STATE OF THE HEART
Six honeymooning couples invade Goa in a romance that’s quite clever, but where’s the charm?
FEB 25, 2007 – WHEN I WATCHED DIL CHAHTA HAI, I was â like everyone else â struck by how fresh it was, but as the story neared its end, I found my initial euphoria waning. In the early portions, when there was no âplotâ? to speak of and we were simply asked to coast along with Akash and Sid and Sameer, it was as if the screenplay was as much a goofy slacker as these guys. Weâd pause for a bit of philosophy by the beach here or for a birthday celebration there, and weâd move on. But then, for such an airy outing, things got extremely heavy-duty. Farhan Akhtar seemed to have developed cold feet about going so far away from tried-tested Bollywood that he felt he had to force in a variation on the old yeh–shaadi–nahin–ho–sakti. Yes, yes, I know the point of all that drama was to show that this man who thought himself too hip for love was now being forced to bare his heart in true filmi fashion, but did this have to happen on the day of the wedding? Did he have to kneel down in front of all those people? Did that one-dimensional chauvinist-pig of a fiancÃ© have to threaten to beat up our hero? In a regular Bollywood movie, the answer would be yes, yes and yes. But Dil Chahta Hai was, so far, anything but a regular Bollywood movie. So why?
I reacted the same way upon seeing Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd., which comes to us from Akhtarâs production house â and is therefore filled wall-to-wall with his sensibilities. Itâs about six pairs of newlyweds who opt for a packaged bus-tour honeymoon in Goa, and for starters, I could never buy that a group this upwardly-mobile would end up in Goa, that too on a bus. But, okay, you say, thereâs a lot here to indicate that reality isnât a primary consideration, and you go along with the conceit. (Thereâs no other option, for the story is just one larky conceit after another â beginning with the fact that its multi-culti group of characters, coming off like Teen Batti Chaar Rasta on four wheels, are patly representative of the Great Indian Microcosm.) Despite the large cast trudging along from one place to another, this isnât a road movie in the truest sense, for the only interactions we see are those between the couples themselves; thereâs not much dealing with people or things along the way, so this is mostly a relationship drama going for humour and heartbreak. So far so good, because thereâs a lightness to the proceedings that makes things easy to watch â even if thereâs nothing at stake, and thereâs nobody you really care about â but at the end, thereâs that Dil Chahta Hai heavy-dutiness again, and this time, weâre actually asked to swallow a big, fact lecture about, yes, the nature of love. This isnât some dramatic sequence, where we absorb whatâs going on and deduce for ourselves this message; the film literally stops dead in its tracks and belts out a solemn speech. And again I was left asking â why?
What is it about these Akhtar productions â this one is directed by Reema Kagti â that they begin so marvellously, so free of clichÃ©s, and somehow wind up bowing before the very traditions that you thought the films were trying to break free from? It canât be box-office considerations, for no one can give that excuse in this multiplex age. Maybe he thinks that, heart of hearts, weâre all unabashed Bollywood lovers, so we need the songs, the dances, even the fights. (You really have to see the way a mini action sequence is shoehorned into this script!) So he gives us all of these, but with a broad wink, so we realise that he doesnât fully buy into these conventions â and this distance makes it hard for us to fully buy into his almost-Bollywood movies. (There was no such problem with Salaam-e-Ishq, that other six-couples-in-love story, because that was â whether you loved it or hated it â all-out Hindi cinema.) I didnât buy the bit where a so-in-love couple is chased across a forest by thugs (because the girl has eloped), I didnât buy the uptight Kay Kay Menon character accepting a drink from a few random hippies on the way and ending up drugged, and I didnât buy the high-energy dance that follows (though it is fun to watch, and Vishal-Shekharâs Sajnaji vari vari is downright infectious). At times like these, I couldnât get this image out of my head, that of a group of young â and very talented â filmmakers in the discussion room giving each other high-fives that this idea soooo rocks, never mind that their placement in the overall film has to soooo rock too.
A lot of these young ideas do work. I loved the cheeky cut from a full-bladdered Ranveer Shorey unzipping in front of a urinal to wine being poured out of a bottle. And Delhi-ites are probably going to hate the stereotyping, but the filmâs most hilarious creation is the Barbie Doll-incarnate from the capital city, played by Amisha Patel. (Sheâs dressed perpetually in bubblegum pink and she calls her husband âlollypopâ?.) The Abhay Deol-Minissha Lamba track too works wonderfully. (They look so wholesome and freshly scrubbed, itâs as if weâre watching a pair of the Bobbsey Twins all grown up.) Thereâs a scene where he puckers his lips and blows lightly at her, and flowers from an overhead branch drop down on her; itâs only later that you see the reason this happens, and that revelation is Kagtiâs sweetest, nuttiest conceit. Theyâre made for each other, these two, and when weâre shown their flashback, Tum aa gaye ho plays in the background. Thatâs a running gag, that each of these couples gets a flashback underlined by one old film song that best sums up the situation. The only exception is in the story of Shabana Azmi and Boman Irani, who marry late, and the song that they get is part of their present, not their past. Theirs is a strange tale, and what better number to highlight this than Ajeeb dastaan hai yeh â sung on a boat no less! (A big salute to Kagti for acknowledging these tracks â and their composers/songwriters â during the closing credits.)
But this cleverness doesnât help when Azmi cries in the shower â you donât know why until you see her back-story â or when a gay angle crops up or when a wayward daughter appears out of nowhere or when you see that, after marriage, things seem to have changed between Kay Kay Menon and Raima Sen. The minute the script turns serious, Honeymoon falls flat. (Maybe they should have taken a hint from one of the songs and kept things… Halke halke.) The huge (and very appealing) cast makes sure that the film is never less than watchable, but thatâs about all Honeymoon is. Azmi and Irani get a moving moment when they are asked how they got together and they string up some wild take about being in planes flying near one another and floating down in a parachute. (Theyâve been brought together by a tragic series of events, and they understandably have no wish to share all of this with a complete stranger, and so they invent this fantasy.) The scene is played for a laugh, but thereâs also romance in the air, thanks to the soaring French music in the background. For a minute here, the film stops trying to be clever, which is probably why the emotion comes across so strongly. Sometimes, love stories are better made from the heart rather than the head.
Copyright Â©2007 The New Sunday Express