Friday, May 28, 2004

Hum Tum 

For just cutting out the college romance crap, Kunal Kohli needs to be congratulated. There may be many irritants in his Hum Tum-- the animated portions with outdated jokes, the worn out boys-vs-girls debate (the battle, if at all, has moved beyond the ‘who pays’ kind of frivolity), but in many ways this film comes closest to the ‘today’ mood than any other in recent times.

It does borrow its structure from Annie Hall and the all time favourite romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, but does not even come close to the effervescence of the originals. Kohli is not able to give us a sense of period, for instance, and does not even skim the surface of the confusing minefield of contemporary relationships, but he does take the viewer on a lighthearted tour into a decade in the lives of Karan (Saif Ali Khan) and Rhea (Rani Mukherji), who do not fall in love at first sight.

Rhea stymies all Karan’s attempts at flirtation on the flight to New York. The third time they meet, she is getting married and he is helping his wedding planner mother (Rati Agnihotri) with the arrangements. (Incidentally, he funds his extravagant lifestyle with earnings as a freelance cartoonist of the corny comic strip Hum Tum – unbelievable in India!)

To give out the twists and turns in the plot would spoil the surprises for those who see the film, but there is plenty to discuss here.

The film is set in a super-rich milieu, where people fly abroad on whim, and set up businesses without the bureaucratic hassles ordinary folk would go through. Since it is a Yash Chopra production, Kohli gets to shoot in New York, Amsterdam, Paris—which gives the film a visual sheen.

At one level, the film has a modern sensibility, where it is understood that a girl will not marry the first guy she kisses and it is taken for granted that she will have a career. The mothers of both lead characters are separated from their husbands, and neither is the weeping willow type. His mother is a smart career woman, her mother (Kirron Kher) has an infectious joie de vivre and a cute Punju accent.

However, while Karan’s fashion photographer dad (Rishi Kapoor) lives the high life in Paris, and Karan himself has new girlfriends in every port, there is no man in sight in the lives of both relatively young mothers. The men grow paunchy and grey but flirt with their son’s girlfriends, the women grow into sexless ‘auntyjis’. Divorce is never mentioned, and the reunion of Karan’s parents in the end is too contrived, with his teary testimonial to martial bliss sounding totally fake.

When Karan and Rhea do get into bed, he proposes to her in alarm—does that mean he wanted to marry all the girls he had flings with? When Rhea disappears without leaving a forwarding address, does Kohli forget that these days, there is such a thing as email to communicate?

In any other film these things would not matter, but when a film gets half-way into modern times, you wish it had gone all the way there.

Kohli’s direction is self-assured and he has written some cool dialogue. Hum Tum is a hip, urban, feel good film, lifted sky high by the performances of Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherji, who, without letting the effort show, turn Karan and Rhea into credible, attractive, likeable people. Also, there are charming cameos from Rishi Kapoor, Rati Agnihotri, Kirron Kher, Abhishek Bachchan, Jimmy Shergill and Isha Koppikar.


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