If you want to fully understand the struggles of newcomers without powerful godparents in the Hindi film industry, watch dear Yami Gautam from Vicky Donor (2012) and the very likeable Pulkit Samrat from Fukrey (2013) brave their way through Sanam Re. It is a cringe-worthy film with cringe-worthy pretensions to gravitas and grandeur, amateurish writing and the most ludicrous choreography ever seen in mainstream Bollywood.
Those who planted the label “Jumping Jack” on poor Jeetendra in the 1980s may feel inclined to mail him an apology if they see the hilarious dance steps in Sanam Re. In one scene, actress Urvashi Rautela shakes her ample booty dressed in a white outfit with what seems like macramé trimmings. She leans her back against Pulkit’s body, encircles his neck with her raised arms, jumps in the air, does a mid-air split, then sinks down with both legs spread wide apart. A few seconds after that laughable routine, there she is again, bending to plant both hands on the ground where Pulkit lies, then throwing the rest of her body up in the air in what appears to be an attempt at a hand stand, before descending on his prone body.
I suppose you could liken her to a gymnast performing floor exercises at the Olympics – except that the quality of those moves is so poor that she would be refused entry to gali-level contests.
Sanam Re’s inexplicable choreography is credited to the film’s director, Divya Khosla Kumar, who must be delusional considering that she pays tribute to herself twice within the first few minutes of the film. Divya, who? Did I hear you right? Precisely.
The lady had tried her hand at acting over a decade back before she married Bhushan Kumar, son of T-Series’ founder Gulshan Kumar. She made her directorial debut with 2014’s sleeper hit Yaariyan which some of you who have not seen may still recognise from its signature song by Yo Yo Honey Singh with the truly cerebral lyrics, “Aaj blue hai paani / Paani paani paani paani paani / Aur din bhi sunny / Sunny sunny sunny sunny sunny.”
Within seconds of Pulkit’s emergence on screen in Sanam Re, his car radio plays Sunny Sunny. Moments later, along comes Divya, all limbs and no grace, dancing awkwardly at a party to a song titled Humne Pee Rakhi Hai. This is the only number she has not choreographed herself.
It would be unfair to the concept of time to waste it by recounting the story in detail. Here is a précis of a précis: a little boy called Aakash (Neil Tyagi) in a mountain town called Tanakpur is told by his grandfather (Rishi Kapoor) that he will find true love just 500 steps away from their home. Kid takes Dadaji literally and walks that exact distance, only to turn away from the girl he finds at the stop. His reaction has something to do with what Dadaji said about how the heart will beat faster if she is The One. His dil does not go dhadak dhadak until later when he sees another little girl (Delissa Mehra) and remains in love with her till he, now grown up as Pulkit Samrat, leaves town for better prospects in the sheher without informing her (Yami Gautam).
They meet, they part, they meet, they part. Somewhere along the way, a second woman called Mrs Pablo a.k.a. Akanksha (Urvashi Rautela) falls in love with Aakash, Dadaji gets very very old, his Johnson and Johnson Photo Studio (estd 1902) has to be sold, someone mutters something about Aakash’s responsibility to his hometown and someone else has a heart disease. Don’t ask who. Who cares? I am too busy trying not to doze off. Meanwhile, the noisy couple a few seats away from me in the near-empty hall are taking calls from home and work, and issuing loud instructions on the phone to sundry people. I do not shush them as I usually would, since their rude interruptions keep me awake.
Also in this bland, desperately-trying-to-be-cool-and-clever potpourri is Aakash’s “Shackspeare”-spouting boss (Manoj Joshi) in his Mumbai office whose English we are clearly meant to laugh at when he says things like “How make me fun of dare”; and a yoga camp which Aakash attends, where the overweight instructor dispenses nuggets of wisdom that go something like this: Jhaanko back into your past, Don’t drive in lane fast. When Aakash has nightmares, his roommate at the camp is even more profound. “Sensex bann gaya hai tu,”says the chap, “kabhi chadhta hai toh kabhi utartha hai (Like the sensex, you rise and you fall).” Umm…meaning?
By the time Shruti gets around to saying, “Aakash, pyaar woh safar hai jisko meelon main nahin, gehraee mein naapa jaata hai (Aakash, love is a journey that is measured not by miles but by its depth),” I am grateful – this pretentious line at least means something in a sea of nothingness. Clearly someone involved in this project thinks they’ve created an epic love story. They’ve not.
In a reasonably worthwhile film, I might have troubled myself to debate the bizarreness of a grandfather earnestly dishing out advice on true love to his possibly 7/8-year-old grandchild. Their conversations are clearly meant to be cute, when in fact they’re silly, even inappropriate. To say more would be to take the film more seriously than it deserves to be taken.
Correction to the previous sentence: Sanam Re is not a film, it is a non-film.