Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl is intriguing from the off. It's a great set-up as we watch Ricky Bahl (Ranveer Singh) con his way into the lives of a series of wealthy women and their families by means of guile and charm. The lengths that he goes to to ensnare his prey and the distinct personas he adopts are demonstrated during the course of the opening song 'Aadat se majboor', which pitches the tone of the film perfectly and serves as a taste of what's to come.
But when Ricky takes on Raina Parulekar, the manager of a large corporate, selling her a fake M.F. Hussain painting and then disappearing with the money, Raina is determined to seek him out and get her money back. She is contacted by Saira Rashid, the daughter-in-law of a wealthy family from Lucknow and Dimple Chaddha, the spoilt Delhi-based daughter of an industrialist, both of whom have fallen victim to Ricky's charms. The three set out to track him down, employing the street-smart Ishika Desai (Anushka Sharma) to outwit him.
With hints of John Tucker Must Die, the film is a refreshing take on the usual 'girl meets boy' story, as instead, girl tracks down the loveable conman and in the cat and mouse game that follows, they fall in love, causing Ricky to finally lose at the game he mastered so well.
Sharma and Singh both deliver strong performances, but the chemistry between them is somewhat lacking and while they play off each other well, they don't quite capture the magic of Band Baaja Bharat. However, Singh is entirely convincing as the master conman who beguiles women with his evident charm, and it's clear why he is being touted as a future star. Sharma, meanwhile, has just the right amount of savvy and sassiness that makes her the perfect foil for his cunning.
They each put on a gratuitous skin show, which is commonplace in Indian cinema these days, though a little unnecessary for two strong leads who can actually act. There are good performances from all the cast and their distinct characters add further interest to the story. Parineeti Chopra deserves a mention for her fun portrayal of the loud mouthed, love-struck rich kid and is afforded some of the film's best lines.
Some care has been taken to demonstrate the elaborate lengths Ricky goes to to pull off his scams, building a backstory to the characters he creates, inventing a new image and creating websites that appear to back up his story. It is somewhat inexplicable, then, that such a master conman would fail to recognise fake Gucci and designer clothes, but despite such loose ends, the plot is otherwise plausible and the con is convincing.
Songs are a necessary element in a Bollywood film and in this instance they are mostly well-placed, serving as introductions to the characters of the two main leads, and topping and tailing the film. While Sharma's song could certainly have been shot better, nothing really gets in the way of the unfolding narrative.
The film has a satisfying, albeit predictable ending, reflecting the growth of the character, as Ricky Bahl comes full circle and feels compelled to change his ways, outdone, as he ultimately is, by love.
All in all, Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl is an enjoyable evening's entertainment and a smart con story that is well-told.
> Anushka Sharma interview: 'I have played little pranks on people'