Dum Laga Ke Haisha: From Salman Khan's jacket to Kumar Sanu's songs, the film is a nostalgia trip for 90s kids
Let’s not mince words: Bollywood is horrible at making period films. Forget the odd Mughal-e-Azam and consider instead how the ’70s have been mangled in films like Action Replayy and Gunday. We just don't know how to recreate eras. And yet the same studio that brought us Gunday has packaged the ’90s so perfectly in Dum Laga ke Haisha that it’s bound to make everyone who grew up in that decade sigh wistfully.
As a rom-com, Sharat Katariya’s Dum Laga Ke Haisha is nothing out of the ordinary. What makes it special is that the film is like a time capsule. From the costumes, the production design, the background score to the dialogues, every detail is carefully chosen and placed to take you back to a time when there were red Ambassadors on highways, Bajaj chetaks in narrow lanes, and ink smears on the cheap paper of exam sheets.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha begins with the hero, Prem (Ayushmann Khurrana), trying to fix a broken cassette – remember those? – by spooling the tape back inside the cassette using a pencil. He works in a cassette store that his father owns and Papaji (Sanjay Mishra), like all old stalwarts, is suspicious of new technology like the CD. His shop and Prem’s world is one in which the walls seemed to be bricked with cassette spines. Prem works lovingly and carefully on the players that produce a scratchier, more muffled sound than what we’re used to hearing today in the digital era. As you watch him playing and recording songs, you will be transported back to the time when this music and these cassettes were a part of your life.
Whether or not your childhood was spent in a lower middle class family, if you grew up in the ’90s, Dum Laga Ke Haisha will bring in a tide of nostalgia. For instance, in Prem’s home in Haridwar, there’s only one telephone – a landline, that sits in the most public part of the house so that everyone in the family has access to it. At one point, Prem's mother tell his two sisters, who are going home after visiting their parents, "Ghar pahuchte missed call de dena." She turns to one daughter and says, "Tu ek missed call dena" (you give one missed call) and then turns to the other and asks her to give two “missed calls”.
With a whoosh, I was taken back to the time when we didn’t have caller ID on phones and the cost of a single call was important. To the days of missed calls that communicated through the number of rings and blank calls. Those years when your father would yell his lungs out at a boy who steadfastly calls and keeps quiet every time your father picks up the phone instead of you.
Details like this make Dum Laga Ke Haisha utterly charming. Limca isn’t a soft drink trying to be sexy, but the perfect cure for acidity. Engineering is still the best profession and there’s respect for those who can do things with their hands – like fix a cassette recorder. Strains of “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” can be heard when the television is turned on and women learn cooking from Sanjeev Kapoor. When Prem goes with his family to meet his bride-to-be, he wears a copy of his namesake’s coat in Hum Apke Hai Kaun. Salman Khan’s brightly-coloured coats with padded shoulders were a rage back then and as tacky as it may look now, if you wanted to impress people in the ’90s, that’s what you wore.
And then there’s the soundtrack. Prem is a Kumar Sanu fan in the film and so, Sanu’s songs fill Prem’s life. In a particularly hilarious scene, Prem and his wife Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar) quarrel, not through words but using Sanu’s songs. First, Prem plays a song in which Sanu croons what Prem can’t tell Sandhya himself. Sandhya responds by stopping that cassette and popping in one that plays a song that speaks of her situation. They’re furious at each other and the contrast between the saccharine sweetness of Sanu’s voice and the couple’s rage is hilarious – particularly because the lyrics of the songs are actually perfectly applicable to Sandhya and Prem.
Listening to Sanu’s nasal voice singing Hindi lyrics with a slightly Bengali pronunciation, I couldn’t help riding the wave of nostalgia. Sanu’s songs are the soundtrack to my childhood --- my first crush on that school headboy (Kuch Na Kaho), the crazy Shah Rukh Khan worshipping days (Ladki Badi Anjani Hai), my first break up (Ab Tere Bin Je Lenge Hum). Music historians can quibble about their greatness or lack thereof, but for us ’90s kids, that was a simpler, happier decade.
Trust me, Katariya’s film is the closest you can get to those years without passing though a wormhole.
Updated Date: Mar 02, 2015 18:07:51 IST
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