A wistful Shankar Vats (Tahir Raj Bhasin) revealed early on in Ranjish Hi Sahi that “Some parts of this story should be forgotten.” The existence of this show makes you wish a wizard had cast the ‘Obliviate’ spell on Shankar, freeing him from his guilt-ridden memories and, as a result, us from a painfully generic, overlong show.
Ranjish Hi Sahi is a remake of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt’s sensationalized extramarital affair with actor Parveen Babi in the 1970s, but it adds little depth to the skeletal structure. Shankar is a struggling filmmaker who, after three failures, is now working on his fourth, a life-or-death project, but all we see in him is indifference.
We are only told about his hunger for success; his unparalleled narration skills are also praised, but we never see them for ourselves. In short, the writing does not provide us with enough reasons to ‘why’ we should support this man.
We don’t feel for Shankar when his life is turned upside down by his ill-fated tryst with Amna Parvez (Amala Paul) because it fails to forge empathy between the viewer and Shankar, despite shoehorning a backstory about his formative years.
Isn’t this series supposed to reveal a deep look into the troubled mind of Parveen Babi, err Amna Parvez? It clearly sympathizes with Shankar and his desire to make a successful film for viewers.
The series is also structured in such a way that it concludes with Shankar having an epiphany and finally writing the “one true story” straight from his heart (Mahesh Bhatt had directed Arth based on his affair). Mahesh Bhatt’s Ranjish Hi Sahi uses this relationship as a conflict rather than a subject matter.
We also get characters like a perverted producer who constantly throws challenges at Shankar, and one of the series’ attempts at layered storytelling involves a ‘Watch Man,’ who fixes watches and keeps track of Shankar’s time.
However, Amrita Puri’s Anju, who, despite being the archetypal wife, comes across as someone with the agency, adds some profundity to the story. However, the same cannot be said for Shankar’s mother (Zarina Wahab playing the most Zarina Wahab-like mother).
While Tahir Raj Bhasin does his best to portray this perpetually perplexed character, one can’t help but wish the writing gave him more meat to chew on. We, like the film producer who is perplexed by Shankar’s amour propre, find it difficult to judge him.
The dialogues, which are more ‘filmy’ than the movies of the time, make you wonder if aam people leading an aam zindagi engaged in such dialogue-baazi. Everyone speaks as if they are in a drama series set in the 1970s.
However, Amala Paul’s complex character, which can be infuriating, and rightly so, at times, holds the show together when she’s on-screen. The actor’s confrontation with Amrita Puri near the end, which is bound to make us uncomfortable, is one of the most powerful scenes in the entire show.