A Mohit Suri film doesn’t come with a lot of expectations. Since his debut, Zehar, released in 2005, Suri has averaged almost one film per year, but his movies are remembered more for their soundtracks, less for their storylines or directorial ingenuity. However, his latest, Hamari Adhuri Kahani, is a sharp contrast to his earlier films, because you don’t associate actors like Vidya Balan or Rajkummar Rao with a Suri film.
But Hamari Adhuri Kahani is as good an example as any of the fact that an impressive cast alone cannot save a film, especially one that’s riddled with plot holes aplenty. One of the early scenes in the film has Hari (Rao), a mental asylum patient, turning up at the funeral of his wife, Vasudha (Balan), whom he hasn’t seen for 21 years; however, he soon flees with her ashes and leaves a book for his son that is, for the most part, about Vasudha’s relationship with Aarav Ruparel (Emraan Hashmi), a wealthy hotelier. But here’s the thing: Hari couldn’t have known Vasudha and Aarav’s relationship in any detail, because the former went missing for half a decade (the period when Vasudha fell for Aarav), and when he finally returned, he was so paranoid and intimidating that his wife, already in love with another man, left him. So, in a world where screenplays make sense, Hamari Adhuri Kahani wouldn’t have lasted more than five minutes. But, sure, for the time being, let’s gloss over that ginormous plot hole and judge the film on what it has to offer.
What’s quickly striking about Hamari Adhuri Kahani’s world is its heavy melodramatic tone. These characters, especially Aarav, are ‘Filmi’ in the worst ways possible. When Aarav first sees Vasudha, who’s a florist in one of his hotels, she’s arranging flowers in his room. What flowers are these, he asks. “Arum lily,” comes the answer. At this point, something happens to Aarav, who starts saying the following: “Inke liye toh main mar bhi sakta hun (I can even die for these)”, and if that’s not bad enough, he follows his poignant opener with “matlab saadgi, innocence, sacha pyaar (which means simplicity, innocence, and true love).” Later, when Vasudha is making rangoli and decorating one of Aarav’s hotels (he owns 108 of them) for Diwali celebrations, our man thanks her. She says something on the lines of “It’s not a big deal”, which prompts him to spout this gem: “Agar yeh roshni tumhare andar nahin hoti toh baahar kaise hoti (Had this light not been inside you, how could it have been so bright outside)?” Something’s definitely up with Aarav; it appears he can only react to situations by reciting lines memorised from Lovelorn Freshmen Essays Vol. I. In fact, this eloquence runs in the family: When Aarav makes Vasudha meet his mom, she goes, “Yeh kaun banjaran hai jo apni si lagti hai (Who’s this nomad who looks like one of ours)?”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with melodramatic lines though; one of Hashmi’s better crowd-pleasers, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, was filled with over-the-top dialogues, where actors often spoke in lengthy metaphors, but that choice largely worked because it befitted the film’s tone and characters—larger than life gangsters. Hamari Adhuri Kahani, on the other hand, revolves around ordinary characters, and hence, their grandiloquence is confounding. These bits are also devoid of humour and frequently interrupt the flow of scenes. Nearly no sequence in the film is complete without one of its characters launching into an extended soliloquy about love, life and what not. After a point, Hamari Adhuri Kahani feels like a rather tedious kavi sammelan than a feature film interested in telling a story. The stock characters mar the film further—Aarav is a rich guy who will do anything for love (sometimes even being creepy); Vasudha is a harried housewife skeptical of falling in love (and later, convinced of not going back to her husband); and Hari is, well, just a controlling, petty douche (who in the final five minutes undergoes a bizarre change of heart).
It doesn’t say a lot about a film when its only convincing and enjoyable character, Aarav’s childhood friend, Apoorva, has a screen time of around 10 minutes. There’s much to like about this guy, who sounds sufficiently urban and normal, and often deflates Aarav’s philosophical inquiries by these nonchalant bits: “Aarav, what was that all about?”; “We will miss our flight”; or “I just don’t get you”. Apoorva, in fact, comes across as a Voice of Reason, saying things to Aarav on audience’s behalf, trying his best to make the man shut up. And it’s not surprising that he gets the film’s best line, which is of course very meta: When Apoorva gets fed up of lovelorn Aarav, he says this, “Yehi problem hai tumhara. Tum har cheez ko itna deep bana dete ho (That’s your problem; you make everything so deep).” It’s definitely true for this film, too; its desperate attempts at profundity become unbearable after a while.
An edited version of this review was published at Firstpost.