LADIES VS RICKY BAHL

 As Dimple Chaddha, the motor-mouthed spoilt-little-rich-brat who’s lattoo over her gym-trainer boyfriend, newcomer Parineeti Chopra steals Ladies vs Ricky Bahl from under the nose of its leads. Whether she’s barging into her father’s office, demanding that he help solve her boyfriend’s property dispute, or drooling over the sight of the man who duped her of her affection and her money, she’s the most charming thing about this inconsistent film.

Dimple from Dilli, along with Raina from Mumbai (Dipannita Sharma), and Saira from Lucknow (Aditi Sharma) – discover they’ve each been swindled by the same deceitful charmer (Ranveer Singh). Now the trio put their heads together, and come up with a plan to get revenge on him – they hire a woman (Anushka Sharma) to con the conman.

The film’s first half hour or so plays out breezily, where everything from Habib Faisal’s delightful dialogues to Ranveer Singh’s performance as an earnest, middle-class Dilliwala hits the right note. The Mumbai chapter is engaging too, where Ranveer assumes the identity of an art exhibitor, but by the time we reach the Lucknow portions where he pretends to be a trader of zardozi designs, the screenplay has slipped into a predictable, episodic routine.

Ladies vs Ricky Bahl nosedives further post-intermission because of script holes the size of craters. The trio of women track down our hero way too conveniently, and you can’t help but question how a seasoned conman could so easily be charmed into parting with his cash. Doesn’t help either that the narrative is interrupted far too often with unnecessary songs.

Director Maneesh Sharma grounds his characters in reality, but unlike last year’s charming Band Baaja Baaraat, this time he’s saddled with a clunky script. Good for him, he’s got actors he can count on. Anushka Sharma is in fine form as the pushy salesgirl who’s hired for this improbable mission, but the script asks so little of her. Ranveer Singh is competent and gets some lovely moments to shine – watch how he virtually casts a spell on a girlfriend’s parents when he carries her home in the wee hours of the morning, promising them he’ll always safeguard her dignity – but after a crackling debut as a quirky unconventional lead last year, with this film he’s struggling to fit into the traditional definition of a star. The film belongs to its three supporting actresses, and particularly to Parineeti Chopra who injects a huge dollop of zing into what might have otherwise been a glossy failure.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for director Maneesh Sharma’s Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. It’s an easily watchable film with much to smile about. Pity it could’ve been so much more fun.

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