It’s like there’s a fantastical Dharma Productions machine where you put in your ingredients — a slab of family drama, a heavy dose of Punjab, an NRI boy, a handful of songs — set the mode to ‘rom-com’, and, voilà, you have another Karan Johar movie.
It is a conscious ode to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Debutant writer-director Shashank Khaitan makes enough bluntly obvious references to ensure that you know this — from the title, to scenes on TV sets in the film, to a hero who mouths lines straight out of that script.
HSKD opens with a song. In signature Johar style, the accompanying shots work to quickly introduce the titular Humpty Sharma (Varun Dhawan) and the dulhania, Kavya (Alia Bhatt). He is the clichéd mischievous-but-kind-hearted boy, who meets and falls in love with the girl from Ambala who’s come to Delhi with a one-point agenda — to buy an exorbitant lehenga for her upcoming wedding.
Their brief is to play hero and heroine rather than characters with distinctive traits, so they look good, dance well, flaunt a fair degree of coolth, and have a soft breeze ruffle their hair each time they face the camera.
That said, both Varun and Alia play the generic Bollywood hero and heroine to good effect. Anyone who’s seen Highway knows Alia can act. That role was a lot more demanding. Now back in the
rosy Johar universe (after Student of the Year), she holds her own.
In one scene inside a gurdwara, with no dialogue, she manages to convey a range of emotions. Varun, for his part, can dance (a prerequisite for the genre), be funny, and cry convincingly enough to serve as a gen-next replacement for SRK.
The story and characters are, predictably, riddled with clichés. Girls agree to arranged marriages to NRI boys only to have a change of heart later; the boy relentlessly pursues a girl who’s already engaged, but is too morally upright to run away with her.
Reality remains a bad word in Johar’s universe. So Kavya goes beer-drinking in a shuttered shop with three boys she’s only just met (in Delhi, no less), and flirts with Humpty while cheerfully participating in wedding preparations. Yet another tasteless gay joke (on the lines of Dostana and Kal Ho Naa Ho, both Dharma productions) finds its way in, before the film finally gets its logic-less but predictable conclusion.
But then Johar doesn’t rely on novelty to make his films work. He relies on star appeal. An entire generation of movie-goers wanted to dress, talk and spread their arms out like Shah Rukh Khan. This time, he’s done it with actors he launched himself. And we suspect a new generation of college-goers already want to sing and dance like them.
Video | Movie Review: Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania is an enjoyable version of DDLJ