga, Bareilly Ki Barfi, and more) and for weaving a story on love and war that’s poignant and heartrending yet has light moments and romance without one element overpowering the other. And the movie also teaches some life lessons.

Ajay Dixit, aka Ajju (Varun Dhawan), is a hotshot middle school teacher from Lucknow who has faked his way through life and is about keeping up appearances. He marries a full-of-life and bright girl, Nisha (Janhvi Kapoor), because a trophy wife would be good for his image. But Ajay witnesses something on their wedding day that convinces him Nisha might tarnish his perfect image. So, he bars her from stepping out of the house and mistreats her at home.

An incident at his school leads to his suspension with pending disciplinary action. To evade this, he decides to deflect everyone’s attention and complete his History syllabus on World War II by conducting classes from the holocuast sites in Europe. Since his parents fund the trip, Nisha joins him, too. The rest of the movie is about how they relive the soldiers’ and war victims’ agony. The trip proves to be one of self-discovery for Ajay.

The movie’s build-up is a tad sluggish, and it spends too much time overexplaining Ajay’s fabricated image and how he mistreats Nisha. Some tracks are long-drawn and lose the punch after a point—like a Gujarati family constantly passes packets of dry snacks to each other on the plane or when Ajay erroneously ends up at an opera instead of a museum.

The captivating run begins post-interval with the WW II recreation. All the sequences—at Omaha Beach, Anne Frank’s house, and the concentration camp—are intense and splendid. Director Nitesh Tiwary, cinematographer Mitesh Mirchandani and editor Charu Shree Roy show their prowess, especially in the transitions between the 1940s and the present. The gas chamber sequence during the fag end of the duo’s trip will especially give the viewers gooseflesh. Daniel B George’s background score also complements the scenes well. Mithoon, Tanishk Bagchi and Akashdeep Sengupta’s tracks are hummable, too.

While rediscovering love against the backdrop of the World War II is a fresh concept, writers Nitesh, Piyush Gupta, Nikhil Mehrotra, and Shreyas Jain do not have much to offer in terms of the duo’s romantic encounters or Ajay turning into a new leaf. Nisha’s life lessons are done well, such as the real war we fight is looking outward for happiness and our undying greed.

Varun Dhawan gives a powerful performance as a mediocre and selfish guy who cares about nothing else but his image. He effortlessly pulls off scenes where he admits his flaws. He is excellent in the scene when he imagines being a war victim with only 30 minutes and a small bag to pack his entire life and what he prioritises. Janhvi Kapoor shines in the role of a bright but humble girl who holds on to the hope of finding love in her husband. She especially proves her mettle in the scenes she takes Ajay through the painful history of World War II, and her dialogue delivery is on-point. Other cast members, including Manoj Pahwa and Anjuman Saxena as his parents, and Mukesh Tiwari as the MLA, lend able support.

Bawaal is worth watching for World War II history, especially the recreation of the holocaust, and Varun as well as Janhvi’s stellar performances.



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