Woh Lamhe is a film which had speared hot topics of debate much before its release, primarily because it is supposed to be inspired by Mahesh Bhatt's relationship with the late Parveen Babi and the fact that the film was announced very soon after her demise. However let us not delve into what the inspiration of the film is, but rather treat it as a film meant to entertain audiences albeit in a more thought provoking manner than director Mohit Suri's last two films; Zeher and Kalyug. Having said this, Suri had the huge responsibility of attempting such a film and ensuring that there was more to it than just pre-release publicity. Whether he aptly fulfills that responsibility is debatable, although it is clear that he has improved leaps and bounds with each film; Woh Lamhe being no exception. The problem that Suri faces is that due to the pre-release hype and the fact that the audiences were well aware of what the film was about, it is here that his poor pacing throughout the film, tries the audiences? patience as they are already aware of the story and are waiting for things to progress, and although the screenplay deals with the complex issue of schizophrenia, it remains very simple, devoid of too many characters which could have been a plus point for the film, had the pace been more brisk. Woh Lamhe, a film which just manages to slightly tug at your heartstrings when it should have been able to evoke stronger emotions and live up to the tagline ?for those who have ever loved and lost??. Here we should also mention that where Woh Lamhe falters in pace, and makes up for in performances.
Woh Lamhe tells the story of Sana Azim (Kangana Ranaut in a performance which makes one forget that this is only her second film) as a Bollywood superstar who is dominated by her boyfriend Nikhil (Shaad Randhawa in a confident debut), who makes all her career decisions for her; to the world she is a successful and independent woman but in reality she is lonely and lost, a mere puppet in Nikhil's hands. Aditya Garewal (Shiney Ahuja) is an aspiring director who is keen on casting Sana for his debut film, but only on his own terms; he is willing to go to any lengths to get her to agree to the film, even if that means preying on her slight insecurities and her turbulent relationship with Nikhil. However, he loses track of his plan somewhere along the way and realizes that even though his film is complete and a super-hit, he just can?t pull himself away from Sana; he has actually fallen in love with her. It is at this same point in time that the audiences begin to realize that Sana is not just insecure and lonely, but that she is also mentally imbalanced; suffering from acute schizophrenia wherein she is haunted by the imaginary Rani who leads her to believe that everyone is out to kill her.
What follows is Aditya's unshakeable belief that he can heal Sana and he giving up his upcoming career in order to take her away from the industry and free Sana from all of her mental demons. However, Sana is unable to break free from her illness and one day walks out of Aditya's life as she no longer wants to be the cause of pain and turbulence in his life. They meet three years after her disappearance in a hospital, post Sana's attempt on her life.
There are some very memorable scenes in the film, beginning with the first scene where Kangana slits her wrists in the bathtub. Hats off to director Mohit Suri for handling this situation without any of the normal clich's and melodramas, which in turn allows the audience to clearly understand Sana's frame of mind in the character's introduction sequence itself. This scene also highlights Kangana's powerful performance wherein she is remarkably far superior in scenes in which she has absolutely no dialogues and is reliant only on her expressions and body language where she scores full marks. The only drawback in her performance is in her dialogue delivery; her English lines are very poor and there is no reason why most of those lines could not have been in Hindi as the poor English takes away from the impact of her performance and the scene overall. Even her delivery in Hindi is at times slightly unclear, but there is no doubt that in her second film, she proves her mettle and that she is quite capable of delivering a mature performance and having the weight of a film rest on her shoulders. Her support, Shiney Ahuja too should be applauded for a strong performance, although unnecessarily loud at times, Shiney handles emotional scenes with the perfect softness and sensitivity in order for the audience to empathize with him. He holds his own with a strong performance in a film which otherwise would have been dominated by Kangana's performance. Debutant Shaad Randhawa is let down by characterization which is slightly confusing at times; is he a scheming boyfriend only after Sana's money or is he truly in love with her? His character seems to sway between the two but nonetheless Shaad handles the role aptly making a confident debut. Purab Kohli is as always dependable and impactful, this time in the role of Sam, Aditya's loyal friend and his co-producer.
Woh Lamhe should have been a film which lingers in the audiences mind much after they have let the cinema halls, yet it somehow fails on that account, possibly because it just reaches out to touch their hearts, but stops before it fully gets there. Here is a typical case of having all the basic ingredients right, and yet feeling as though something is missing; which differentiates it from being a good film, to a great film.