Rating : Average (3/5)
Genre : Romance
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 18 minutes
Director : Shashank Khaitan
Cast : Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Shukla, Ashutosh Rana, Kenny Desi, Gaurav Pandey, Sahil Vaid
Kidwise : PG
Kavya Pratap Singh (Alia Bhatt), bratty girl from Ambala meets equally bratty Delhi munda Rakesh “Humpty” Sharma (Varun Dhawan). Their casual camaraderie leads to pyaar-shyaar, and even though Kavya bids adieu and heads for Ambala to get married to NRI Angad Bedi (TV star Siddharth Shukla), Humpty is set on “winning” her back. So while the first half of the film is light and fluffy, the second half settles into “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” mode, where the girl waits for her Prince Charming to come rescue her from the inevitable.
Now since this is Ambala we get the Punjabi overdose – patialas, patriarchy, Bauji, Beeji, Veerji and a spitfire of a girl who settles into subservience as soon as she sets foot in her parental home – because that’s what good little Indian girls do. Bauji’s (Ashutosh Rana) word is final, and the women just stand by and nod.
Still, I have to say that I quite enjoyed the pre-interval phase. The dialogues and the lingo are impeccable. Alia is superb because she is quite the small-town kudi-from-Punjab in her mannerisms and her accent. Dhawan is no slouch either, and does very well – great acting, emoting and dancing. Even his comic lines are down pat. The songs are cute, energetic and fun, just like in all Johar productions.
Problems occur when the film starts to get into heavy-handed desi patriarchy mode. Truth be told, Karana Johar and Co. have never quite gotten over the DDLJ hangover. This film tries to be modern, but the modernity is limited to Facebook slang. The rest of the film is pretty regressive in it’s tone and follows the DDLJ theme in the predictable second half.
Alia and Varun look cute together, and there are moments in the film where you actually feel for the young couple in love, but those moments are few. Dhawan might have the necessary ingredients to be a Bollywood hero, but he comes up rather short in the looks department. In one scene, Kavya refers to Humpty and his friends as “vanar sena” (the monkey army), and I thought she was spot-on! When the film involves comparisons with a better looking, better built , more intelligent and suave Angad, doltish Humpty pales into the woodwork. Love is blind (in this film it had to be) but HSKD failed to show me why. I should have been rooting for Kavya and Humpty, but I really didn’t care; I’d rather she’d have chucked Humpty and married Angad instead.
If you watch Bollywood films, you might think that Indian women have a thing for stupidity, given how brain-dead the heroes seem to be. That is not true. Dim-witted heroes abound, and Humpty is no exception. He is also more emotional and flies off the handle fairly quickly (in one scene rushes to the scene to beat up goons who eve-tease Kavya) – and that’s apparently seen as a good thing. We are supposed to be amused as Humpty and his friends Shonty (Gaurav Pandey) and Poplu (Sahil Viad) tie up their History professor, and threaten to do worse if he does not award Humpty a passing grade.
When it comes to dim-wittedness, the otherwise sharp Kavya is not far behind. There is an incongrous scene where Kavya, who at this point barely knows Humpty, decides to casually (and innocently) sleep over at his place (Humpty’s accommodating dad has made a quick exit), along with Shonty and Poplu, and this after she’s challenged Humpty to a beer-guzzling contest and had a few herself. I do give Johar’s films a bit of free pass when it comes to realism, but I could not see this happening in India, where news of rape fills the newspapers, and eve-teasing/street-molestation is an everyday occurrence.
The other problem is the whole melodramatic overdose. I mean, theek hai, Indian filmmakers have to harp on the parental/family ties ad nauseum. We are like this only. OK. Done. But here’s a scenario where I wish someone (scriptwriter/director/producer) would grow some brain cells : Princess Kavya has come to Delhi from Ambala vowing to buy a wedding lehenga for 5 lakhs after being rebuffed by wealthy dad and brother. It’s a wedding lehenga, not a fund for starving orphans, but Humpty, his dad, Shonty and Poplu seem to treat it with the same importance, sacrificing to gather the money; poor Kavya might die if she doesn’t get to wear a Manish Malhotra lehenga on her wedding day (sounded like sweet deliverance to me).
In summary, “Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya” tries to convince us that under our shallow, bratty shells, we all are golden-hearted, lovable, emotional fools. I was not convinced of course, although the film is a tolerably mindless, predictable entertainer. Johar & Co. try to meld together modern snazziness with the timeworn and stale DDLJ formula. I say grow up and move on already.