Anshai Lal‘s Phillauri abounds in shimmer. VFX and otherwise, the frames glitter like those from Sonpari in early 2000s. One that cruises back and forth between 2017 and 1919, the film is essentially a romantic comedy with one of the protagonists being a ghost from the yore. A ghost with a past that could give most love legends a run for their monies…

Phillauri begins with the Canadian Punjabi Kanan (Suraj Sharma) in a relatable fix – whether he should marry his childhood sweetheart or not! In one of the later scenes with elders in his family, Kanan discusses the idea of ‘finding himself’. Much to others’ dismay and the viewers’ delight, here is a tiny scene that projects generation gap with fabulous flair making it easily the most memorable minutes of the enterprise. There’s a lot to appreciate in the way director Lal conceives a 26-year old’s mindset about loving one person till the end of his life. Given actor Suraj Sharma’s charm and spontaneity, his portions in Phillauri are absolute hoots.

Problem arises when the film transports to the tiring Sepia-tinted past. In the most generic fashion, closet poetess Shashi (Anushka Sharma) falls in love with a wayward folk singer Phillauri (Diljit Dosanjh) and fate decides to not unite the lovers in matrimony. This wafer-thin, predictable plot extends beyond belief through dreary songs and you will yawn away in exasperation. Forming a sigh of relief is the occasional switch-back to 2017 where we get to see a supremely talented cast and overall better narrative construction.

For a film that runs for over 2 hours and 20 minutes, Phillauri is tiring. Even in the present portions, we are puzzled why the protagonist doesn’t speak up about his paranormal sightings, even to his fiancee. Yes, a petrified Suraj Sharma is a delight on screen but how long can he sustain the steam, given the writing inconsistencies? Towards the end, Phillauri leaves us confused on what his “actual” issue is – his unreadiness for nuptial ties or Shashi’s disturbing presence in his life. Equally charmless is the sudden conclusion with Shashi’s love story getting its long-pending closure. The less said the better about the climax drenched in ordinary VFX with truckloads of shimmer reminding us of certain overdone cosmetic ads.

Phillauri cuts no new borders in the technical departments either with cinematography (Vishal Sinha) and sound (Manas Choudhury) playing safe with tried-and-tested tropes. For a film set in early 20th century, the music and original score is shockingly pedestrian, with only ‘Sahibaan’ making some sort of an impact. For an era that melodious, it is a bit baffling to hear Jasleen Royal‘s flat vocals on playback. Rameshwar S Bhagat‘s editing is just about okay when it comes to Phillauri‘s non-linear narrative. However, the overall slow pace induces nothing but fatigue. VFX by Red Chillies VFX is interesting in parts but tires us out towards the finale.

Coming to performances, Phillauri ends up a true Suraj Sharma show. Immensely easy on eyes, the actor’s uninhibited demeanour is a major plus for the film. Anushka Sharma is dependable as Shashi. It is just that the character is no great shakes for an actor of her calibre. Diljit Dosanjh is saddled with too cliched a part. Anyhow, the actor does a decent job at that. The couple does look good together but their romantic track lacks the required zing. Mehreen Pirzada is an excellent find and shines in every frame she is in.

Overall, Phillauri is like a children’s fantasy series on television that makes for an easy weekend watch. Actors show great timing for comedy but ultimately this is a romantic film. Then what’s in a love story where the central romance fails to ignite?

Rating: ★★ 1/2