The OTT wave has changed so much for so many. In the era gone by, many opined that certain films should have followed the Hollywood / European trend of releasing only on television or Home Video (as in DVDs or, still earlier, videocassettes). That trend has finally come to stay in India through OTT, where many films find release that may not stand a chance at the movie-halls, especially now when multiplexes do not come cheap for the common man.
Tara Vs. Bilal is a perfect example of such a film. In fact, it was released, for technical (read legal) reasons months ago at an obscure Mumbai location before finding home on Netflix late last month. And it is pleasant home watch as a romantic comedy. It is also one in a recent deluge of films made by T-Series Films in partnership, and among the recent three of their movies shot in and around London (An Action Hero, Double XL).
Tara (Sonia Rathee) is an Indian girl married to someone she liked on a matrimonial site. Her indulgent relatives even sell property and more for her wedding to Karan (Sardmad Varraich), who is based in London, without checking his antecedents. But when the couple moves there, and check into a hotel coincidentally owned and managed by Indian Muslim family, he dumps her and decamps.
Penniless and mortified, with her jewelry and money gone, Tara is driven out after a few days by Bilal (Harshvardhan Rane), the young eligible bachelor of the hotel family, as she has no money to pay the bills. A helpless Tara goes to meet the only person whose name has been given by her folks back home (Nikki Aneja Walia), who after a broken love affair, now runs a club frequented by gays to earn her living. Tara moves in with her dancers, including Ritz (Raheem Mir), who becomes her close friend and confidante.
Ritz and Bilal’s gay doctor friend, Jiggs (Pranay Manchanda) fall in love, and Tara encourages Ritz. But this brings Tara in contact again with Bilal. Bilal too is fighting his traumatic past, and is under pressure to conform and get married from his mother (Mona Ambegaonkar), aunts (Shagufta Ali, Deepika Amin) and grandmother (unknown actor who is good), while Tara frequently encounters an unapologetic and amoral Karan on the streets of London, who keeps taunting and threatening her.
The antipathy between Tara and Bilal soon settles into, first, friendship (when Bilal wants to have a ‘pretend’ marriage with her in exchange for big money that will enable her to go back) and then love. What happens next is fairly predictable but a relaxed, feel-good fare.
Frankly, this is the first John Abraham production after his 2018 classic Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran that I really thought was worth a watch, though he himself does not feature in this film. Samar Iqbal’s direction and the script (by the Parmanu writer) provide nice entertainment with some subtle messages on the importance of family, checking up the background of unknown matrimonial matches and honesty in relationships.
Yes, there are loopholes, like why Tara does not take Bilal’s help in taking legal action against Karan, and how her family back home never tries to contact her through their common point: the club owner. As with trendy mores, we have a gay couple too, but their story is well-woven into this romantic narrative.
Shot spectacularly by Amarjeet Singh, the film has upscale production values and some fresh touches and therefore keeps an engaging pitch throughout. And it helps that the casting and performances add to the movie’s pluses.
Harshvardhan Rane comes into his own after a series of poor movies that did not allow him scope to show his abilities. His performance is quite a revelation. Sonia Rathee may not be big star material but has a fetching presence and oodles of talent. The ladies are a cute lot and Raheem Mir leaves a mark as Ritz, alongside Pranay Manchanda as the doctor in love.
JA Entertainment & T-Series Films present Tara Vs. Bilal Produced by: John Abraham, Bhushan Kumar & Krishen Kumar Directed by: Samar Iqbal Written by: Samyukta Chawla Shaikh Music: Manan Bhardwaj Starring: Harshvardhan Rane, Sonia Rathee, Mona Ambegaonkar, Deepika Amin, Shagufta Ali, Nikki Aneja Walia, Sardmad Varraich, Raheem Mir, Pranay Manchanda & others