Film: Hamari Adhuri Kahani
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan, Rajkummar Rao
Director: Mohit Suri
Remember that terrific scene in Tanu Weds Manu Returns where Datto's brother makes a fierce plea for gender equality? He rips into his regressive relatives who are refusing to let Datto marry Manu. He asks an elderly man: "Tu dinosaur ki biradari ka hai?"
That's the question I had on my mind as I watched Hamari Adhuri Kahani. This film feels like it's from dinosaur ki biradari. Hamari Adhuri Kahani is archaic, willfully regressive and just blatantly absurd. What's shocking and sad is that there is so much talent here - my heart went out to Vidya Balan, who does her best to invest her weepy, wilting character with some personality but is hobbled by this story.
Written by Mahesh Bhatt, Hamari Adhuri Kahani is about a single mother, Vasudha, whose husband Hari, played by Rajkummar Rao, disappeared five years ago. She still wears a mangalsutra and writes fake birthday cards to their son so that he doesn't think his father abandoned them.
Enter Aarav Ruparel, a self-made tycoon played by Emraan Hashmi. Aarav, we are repeatedly told, owns 108 hotels around the world. Vasudha is his employee, which doesn't stop him from falling in love with her. She dismisses his affection as 'hawas', but eventually falls hard for him. Of course this kahani has to remain adhuri because Hari re-enters Vasudha's life. Where has he been? In Bastar, where he was kidnapped by terrorists. And then it just gets sillier and sillier.
This is the kind of film in which, when a lead character dies, a diya is snuffed out by the wind. In which, when a man declares love for a woman, she sprints back to her apartment in anguish, holds her mangalsutra and weeps. In which grown-up people in love give each other meaningful looks and sigh a lot. In which when a mother-in-law advises her daughter-in-law to throw away her mangalsutra because she knows her son is a scoundrel, the daughter-in-law replies: "Iss mangalsutra ko utaar phenkne ki himmat nahin mere mein." In which characters says lines like: "Har khubsoorat cheez mein daag hota hai". For me, the final straw was a scene in which Aarav takes Vasudha to see his mother. The mom turns around dramatically and says: "Yeh banjaran kaun hai." At which point I laughed out loud.
Emraan, however, keeps a straight face and tries his best to be brooding, sexy and intense. Rajkummar Rao invests Hari with more layers than he actually has. Vidya shines in a fiery climactic speech in which Vasudha finally seems to grow a spine. But it's too little, too late.
Director Mohit Suri has mastered the art of overblown melodrama. In earlier films like Aashiqui 2, he managed to manipulate our emotions effectively. Here he presses all the buttons. He tries hard to make us feel something. Especially with the melodious and mournful title track composed by Jeet Gannguli.
But it's impossible to take these people seriously. Especially since Aarav's childhood friend keeps interrupting scenes with, "We'll miss our flight, Aarav". And when Aarav asks a cop why he's helping him, the cop says something like: "Kyunki yeh kainat bhi sacche premiyon ko ek karna chahti hai."
It's pure unintentional comedy.
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