Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas Movie Review: Karan Deol makes a frozen debut
Sunny Deol’s latest directorial is long, relentless and excruciatingly melodramatic
Sahher Sethi is a celebrated video blogger in Delhi. At the last minute, she bows out of a family gathering and sets out to expose a plush camping resort in Manali. Sahher is forcibly incredulous, squeezing out incriminating reviews from fellow campers. Her scepticism, however, quickly melts. By the time her trip ends, she has not only dropped a positive review for the retreat, but also grown sweet on her frigid trekking guide. That’s the sorry state of soft journalism in India. You start out wanting to scale mountains; you end up falling for a rock.
The guide is played by Karan Deol, son of Bollywood actor-director Sunny Deol. The film’s title, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, borrows from a song in the 1973 thriller Blackmail, led by Dharmendra, Karan’s grandfather. All of this is winkingly acknowledged later on — in a scene where a political scion is shown stepping into the family trade. But let’s reel back to the mountains for now. Karan, who retains his first name in the film, is a master climber. He piggybacks Sahher (debutante Sahher Bambba) across the difficult terrain; they hike, fish, cook, and stargaze. Their bickering isn’t funny, unlike Sam Neill and Julian Dennison in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and lacks the survivalist edge of The Mountain Between Us, starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet.
Director: Sunny Deol
Cast: Karan Deol, Sahher Bambba, Sachin Khedekar
The dialogues are a drag. “You looked cute as a kid,” gushes Sahher. “Thanks,” Karan replies. “I meant only as a kid.” “Okay.” This goes on for a while, until Sahher packs up and leaves. Her departure throws Karan into a daze; he grows increasingly morose and starts beating people up. You’d chalk up such behavior to innocent romantic yearning, though it’s actually Karan trying to match his father’s infamous onscreen temper.
Herein lies the problem with Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas: it opens amidst the quietness and solitude of the hills, almost as if Sunny (directing from a script by Jasvinder Singh Bath and Ravi Shankaran) wanted to reveal a tender side. Yet, the moment the film steps down to the plains, it turns into a grinding action-drama. That’s how insidious popular imagery can be, passed on from father to son like an accursed heirloom.
I almost nodded off in the second half, which plays out in Delhi. There’s a pointless sports car dash. There’s a proposal at an open mic. There’s a fight at a Sheesha lounge. Sachin Khedekar and Simone Singh are admirably low-key as Sahher’s parents. Akash Ahuja gets to play a stock villain, while Meghna Malik turns in a bracingly smart performance. Karan and Sahher need to work on their patter; several times during the hiking scenes, I wanted the film’s leads to simply hush up, just so I could pick out the lush foley work (by Arka Ghosh) in the background.
Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas hasn’t the slightest clue about young love. It’s long, relentless, and excruciatingly melodramatic. It’s also worryingly fatalistic in tone. Lovers camp out in the woods until city clichés pull them apart. It all goes a bit downhill.