Readers Write In #433: Retro Movie Review: Hum Tum (2004)

Posted on January 3, 2022

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Retro Movie Review: Hum Tum (2004)

By R. Kailasham

‘Was a long and dark December
From the rooftops I remember
There was snow, white snow’
Violet Hill, Coldplay

Winter is delayed for the folks of Pittsburgh. I had traveled up the Duquesne Incline to see the city from an elevated vantage on New Years’ eve. The new year dawned quietly and softly, much like the rain drops that pattered against my apartment’s window. 

My girlfriend, Shreemoyee, who lives in India, had suggested that we watch Hum Tum, a movie released in 2004. Incidentally, she shares her nickname with the heroine’s name in the picture. I had only ever heard of the film, and heard its songs, but never seen it. I assembled snacks (masala chai + rusk) and got ready for the online movie session.

The readers of this forum would probably be aware of my love for the movie, Unnale Unnale, directed by Jeeva. There is a scene at the airport, in the early stages of the movie, where a single mother, played by Kirron Kher, is seeing off her daughter. I could not help but wonder if director Jeeva was inspired to use this scene in his movie. I also wondered, later, if Kirron Kher is the Bollywood equivalent of our Aachi Manorama, given the number of single mother roles both these ladies have essayed. The movie’s continual references to the yin-yang of a relationship, and the tension between men and women, could have inspired the opening montage in Unnale Unnale. While one would normally expect movies set in New York to feature at least a bit of the bustling street life, director Kunal Kohli opts instead to shoot the only New York-based scene with dialogues in Central Park. I have highlighted a couple of Tamil movie scenes which are inspired by this movie, but I have an inkling that Hum Tum set the stage for several urban romances in Bollywood too.

The story follows a globe-trotting happy-go-lucky Saif Ali Khan (is there any other version of him?) and a serious Rani Mukherjee who run into each other at cities all around the world. In spite of initial misunderstandings, we witness a bridge forming between them, supported by chance events interspersed over a period of several years. New York, Delhi, Paris, and Mumbai have been captured in picturesque detail. Shree and I particularly enjoyed spotting familiar locales and settings from the scenes set in the backdrop of Powai Lake and Marine Drive. Despite the movie veering to the City of Love twice, it is in Mumbai that the titular romance finds a happy conclusion.

Rani Mukherjee is married to her college beau, Abhishek Bachchan, but their marriage is cruelly cut short by fate. Saif learns about her loss at the stroke of the intermission hour. In the second half of the movie, the lead pair develops feelings for each other that transcend friendship, but they are held back by their inability to articulate said feelings. Saif Ali Khan’s estranged parents (Rishi Kapoor and Rati Agnihotri), his brother (played by the inimitable Jimmy Shergill), and Kirron Kher are all that is needed in the form of a supporting cast. 

The animation sequences in the movie that feature the cartoon characters “Hum” and “Tum” blend neatly with the narration. I am not sure if this is the first movie to employ such a trick, but I can’t remember another movie in which animations are used to such engaging effect.

As I read through the Wikipedia entry on the movie, I found that it had been nominated for the Filmfare Best Scene of the Year but did not win. I had no idea that such an award category existed. I would choose the best scene of the movie to be when a drunk Saif Ali Khan can be seen talking to the restaurant workers about how his attempts at helping Rani Mukherjee find a suitable groom after the death of her husband had backfired. I imagined what those lines would sound like in Tamil, and here is a loose attempt at translation: ‘Ava azhara da. Aaana ennamo theriyala, anga avalukku kanneer vantha enakku inga, en nenjula valikudhu. Idhu entha mathiri nyayamnu theriyala. Seriya paartha, antha kanneerum valiyum enakku mattum than sonthamaganum. Avalukkilla.’  

Shree nominated an earlier scene in the picture, where Saif Ali Khan visits Rani Mukherjee at 2 AM to convince her that it is possible to find a suitable partner through arranged marriage, to be her favorite.

We skipped through most of the songs, except for the first and last ones in the movie, which also serve to advance the story. I did not previously know that the composer duo Jatin-Lalit was active during this period. The “Hum Tum” song, with Alka Yagnik’s lilting vocals, is my favorite from the album. The visuals from this song, particularly the couple riding a horse carriage in South Bombay, might have inspired a similar scene in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Salim-Sulaiman’s background score ably supports the flick in its transitions from scene-to-scene. 

One of the last scenes from the movie involves the lead characters wondering how on earth it was raining in a January in Mumbai. I wondered the same about Pittsburgh as I stared out of the window. As the raindrops coalesced and formed rivulets that flowed down the glass pane, memories bubbled forth.