Sushant Singh Rajput at his charming best in Shuddh Desi Romance

Dressed in wedding fineries, boy meets girl in a rustic bus, and within minutes of their chitchat, she lights up a smoke. He is shocked. A little later, he shocks her with a kiss.

She refuses to kick up a fuss, and only glares while he immediately shifts places as the moment turns awkward.

Two-movie-old Maneesh Sharma doesn’t waste any time in establishing his unconventional take on romance, that’s heavily unadulterated by Bollywood clichés.

In his ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’, love happens at the most unlikely places, but doesn’t end up in a big fat wedding.

A tradition that is celebrated in Bollywood frames, and one that had actually launched Maneesh’s movie career with much gung-ho in ‘Band Baaja Baarat’.

Set in the rustic bylanes of Rajasthan, Maneesh’s love story unfolds with much gusto.

Raghuram is a spirited guy who makes a living out of fleecing tourists and stepping in as a wedding guest at rich parties. He’s also quite the charmer, and wins over quite a few hearts.

It’s after undertaking numerous wedding duties that he finds his role reversed, with the marriage fixer Goel finding him a coy bride. He, however, abandons his bride at the wedding, after he realises that he’s actually attracted to another wedding guest.

They soon hook up and start living-in, much to the disapproval of Goel, who insists marriage is the justifiable culmination of every love story. It’s business for him, but for them marriage is far more daunting and confusing.

Soon, their love affair hits a rocky path, forcing them to pursue different journeys.

The abandoned bride then makes an appearance, resulting in an unusual love triangle.

While the canvas that's heavily loaded with wedding celebrations does appear similar to ‘Band Baaja Baarat’, this time Maneesh focuses on the changing mindset of the youth and how they are unafraid to abandon tradition for their own happiness.

Maneesh doesn’t overload the content with social messages, or launch into a tussle over modern versus traditional thinking. Instead, he keeps it simple and real, allowing his trio to explore and endorse life’s different opportunities.

He even throws in a desi-twist to Hollywood’s ‘Runaway Bride’, that’s extremely endearing, and adds to its charm.

However, some situations are cut abruptly and left unexplained, creating much confusion and sluggishness. Added to that, the UAE censor cuts also harm the romance.

Although his movie’s strength lies in its unorthodox concept, especially since he unveils a modern side to India’s small towns, it unfortunately ends up as its weakness.

The concept appears dragged and faded over the lengthy 125-minute-long screen time. A situation that Maneesh could’ve easily averted if he had fleshed out his characters and their insecurities more indulgently.

Add to that, much of ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ striking moments have already been featured in the trailers, leaving the audience with very few surprises.

Maneesh does manage to salvage the situation, with his progressive trio, whose take on life and unafraid approach to society’s rigid rules is refreshing.

They are OK to live-in, and move on if things don’t work out, without making a hue and cry about it. In his world, men don’t fuss about dating women who have had previous relationships, and the women are equally accepting.

Sushant Singh Rajput is incredibly charming as the confused Raghuram who counters a girl’s reluctance to trust him with; “If not for my face, you can at least trust me because of my godly name!”

Armed with cheesy lines, an attractive smile and enchanting earnestness, he makes us fall in love with Raghu. It’s his women who leave him, and us, puzzled.

But, of the two, Parineeti Chopra appears our favourite mostly for giving the boisterous Gayathri such an incredibly lovable shade. And, what debutant Vaani Kapoor lacks in talent, she makes up for it with her delightful looks.

Maneesh isn't like us, and doesn’t take any sides, at least not until the end, and gives both women ample screen time to woo Raghu with their singing and dancing.

Legendary Rishi Kapoor too wins us over as the robust Goel, who is unhappy with the change in mindset and it's disastrous effect on his business. Armed with some of the best lines, Rishi is a treat to watch every time he steps into the spotlight.

Despite so much going for it, this isn’t Maneesh’s best, but his ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ does evoke some emotional warmth.

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