Why India's 'Haseen Dillruba' Is The Best Marital Thriller On Netflix

Haseen Dillruba Taapsee Pannu Rani Kashyap Netflix
Sardar Singh Virk / Netflix

Romantic thrillers are few and far between, and when they emerge, they are not always the greatest. “Haseen Dillruba” runs in stark contrast to that expectation, delivering a soulful and compelling film with a huge twist. An explosive murder mystery and a fraught marriage drive the plot.

Director Vinil Mathew draws viewers in with a gentle beginning. Rani (Taapsee Pannu) is returning home from running some errands when an explosion destroys her home and kills her husband. Inspector Kishore Rawat (Aditya Srivastava) understandably has some questions for the relatively new bride. Did Rani murder her husband, who, by all accounts, was a stellar human? “Haseen Dillruba” unravels that mystery with tender and thoughtful consideration.

As Rani is brought in for questioning, she begins telling the story surrounding her marriage. It was not a love marriage, rather an arranged one that both Rani and her husband, Rishu (Vikrant Massey), willingly agreed to. As Rani relays to the inspector, the marriage got off to a rocky start. But, did it end on the rocky carnage that claimed her husband?

Rani carefully explains everything. As she does, Rani begins to captivate the police force, who firmly believes she is a cold-blooded murderer. “Haseen Dillruba” toys with viewers, who watch and listen as Rani lays out every detail that rocked her marriage with riveting abandon. It is tough not to wonder if we are listening to a murder confession or a plea of innocence.

Kanika Dhillon’s script enraptures, turning with mercurial ease that holds viewers tightly within its grip. Rani’s recollection and its hold upon the audience are reminiscent of Scheherazade in “One Thousand and One Nights.” It is a moving story that, despite its many turns, never dizzies. “Haseen Dillruba” is a love story, murder mystery, and so much more.

Haseen Dillruba Taapsee Pannu Rani Kashyap Vikrant Massey Rishabh Rishu Saxena Netflix
Singh Tejinder / Netflix

This is the kind of story missing from so many movies. Without giving anything away, “Haseen Dillruba” weighs the difference of lust and love, devotion, and obsession, in a way that recalls some of my favorite romantic movies. The cast sells all of it with a natural ease that dazzles. Interestingly, both of the lead actors have played a different character by the time “Haseen Dillruba” has ended.

Fresh off of “Ginny Weds Sunny,” Vikrant Massey lights up the screen as Rani’s husband, Rishu, an introverted engineer who tries to win her heart. Rishu morphs throughout the film, and Massey never lets go of how that undercurrent shifts and shapes Rishu. As Rani, “Haseen Dillruba” rests on Taapsee Pannu’s more than capable shoulders to tell an absorbing tale of love, lust, and betrayal.

Rani provides a complex character that Taapsee Pannu taps into with finesse. Pannu’s versatility is on full display as she goes from playing Rani as a devastated widow to a spoiled fiancรฉ and beyond. Pannu’s versatile performance serves to reconcile the varying personas Rani comes to embody without feeling like a contradiction. All told, not a single actor is out of place.

The mastery of storytelling that drives “Haseen Dillruba” is where it sets itself apart. Meanwhile, the surprising romantic dynamics also serve as a stirring break in ongoing trends. Movies tend to elevate Romeo and Juliet-style love affairs while rarely providing a critical counterpoint, and “Haseen Dillruba” is one of those rare instances of one. 

As a result, the Netflix original is a marital thriller that is innovative, fresh, and something few movies can say these days: a familiar-feeling tale with a strong dose of uniquiness. “Haseen Dillruba” is currently streaming on Netflix alongside a lot of other wonderful Hindi-language content, including one of 2020’s best films: “Mrs. Serial Killer.”

Rating: 8.5/10