Film: Hamari Adhuri Kahani
Director: Mohit Suri
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan, Rajkummar Rao
Directed by Mohit Suri (of hits like Aashiqui 2 & Ek Villain), Hamari Adhuri Kahani (“Our Incomplete Story”) had all the makings of a huge hit: a star-studded cast with the likes of Vidya Balan, Emraan Hashmi, and Rajkummar Rao, a beautiful soundtrack, and a screenplay written by Mahesh Bhatt. I walked into the theatre, and settled into my seat brimming with anticipation. The trailer had left me teary-eyed and intrigued, so I naturally extended the inclination to the film. I was, quite unfortunately left sorely disappointed.
The film starts with an aged Vidya getting off a bus and slowly crawling to her death a scant distance from the town of Bastar. We are then introduced to Rajkummar Rao’s character Hari, who is also aged, recounting a story to a psychiatrist who casually dismisses his tale as a hallucination. Upon leaving the doctor he is confronted by his daughter-in-law who brings him to her home for the last rites of Vidya’s character Vasudha, who has just passed away. They discuss details of her passing and effectively corroborate the story that Hari was telling the doctor. After a brief but intense argument over where Vasudha’s ashes should be taken (her son wants to take them to the river Ganga - in accordance with Hindu tradition, but Hari disagrees, without giving reasons for his objections), Hari is forcibly removed from his son’s home.
The next morning the young couple awake to find Vasudha’s ashes stolen, and in their place, a diary, with an explanation, written by Hari. Thus begins the flashback to Hari and Vasudha’s younger selves. There, we watch their complicated history and Vasudha’s constant self-conflict between upholding tradition and the desire for love (in the form of Emraan Hashmi’s character Aarav). The whole thing is extremely melodramatic, and Vidya’s normally stunning performance is eclipsed by the harsh contrast of her expressive acting versus Emraan’s stoicism. The film’s writing is a let down. The words and their delivery are reminiscent of cheesy eighties “filmi-style” dialogues, which is visually complemented with a plethora of unnecessary close ups and ridiculous sets from the director.
In my humble opinion, some of the best moments occurred when the actors had absolutely no dialogue, and were allowed to simply express themselves. Emraan Hashmi’s perfectly combined anxiety, compassion, love, and frustration, when Vasudha will not give him the chance to express his love; or, Vidya’s obvious disdain for patriarchal and misogynistic society is heard loud and clear, without her making a long speech about it.
Despite this, the real star of the film is Rajkummar Rao. His mannerisms, his voice, his eyes, his gestures, his entire persona is perfectly timed. He displays the widest range of emotions in the film, and though most of them are negative, they are easily distinguished. His journey from a jilted and controlling husband, to a vengeful lover is fascinating to behold. His anger is almost tangible during the film and is brilliantly contrasted by his meek, stuttering voice. And though his character was meant to be a “villain,” someone to hate and discard when the film was done, Rao’s performance stayed with me long after I’d left the cinema, leaving Vidya and Emraan’s tragic love story far behind in the dust.
While this film did not live up to my expectations by any means, I’ll admit I was surprised to find certain high points in my disappointment. Rao’s performance was unexpected, but appreciated, and both Vidya and Emraan had moments that shone just the same. Plot holes abound, and the writing left much to be desired, but overall I did not hate it. Would I recommend this film? Yes. It is worth sitting through the two hours, just to see Rajkummar Rao’s performance. Would I recommend seeing this film in theatres? Not so much. It is definitely a film to see on your own time, in the comfort of your home, where you and your family, friends, or significant other can make fun of all the cheesy dialogues without consequence.