I blame Farah Khan. After the huge success of Main Hoon Na filmmakers realized that they could just slap a coat of fresh paint on old Bollywood hits, add a tribute scene or two, repackage the tried and tested formula with some contemporary flavor and thrust it on unsuspecting audiences too young to remember the original.
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya makes no bones about the fact that it is a DDLJ remake. The opening credits show the tapori hero Humpty Sharma unashamedly crying to the final train scene from the original movie. To this hackneyed plot are added updates that are supposed to represent modernity, namely,
- Hero with a funny name (Barfi, Bunny, Humpty)
- Heroine who smokes, drinks, and swears (Tanu Weds Manu, Shuddh Desi Romance)
- Guilt-free premarital sex
- Sympathetic family
- 2 sidekicks for the hero (young unknowns who have replaced the comic relief characters Johnny Lever etc. used to play)
- Loose, street banter
- Side plot where everybody demonstrates how cool they are with someone being gay by making jokes about homosexuality.
DDLJ was a complete romantic fantasy, but it was Aditya Chopra’s own fantasy, so the movie still had some authenticity despite the caricatured characters and unrealistic plot. HSKD is based on someone else’s fantasy, so the characters, their motivations, their environment are twice removed from reality. It is as if the writers of HSKD lived in a film set their whole lives where they experienced nothing except other Bollywood movies.
Each character is a pastiche of many other Bollywood screen entities and this leads to characters behaving in schizophrenic ways. Ashutosh Rana as the heroine’s father swings wildly between an Anupam Kher-like sympathetic figure and an Amrish Puri tyrant. Alia Bhat channels a firebrand Kajol from DDLJ, a demure Rani from KKHH, and a no-holds-barred Kangana from Tanu Weds Manu, sometimes in the same scene. Varun Dhawan as the titular Humpty tries very hard to create a personality for himself, but his slack-jawed dialogue delivery does no justice to his character, who is a blend of Aamir from Rangeela, Shahrukh from DDLJ and Saif from, well, any Saif movie.
Even the scenes are cut/pasted from other movies. This leads to very jarring juxtapositions. The heroine comes from a fairly conservative family but they seem to be okay with her spending the night with strangers. She and the hero impulsively have sex one night, most likely the first time for her, but the next day she seems cool with it, something her upbringing, as shown in the movie, does not support. The heroine’s father, despite having serious objections to Humpty, agrees to let him stay in his house for five days when the lovebirds koochy-coo every night and exhibit PDAs every day.
It doesn’t help that the music sucks. Music has saved many a bad movie from disaster (I Hate Luv Storys comes to mind) but in this case the soundtrack is a generic 3-wedding-songs, 1-tragic-song package that does nothing except provide bathroom breaks.
The leads are nice looking, especially Alia Bhatt who is bursting with health and vitality but, in the hands of inexperienced director Shashank Khaitan, both she and Varun Dhawan (David Dhawan’s son) just wing it through the movie. Dhawan, in particular, has his mouth open all the time and looks like he is just about to drool. It is an ultra-relaxed style of emoting that is popular these days, but what inexperienced actors don’t realize that it takes a lot of effort to look natural. For pointers I would direct them to Kangana in Queen, who achieved that effortless style after working hard at it in several movies earlier.
Unfortunately these kind of movies have been successful and, judging by the reaction in yesterday’s screening, the audience liked the movie just fine. In a summer drought of light-hearted time-pass fare, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya is a drop of recycled water, not tasty, but relieving thirst all the same.