Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dum Laga Ke Haisha Review

Not that '90s show

YRF in the '90s changed the nation's idea of romance. It filled it with more lush, made love sequences glossier than ever with younger actors- urban, charismatic heroes and heroines to dazzle the screen, and their stories were set in foreign touristy landscapes. Dum Laga Ke Haisha is an YRF film. It is set in '90s. Yet it is nothing of those. The location is an Indian small-town Haridwar, and not Switzerland. It re-looks that era with the rose-tinted lens dropped. It breathes in its space comfortably, and doesn't observe it like a mere tourist. The lead male is an unromantic 25 years old who has failed 10th board exams thrice and speaks in chaste Hindi. The heroine of the film is an overweight, ambitious B. Ed. graduate who wants to be a teacher. And, I know, this is the wrong way of reading this film. Those were escapist devices that would constitute dreams of Indian moviegoers; this is a rooted, realistic film that would bring nostalgia to the same moviegoers who went to see those cinematic dreams back then. YRF, this time, was showing them their own story on screen, and the film is a telling realization for them- look, what were you dreaming of and what have you got. And it is only for good, because love, as it may come in any size or color, is in acceptance. Not everyone gets a Juhi Chawla or a Vinod Khanna. Accept and live with it. Perhaps for the first time, the audience taught a film how to romance.

The primary characters here are born out of the change in the era: Sandhya (a new find Bhumi Pednekar) is more like the strong, modern lady we have always wished to see on screen. She comes with no flaws. The only flaw that Prem (Ayushmann Khurrana)- the man to whom she is married off in a mass wedding- saw in her was her rotund body. And that is Prem's flaw. He comes across as a regressive, insecure man who doesn't think for a second before slapping his wife in public when drunk (Khurrana is incredible in that particular sequence). Sandhya even says that she was bewared by her father that you, Haridwar men, oppress the woman of the house.

This interpersonal drama takes form of a more cinematic one during the later part which gives the film its title- a unique sporting competition that involves carrying your wife up your back and race. To many, this may come across as contrived or in favour of writer's convenience or as they call it, deus ex machina. But it is only natural that an external force is required to repair internal damage.  And the external force here not only has its reason and justification of existence- to accept your love socially and find your status in the society- but also adds a meta nature when the announcement goes, "Waqt aa gaya hai, rishto ke bojh kandho par uthane ka." And not only the event but also their decision to participate in it is a result of another deus ex machina which only added more background detailing to a certain Buaji character. Again, this impulsive and last-moment decision of theirs did not look contrived but only natural, and prevented another Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi to happen. This is, basically, more realistic version of the other YRF film. 

These "external force" don't jerk the flow of the narrative either. It comes in its way, though we hadn't seen it coming, and is picked up in pace with the motion or just accelerates it. They come at the point when heated up matter is settling down- it just rearranges some energy building up inside the characters and gives this film an artifice to transform that energy into a dramatic event and ultimately transfer it to the audience. After all no multiplex audience wants to see a climax that is resolved by plain talking or by examining silence. Those moments are best left for mid-act: like, silence works beautifully in that scene after Prem attempts suicide and finds a corner to cry alone, and then discovers he is not alone- Sandhya is crying too. Or, when Prem finds the list of songs Sandhya wanted in an audio-casette, he curates them for her and straightly goes up to tell her that it's done- no major surprise, no sense of discovery. They find tender love over songs; they express anger over their choice of songs- that war of songs on tape-recorder sequence is a hilarious masterstroke. 

Dum Laga Ke Haisha isn't entirely about that acceptance of a person beyond his/her looks. This issue is personal, but the film does not detach it from other societal problems and then solves it. Because a marriage breaks silently in the same lane from where a baarat passes by. This is literally and figuratively brought to life in the scene just before interval. As the film grows, it does make points about perils of a forced/arranged marriage, women empowerment (though with the help of a puppet character of a dumb lawyer), status of a man and woman in society. Though what started the conversation is a bit politically incorrect- sex as an acceptance or validation of a relationship. But that's what sets the tone of the film. Their suhagraat scene is rendered with dreamy European background score (by Andrea Gurrea) which gives the film a light, comic tone. Mute those violins, and you are in a tensed room with a girl on bed wanting to be "accepted" and a man who hates the fact that he is with that girl on the same bed. And, next day whether they had sex or not is mildly discussed in the aangan. Are we really in the household of a small town of '90s? Then you realise writer-director Sharat Katariya only uses that time and space (He uses some great sound design to recreate that period- Ganga arti as a distant sound details about the space, while Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, the time) to tell a contemporary story where patriarchy doesn't obtrude itself even in grave matters like divorce. Perhaps, this is the '90s that Katariya wanted to be.

1 comment:

Raj Solanki said...

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