If you don’t have enough scenes, make music videos. If you want to rant about feminism, make a Vogue My Choice video. Spare the audience a lacking and incomplete move titled ‘Humari Adhuri Kahani’. The biggest indicator of a failed movie is when the audience finds itself fiddling with the small screens of smart phones despite the big screen rolling with reels.
This tragic romantic saga revolves around the traditional and sanskari Vasudha Prasad (Vidya Balan) who is raising her only son Saanjh (Namit Das) alone while waiting her missing husband Hari Das (R. Rajkumar). As luck and good fortune may have it, she encounters multi millionaire hotelier Aarav Ruparel (Emraan Hashmi) who becomes the proverbial knight in shining armor in her life. The plot then spirals into a love triangle that has a tragic and triumphant end.
Romance and Bollywood have been old bed partners. This is one genre where Indian audience displays maximum suspension of disbelief. Thus, if the plot leaves them unconvinced then the flaw lies with the film. If you want a love triangle to induce dilemma in the minds of the audience then both love equations have to be created. Here the marriage between Vasudha and Hari is portrayed only in the negative light and has as a flashback after she has already met with Aarav. Take Two: for the second love story to play its part well, it does not suffice for the actor to simply verbalize his emotions. What happened to creating those irresistible moments of romance where even the viewer is serenaded to the tunes of love? What happened to writers creating original scenes that become iconic expressions of love for the college couples to emulate?
Also the filmmakers have defied the simple logical emotional graph of joy-sorrow-joy. The predominant sentiment in the film from start to finish is that of grief and tragedy. Vasudha’s marriage comprises oppression, Aarav’s love emerges from angst, Vasudha’s love for Aarav consists of desperation, Hari’s experience in Orissa is characterized by torture, Rohini’s story too is marked by financial compulsion. It is an unrealistic world where no positive emotions exist. The audience therefore feels no sense of loss because one tragedy is two-level with another sob story.
Another trendy bandwagon that director Mohit Suri and his team seemed eager to cash in on was the firebrand of feminism. Vasudha’s trajectory was supposed to symbolize a woman’s path to freedom and independence. To that ambitious intention, I would say ‘To make Queen and Margarita with a Straw or even The Lunchbox, you have to be wired differently’. The thought processes of the filmmakers are so mired in patriarchy and Hindu mythological rhetoric that all feminism falls flat on its face. It is naively assumed that Radha is the liberal opposite of the enduring Sita whereas the fact remains that both are female consorts of the revered and worshiped make gods. Neither is given much of an independent place in the mythological narratives. I fail to understand how standing up against the patriarchal bondage of the husband because of the love for another man is a supreme sign of a woman ‘s modern rebellion against archaic customs and parampara. The’ pyaar ki roshni’ that Vasudha claims in her last monologue is still tied to a man, only a better one. Her previous appeal to her new lover to teach her to hope, love and live seems even more regressive than her existing marriage.
Apart from the story, the music is disappointing too. The lyrics seem no different from the extremely melodramatic and poetic dialogues. Even a simple scene when Vasudha is introduced to Aarav’s mother Rohini, the latter asks an over the top question, ‘Yeh banjaran kaun hai jo anjaan hokar bhi apni lagti hain?’ (Who is this gypsy who seems familiar despite being a stranger?) Again, the language fails to reverberate with the audience when nothing seems identifiable to them.
Symbolism also seems to be the new sign of a good film. The mangalsutra representing the age old Indian customs and institutions, the lilies echoing the essence of Vasudha’s spirit, the desert reflecting the angst of the star crossed lovers and the snow blessing romantic union are integrated into the narrative. However, they are so consciously and repeatedly used that all symbolic value become monotonous. The symbolism is screaming and shouting at the audience rather than being gentle and subtle.
When all attempts to inform, educate and entertain fail, two good looking actors and their sincere acting remains the last resort of redemption. Balan’s eyes portraying pain and fear, Hashmi’s restrained anger and deep smiles become small visual treats.
So the verdict reads thus: unless you are sure hard fans of Hashmi or Balan and can’t resist the thought of gaping at them on the silver screen, your psyche will feel more complete without Hamaari Adhuri Kahani.