Dum Laga ke Haisha review: This Ayushmann, Bhumi Pednekar starrer is YRF's best in years
Dum Laga Ke Haisha is as crowd-pleasing as a film gets, only without manipulation or contrivances. It’s also the best Yash Raj film in a very long time.
The ’90s were the G-spot in the fabric of time. Everything about that decade was wonderful. Life was simpler. The air was cleaner. People were friendlier. Trees were greener and the Taj was less yellow. Pop culture was seeping into our lives for the first time. Cable TV began encroaching the social space. Bollywood was pulpier than an overripe banana, and Hindi film music, thanks to the advent of home video and cassette tapes, had infected everyone. It’s the reason why most auto and truck drivers still listen to ’90s’ Bollywood music – it was their pop culture when they grew up.
Nostalgia is the only emotion that matches love in intensity and Sharat Katariya’s Dum Laga Ke Haisha milks our nostalgia for that bygone era to wonderful effect. This is as crowd-pleasing as a film gets, only without mawkish manipulation or contrivances. It’s also the best Yash Raj film in a very long time.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha opens with the Yash Raj logo against 90s’ legend Kumar Sanu’s humming, replacing Lata Mangeshkar’s traditional vocals. Sanu is like a spirit in this film and also the spirit of the film, but more on that later.
Set in Haridwar, the film stars Ayushmann Khurrana as Prem, a manchild who unwillingly gets married to the cute but horizontally-challenged Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar). Now here’s the tossup – Prem is neither qualified nor talented. Sandhya is both of those things. But these are the ’90s, and arranged marriages didn’t leave much room for choice for either party. So they get hitched and while Sandhya digs Prem, the latter is not excited about spending the rest of his life with a well-rounded woman. Naturally, sparks fly.
There’s a wonderful scene in which Prem and Sandhya ride a scooter and her sandal falls off. Prem gets grouchy about stopping to pick it up; she feels guilty for spoiling his mood. But he walks over and fetches the sandal all the same, and she believes in love again. Khurrana and Pednekar’s chemistry is effortlessly charming, and they make the silliness of these old love stories work, without losing sight of their absurdity. For instance, the old tradition of the boy rejecting the girl is continued in Dum Laga Ke Haisha but with a twist. Sandhya doesn’t tearfully accept Prem’s rejection and leave it at that – she lets him have it, much to the hilarious reactions of their in-laws. Prem’s mother reads out a divorce injunction and faints to the ground, only to have her husband ask why she’s taking a nap on the floor.
Katariya’s film may sound like a more grounded take on Rab Ne Bana di Jodi, but there's a palpable sense of fun and sweetness throughout Dum Laga Ke Haisha that lifts it above the cliches and tradition of Bollywood romances. The detailing, both in design and in the characters, as well as the crackling humour elevates Dum Laga Ke Haisha beyond the clichés.
The film is beautifully shot (by Manu Anand) and scored (by Andrea Guerra). A special mention goes out to the production design by Meenal Agarwal, which includes great ’90s’ details, from cassette tapes to scooters. Even the dialogue renders that era – one person suggests to someone with an upset stomach, “Limca pee lo, thik ho jayega.” And let’s not forget the wonderful rediscovery of Kumar Sanu, whose aforementioned spirit renders some gobsmacking fan service here, thanks to Anu Malik and Varun Grover’s music.
There are a few unnecessary subplots in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, like the one featuring the an aunt’s ex-husband, but the acting department goes a long way in making up for the gaffes in the script. Khurrana’s everyman vulnerability will make you forget the bad memories of Hawaizaada. Sanjay Mishra and Seema Pahwa (from Aankhon Dekhi), play in laws this time and are fantastic. They really should appear in every single movie, preferably together. The camaraderie between Sheeba Chadda and Alika Amin is also fun.
However, everyone in the movie needs to make way for Bhumi Pednekar. Placing the central focus on an overweight lady is unconventional enough to begin with, and Pednekar meets the challenge by owning every moment. Whether it’s the shy grin of a new bride, her suhaag raat nervousness, the crumbling smile of rejection, or sheer fury, Pednekar never comes across as anything but genuine. It’s as though she isn’t playing that character – she is that character. This has to be the most memorable leading lady debuts in recent history.
Director Katariya keeps things very simple, yet entertaining and relatable. If you’ve had first hand experience with a situation like the one in which the film’s lead couple find themselves, they’ll find enough to appreciate in Dum Laga Ke Haisha. For the rest, it’s a chance to revisit a lost decade and revive our interest in Yash Raj Films. It’s good to know that the production house that brings us over-the-top spectacles like the Dhoom films can make something small, hilarious and straight from the heart.
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