Do Lafzon Ki Kahani is adapted from the 2011 South Korean film Always, which hinged on a plot point from the Kamal Haasan-starring Manmadan Ambu, made a year earlier. Strange are the workings of the remake world. This is one of those films about two lonely souls with troubled pasts who come together. Jenny (Kajal Agarwal) is a blithe spirit. She’s blind, and she has that talent blind people in bad movies have – even if they live alone, they’re impeccably turned out, and not a thing is out of place at home. She bubbles over with emotion when watching soaps on TV. At least some of this bubbling is due to the bad habits Kajal Agarwal has picked up from playing chirpy things in Tamil and Telugu masala movies. With her gangly limbs and saucer eyes, she always seems to be playing some sort of cartoon character. She’s much better here. She doesn’t have any makeup on. She looks more… real, at least as real as someone can be while being a blind physiotherapist and teacher and nurse and all-round arts-and-crafts person. Did I mention she makes a killer gajar ka halwa?
Sooraj (Randeep Hooda) is, in every way, her opposite. He was once a fighter who called himself Storm – tattoos of lightning bolts race across his arms. Now, he’s quiet, withdrawn. Is there another actor today who gives so much of himself to films that give him so little? It isn’t just that Hooda looks all bulked up from when we saw him in Sarbjit. That’s just the externals. It’s how he puts across a socially awkward man, someone who’s been alone for so long that he’s forgotten how to be with others. He doesn’t look at people in the eye. When spoken to, he doesn’t reply, but we sense the words forming in his head. My favourite moment from the film came when Jenny asks him what he looks like, and he replies, “Log mujhe rough-and-tough bolte hain.” And he looks away with a shy smile. After she comes into his life, the smile becomes broader. He actually laughs. Hooda shows us the slow blossoming of a man.
I was surprised to find they still made movies like this – and in South Korea, from where we get those films about eating live octopuses and demonstrating innovative ways to make blood spurt from the human body. We don’t find these films in today’s Hollywood, give or take the odd adaptation from the Nicholas Sparks oeuvre, but once upon a time, audiences weren’t so leery of sentimentality. Do Lafzon Ki Kahani, named inexplicably after a song from The Great Gambler, tips a hat to some of Hollywood’s biggest hits. Remember City Lights, where Chaplin entered a boxing tournament in order to pay for the blind girl’s operation? That’s here – except that it’s now mixed martial arts. Remember An Affair to Remember, where Deborah Kerr decides to be a martyr, distancing herself from Cary Grant? That’s here too.
But everything around Sooraj and Jenny is terrible. The generic soundtrack is filled with angsty male voices that sound as though they’re auditioning for “Who Wants to be the Next Rahat Fateh Ali Khan?”. The scenes feel rushed. We aren’t allowed to wallow in the melodrama. And when melodrama isn’t milked to the maximum, we don’t cry for the lovers – we laugh at the ludicrousness. Jenny is harassed by her boss, who visits her and, when offered something to drink, says, “I have my own juice.” He may not just be talking about the beer in his hand. Maybe a Mohit Suri could have made all this work, but we’re left with the filmmaker who was first Deepak Tijori and then became Depak Tijori and is now freshly revowelled. He’s back to being Deepak Tijori. This is his sixth outing as director. In 2003, while promoting his first film, Oops, he offered this explanation for the title. “I named my film Oops because that’s the most natural thing you say when you make a mistake.” In that case, Deepak, you’ve just made Oops 6.
- “Log mujhe rough-and-tough bolte hain.” = People call me rough-and-tough.
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