Maneesh Sharma’s sophomore outing, “Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl,” reunites the director and stars of 2010’s surprise hit “Wedding Planners” in a tale of a sexy con artist and his comeuppance at the hands of three women he’s fleeced. This latest Yash Raj production relies on rapid-fire editing, vibrant perfs, snappy dialogue and a driving score to accelerate the film past the speed at which auds will notice repetition and inconsistencies. Even after the lack of imagination robs plot twists of their ingenuity, “Ladies” will coast sufficiently on its actors’ charm to score solid B.O. following its worldwide Dec. 9 bow.
Ricky Bahl (Ranveer Singh), a con man who goes by a different name, profession and personality in each city, bears more than a passing resemblance to Romain Duris’ professional lothario in “Heartbreaker.” Posing as a professional trainer in Delhi, he romances rich, petulant, impulsive Dimple (newcomer Parineeti Chopra in a finely tuned comic turn), ingratiates himself with her dad and, in a brilliant bit of theater, bilks him out of a small fortune. In Mumbai, he impersonates a brash, insolent art dealer in order to sell a forged painting to power-suited businesswoman Regina (Dipannita Sharma), desperate to meet her boss’s impossible demands. And in Lucknow (in flashback), he palms himself off as a shy country boy trying to find markets for village craftspeople, duping sweet, soft-spoken widow Saira (Aditi Sharma) and her supportive merchant in-laws.
The three very different women then band together to regain their money and their pride. They track down Ricky in Goa and hire vivacious, irresistible saleswoman Ishika (Anushka Sharma, reprising her lead role opposite Singh in “Wedding Planners”) to pose as an American millionaire’s daughter seeking to make investments. She dangles herself in front of Ricky, with inevitable results. The girls slowly reel in their fish while divesting him of his ill-gotten gains.
But in contrast to Ricky’s carefully orchestrated, ingeniously concocted scams, the women’s payback scheme comes off as flimsy, predictable and disconcertingly gender-biased; improbably cooking and sewing up a storm, they exorbitantly charge Ricky for fine cuisine and haute couture. For most of the film’s second half, the trio simply follows Ricky and Ishika to trace the progress of their strategy, cutely hiding, and popping up, to spy on them in a comic routine that quickly grows stale as the film devolves into a soppy romance sustained solely by the actors’ chemistry.
Pic’s overall fast pace turns positively frenetic in the energetic musical numbers, with no shot lasting longer than a few seconds.