It’s tricky ground when you are writing a flawed person as the protagonist of your film. You don’t want to end up romanticising him like in Arjun Reddy; you don’t want to seem like an apologist for him, like in World Famous Lover. Somehow, Krishna and His Leela manages to do this beautifully, treading the delicate line between villifying and idolising him.
It simply paints him as an average young man, prone to the very human follies of instinct and desire. It achieves this neutral ground because it’s not in love with him. The writers, Ravikanth Perepu and Sidhu Jonnalagadda (the director and actor respectively), refuse the temptation of mass-ifying their hero, Krishna. They are content to use the character as a tool to try and explore the complexities of romance, specifically of modern romance between young adults. They observe him, taking notes of his evolution, capturing highlight reels of his relationships, and all the while, remain aware of the many shades of grey in romance.
It’s why you never feel Krishna is a horrible person. He’s wrong, of course, to lie to the women in his life, but he’s simply a sample of the many men who do it. Never once does this film try to justify Krishna as a ‘good man’, or one worthy of emulation. In fact, towards the end, a woman even proclaims that she would never want to be with a man like Krishna, and he isn’t threatened by this public diss. He replies that he totally gets it. And he isn’t lying. Krishna knows he’s not a great guy. He’s dazed and confused—pun intended— and very aware of his imperfection. And that I would argue, makes him a very decent person.
The film doffs its hat to some inspirations: like when Krishna says he has tickets to Ae Dil hai Mushkil, and or when he sings, Tum Hi Ho from Aashiqui 2, both films that spoke of complex love. The mythological inspirat ions are straightforward. The hero’s Krishna; the film’s about his ‘leelas’. There’s Radha (Shalini Vadnikatti), Sathya (Shraddha Srinath), and a third girl named Rukhsar (Seerat Kapoor).
The mythological touches are in your face without the director having to spell these details at the end. It’s also a film in which Krishna often breaks the fourth wall for humour, but occasionally, regrettably, to explain his stance on romance.
Krishna and His Leela is a film whose characters and situations bring out enough complexity without its lead character having to look into the camera and ask why it’s wrong to be in love with two women at the same time.
At two hours, this film about a man who bounces between two women, is a breeze, and is as busy as Krishna’s love life. It’s a dance between entertaining conversations and energetic montages, flavoured all the while by a score, which includes, quite relevantly, a remix of Alaipayuthey Kanna. Even while focussing on Krishna’s romantic life which is ever in a state of flux, the film remembers to focus on his evolution as a person. He starts off being almost abusive—like when Sathya complains that he’s squeezing her hand in anger, but then, he evolves, or they call it, matures.
There’s also commentary on how social conditioning and peer pressure plays its part in creating such men. You see that Krishna, reeling from being dumped by Sathya, goes through the motions of a break-up, as he thinks he has to. The film encourages you to laugh at him as he’s crying and threatening to commit suicide. That’s why his transition to the next relationship is quick and decisive. It’s almost a criticism of the fleeting nature of contemporary relationships. I enjoyed that the film lets you make up your mind about such topics. The film doesn’t flinch from its detailed depiction of urban relationships.
There’s plenty of realistic intimacy. There’s premarital sex. It doesn’t make a big deal about women smoking and drinking, or living alone. I’d even argue that as the film ends, women come out looking better. The film’s sensitised towards the plight of women like Radha, Sathya, and why, even Krishna’s mother. The two most tender moments in this film, for me, are those that have a woman talking. The first is when Radha returns to Bangalore and shares a secret with Krishna.
The second is when Sathya hears of Krishna’s breakup, and wrestles with her own guilt, even though she’s really done nothing wrong. The two main men in this film—Krishna and his father— are both flawed, and trying to make sense of their place in their family, in society. There’s a scene that has Krishna’s father (Sampath) appeal to the man that his son is, when discussing his wrongs.
In another film, I’d be tempted to ask why ‘flaws’ are the property of men, but this isn’t a film flaunting the flaws of these men. It’s hard to criticise Krishna, when he’s as quick to admonish himself. He admits that he would have trouble accepting a woman if she were to two-time as he does. His sister calls him out too and points out his hypocrisy. His mother refuses to speak with him. And despite all this seriousness, I enjoyed that this film feels light.
One of its most incisive lines, again coming from a woman, is at a bar, when Krishna’s drinking. His friend, Rukhsar (Seerat Kapoor), is having a drink too and she notes that no love can evolve into a long-term relationship without there being friendship. At the time, Krishna doesn’t get it. The film’s final line is him getting it.