Phillauri (फिल्लौरी)

Hindi for “Tree Loving?”

T oday, I feel sorry for my Christmas tree. Wait. Hear me out. For a few weeks, a month even, we (my family and I) show that thing an unprecedented amount of love. We give it a good home; we make it the centerpiece of our environment, we adorn it, we even give it a ton of presents … just lay them right there at the tree’s metaphorical feet. And then what happens? The presents aren’t for the tree. In fact, the tree gets a full view of its presents opened by other beings; what’s up with that? And then, insult-to-injury, we strip it nude and toss it on the curb. We go from tree hugging to tree mugging.

I am defensive on behalf of our arboreal friends today because in the film I saw, a man marries a tree. Before I get into that, this really made me feel for the tree. Was there consent here? Who gives the tree away? What if tree doesn’t want to get married? Meandering along these lines, I thought about trees in general – do trees enjoy being trimmed? If you carve your initials in a tree, is that like getting a tattoo? Are baseball bats like porn for trees? “Oh, yeah, baby, take off the doughnut. Lemme see that ‘Louisville Slugger’ tat.”  In the case of today’s movie, I suppose cricket would be the appropriate tree porn as Phillauri is set in India.

Kana (Suraj Sharma, who white people might remember from Life of Pi) was born under a cursed star, whatever that means. Here, it is interpreted as “your first marriage is doomed,” so even though he has travelled from Canada to India just to get married, first, he has to wed a tree. And then they cut down the tree. I’ve never seen a more poignant case of flora abuse since The Giving Tree.

If we’re being totally fair here, Kana wasn’t exactly overjoyed about his marriage to Anu (Mehreen Pirzada) even before he was told he had to marry a tree. Then it gets weird. Yeah, it wasn’t weird before. The following morning, Kana is dozing in his Tom & Jerry boxers (nice choice) when he’s visited by Shashi (Anushka Sharma), the ghost of the tree, whom he has apparently married in lieu of a tree spirit.  Damn good thing there wasn’t a squirrel in the tree or a family of Keebler elves or something.  (“I married ’em all, thanks!”)

Luckily, Shashi’s tale of heartache is a tad more compelling than the tree-marriage storyline. Years and years ago, Shashi, a poet in disguise, fell for a musician, Roop Lal Phillauri (Diljit Dosanjh), several castes below her. What happened to him? What happened to her? We get to find out. This branch makes for better viewing as it has less Kana in it. I swear, Kana has a constant hang-dog expression all film long. This continues even when the fam has a giant intervention pivoting about the question, “what the Hell is wrong with you?” Yeah, it’s normal to have cold feet. Yeah, it’s normal that you not mention the ghost only you can see to your family, but it is not normal to mope endlessly when you have specifically arrived for a wedding and then insist nothing is wrong.

Phillauri is a film in which all issues could have been solved in, roughly, ten minutes with just an ounce of honest communication among parties. Hence, I kinda wish it had been an hour shorter; there wasn’t much reason to drag this material beyond 75 minutes, much less two hours. If you do wait that long, however, suckers for lost love, like me, will find a reasonable payoff. Enough payoff to recommend the film? Probably not.

♪When I find myself in stars of trouble
Mother Dhriti comes to me
Speaking words of stupid, “Wed a tree”

And in my hour of waver
She is dressing me as groom–to-be
Speaking words of stupid, “Wed a tree”

Oh, wed a tree, wed a tree, lay down roots literally
Whisper words of stupid, “wed a tree” ♫

Not Rated, 138 Minutes
D: Anshai Lal
W: Anvita Dutt
Genre: Bonus romance
Type of person most likely to enjoy this film: Suckers for love beyond the grave
Type of person least likely to enjoy this film: Realists

♪ Parody inspired by “Let It Be”

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One Response to “Phillauri (फिल्लौरी)” Subscribe

  1. NA May 2, 2017 at 7:17 am #

    Rofl! Gosh, what an honest analysis. I am an Indian who recently had the pleasure of watching this movie and absolutely love the actress playing Shashi! I fell in love with the music and while researching meaning of a phrase landed on your blog. Its quite entertaining to understand an American’s perspective on ancient Indian traditions that our parents just refuse to let die their natural death ;D.

    Loved you writing…..

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