What to Expect
Mainstream films that have a fixed theme and a rigid style don’t exactly allow its audience to view things from a different perspective. Their set forms of dance, images of beauty, unreal male protagonists and compulsory methods of objectification are almost always a huge hit. However, when a movie like Dum Laga Ke Haisha rains on us, it brings with it two worthy ingredients: freshness and logic. India’s numero-uno studio Yash Raj Films this time decides to break stereotypes with a flourish as debutant director Sharat Katariya takes us to the holy towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh to celebrate ordinariness.
What’s it About?
Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana; Vicky Donor), also known fondly as Lappu is a twenty five year old who hasn’t gone past grade 10. He sits at his father’s audio-cassette repair shop listening to popular Indian playback singer Kumar Sanu’s singles day in-and-out. He is, for good reason, forced by his family to marry Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar), an overweight, albeit well-educated girl with ambitions of being a teacher. In her, Prem’s father sees the perfect daughter-in-law who could help him improve the financial condition of the family. Prem, however, cannot look beyond her size. Add to that Sandhya’s self-esteem, which touches borderline ego, stalls their relationship even before it reaches the starting point.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The very advantage and disadvantage of the film is that the story is extremely simple – almost to the point that any hope of unpredictability falls completely out of the question. This becomes a bit of a problem, because despite the presence of extremely talented performers performing a sweet script, you do tend to feel the taste leaving you with a clear sense of deja vu. To add up to that, the (admittedly) impressively timed two-hour film feels a touch long and draggy. Despite it all, however, it is the delightful detailing of Katariya and – at the risk of repeating myself – spectacular performances of the main cast as well as the supporting performers that makes the movie click – and believe you me, there’s a horde of them: there’s screaming fathers, pushy mothers, opinionated aunts and assorted friends and relatives who come in to give their advice to Prem’s – um – issue. You’re taken to the small lanes of Haridwar, with movie posters pasted clumsily on the walls, and issue-laden Bajaj motorbike rides, which are among the many details that add to the realistic world-building Katariya is going for. There’s a particularly impressively written fight between the two protagonists built on popular tunes of the nineties, which present a humorous picture and sends us into fits of laughter. These conflicts and other nuances presented are quite noteworthy. Among the narrative nuances you see quite a few delightfully-woven sequences that add to the authenticity of the narrative. There’s that community wedding featuring scarlet brides dressed and placed in serial order to unite with their respective grooms selected by their experienced parents; this as a winning money-saving formula. You also have the savior-of-all Bachelors in Education degree that definitely guarantees you a job, the double breasted coats, the inevitable paranoia of the sari coming apart without the mandatory safety-pin and the use of Limca – the popular Indian aerated drink – to get over the feeling of nauseousness; oh its all there, trust me.
Perhaps for the first time the viewers interestingly find the popular Indian Hindu right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (lit.: the National Volunteer Organization) placing itself in a feature film as a routine part of the narrative. The film deviates from the glorified thought of the nineties being a pop-culture phenomenon, presenting it instead by depicting the drab everyday life of the financially struggling lower middle-class. There may definitely be an expectancy level for some experimentation, but the writers choose instead to stick to a more linear narrative throughout. What definitely binds the movie above all else – brings it on screen – however, is the charming chemistry between Khurrana and Pednekar. The awkwardness between the two in the film is a source of some genuine humor.
There are no grand designs, no mawkish emotions; and yet somehow the movie still entertains deliciously. For once we have a film from a studio which isn’t trying to be conventional, ending up instead to be one of the most relatable and grounded studio outputs from the Yash Raj Films banner since Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year – one that doesn’t resort to the usual crowd-pleasing gimmickry to drive in the audience.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Post Aankhon Dekhi (lit.: Through my Own Eyes), Sanjay Mishra and Seema Pahwa once again recreate their magic through ordinariness. The only difference is this time they are on the opposite sides of the fence. Alka Amin and Sheeba Chadda don’t allow the very essence of “the mother-in-law” and the irritating bua (paternal aunt) to fall out of practice.
Ayushmann plays it from the gut never once striking a false note as the young fella, bitter over being dealt the unfair hand. He embraces the diction and body language with ease. Bhumi’s presentation of the post-modern Indian woman, fighting for her own rights to freedom and respect overshadows Ayushmann’s performance in all sense. She has no space for artificiality in her performance, and lifts the chemistry between the two a great deal.
Definitely! The film sucks you into its well etched characters, perfect cinematography and smart direction and screenplay, thereby delivering well on what it promises. For those who enjoy reminiscing the nineties, or for the younger crowd looking for something fresher than your standard mainstream fare, this is the movie to go for.
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