Hum Do Hamare Do movie review: Rajkummar Rao, Kriti Sanon's charm papers over weak conflict

Hum Do Hamare Do holds weak foundations with lazy character detailing but is saved by a better second-half.

Prathyush Parasuraman October 29, 2021 09:25:26 IST

3/5

It takes a moment to orient yourself heart-first towards Hum Do Hamare Do. This is because none of the initial scenes stick, their drama feels diffuse. There is a lazy, faux conversational quality to the moment — THE moment — when the hero, Dhruv (Rajkummar Rao), and the heroine, Anya (Kriti Sanon) first meet, first lock eyes, first speak, first kiss. Are they falling in love or loitering around a generic feeling?

Similarly, when we are given a brief glimpse of the hero's orphaned childhood, his caretaker Purushottam Mishra (Paresh Rawal) and the caretaker's history with a past lover Dipti Kashyap (Ratna Pathak Shah) in one fell swoop of a scene, nothing registers as dramatic. You hope the film will explain itself, but you wonder if the set up needed to be this underwhelming. For a film that is rumbling towards the templated happily ever after, the foundations are shockingly weak.

The weakness of the conflict is not a problem as much as it is an inconvenience. Nothing feels at stake.

The wide-eyed acrobatics, thus, feel excessive. The dramatic background score feels unearned. At one point Dhruv is rattling through Chandigarh in a car to get home urgently and I really couldn't understand why.

But can weak foundations hold a strong film? Hum Do Hamare Do comes as close as one can to answering in the affirmative. That a second half, if such a concept even exists, can inject enough feeling and humour that the flaws that led to it blur, dimmed in the shadow of a high wattage wedding and a pre-climactic confrontation that despite being plotted in a clunky manner, delivers the moment with the required force of feeling and articulation. You are happy that they are happy — message received, right?

The central conceit of the film is, however, weak. Anya (not Ananya, Anya) and Dhruv fall in love in the templated shrug of a non-sexual lovesick song, hands over mouth laughing, head arched back to laugh some more, Rajkummar Rao's dimples doing overtime. She loves family, he comes from none. He is convinced she won't take the marital plunge if she finds out about his orphanhood and so cooks up a make-do family. His caretaker, Purushottam Mishra, becomes his father. Purushottam is convinced to take on the role after his lover from another time Dipti is recruited to play his wife and thus Dhruv's mother.

A parallel track, thus, enters the film. The titular Hamare Do are not the kids — as is the ideal image of the Indian family, 2 kids, 2 parents — but these two adults who are also walking awkwardly around their feelings. Old-generation love is a bubbling sub genre that burst into the spotlight with Badhai Ho, the best of which I think was Golmaal 3 which also had Ratna Pathak Shah. That film leaned into the absurdity but retained the innocence of love lassoed back over time. Here, apart from one hilarious sketch where they are pretending to do Bharatanatyam, their love feels spoken about, not accounted for. There is a backstory here too, but even without it, the story would feel unmoved. A lot of the writing feels like loose jenga blocks without which the structure would still stand.

The character detailing is, understandably, lazy. We don't want to see people, we want to see lovers. And lovers only love, with employment woes at the blurred edges of their conscience. Anya is a blogger. She takes polaroids. Dhruv does VR. He lives in his own world. He also teaches kids to draw houses by the roadside (that was irony, right?), the golden-hearted philanthropist that he is. I sometimes wonder if this need to show women as working and thus saddling them with odd roles like chocolatier (Sanon in Raabta) or the spectacled aesthetic psychiatrist (Jacqueline Fernandez in Kick) is a step forward or a delayed sinking into the patriarchal quicksand. Either way, she's a blogger.

I wish it weren’t the case that Rajkummar Rao only smile and stutter to be considered charming, but that is where we stand. That is all he does, but it seems, that is all he needs to do. The charm brims. Same with Sanon's self-aware beauty. The problem is that each of them feels like they are thinking of themselves while shooting a scene. A hubris that is so easy to spot. They are lovely as individuals but together, there is the forceful spark of the last matchstick being rammed into the flayed red phosphorus ribbon. Where’s the erotic longing? Besides, both actors don't bring to this film a craft that we have not seen them perform before. It's not a bad thing, but as far artistic progression goes, it's not the best news. Ditto for the film vis-a-vis the yellowing rom-com genre. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not the best news.

Rating: * * *

Hum Do Hamare Do is streaming on Disney+Hotstar

Prathyush Parasuraman is a critic and journalist, who writes a weekly newsletter on culture, literature, and cinema at prathyush.substack.com.

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