By Gayatri Gauri
O married lady, thy place is at thy lover’s feet,
Worshipping gratitude is thy virtue.
Who else doth uplift you bechari
But the rich boss swooning over your lilies?
Such is the undying faith expressed in the good Indian wife by Mahesh Bhatt, writer and producer of Hamari Adhuri Kahani(HAK) and self-professed woman’s lib advocate turned regressive preacher. In HAK, he has for company theAashiqui 2 and Ek Villain director, Mohit Suri, and their regular dialogue writer, Shagufta Rafique. The trio’s conviction in a bygone century’s sacrificial feminine lambs and grateful tearjerkers results in in a ridiculous love story that attempts to be a tragedy, but ends up being an unintentional comedy.
How else can you explain or react to Vidya Balan falling at Emraan Hashmi’s feet, shedding tears of helpless gratitude?
The two actors were explosive as enemies in The Dirty Picture. A single night of not-so-dirty conversation between the two in that film was enough to establish them as a couple with promising chemistry. Hashmi proved he can act better than he can kiss. Balan was nicknamed “Vidya Khan” after her delightfully uninhibited “Ooh La La” act, which she followed up with an equally impressive performance in Kahaani.
It was inevitable that Balan and Hashmi would be paired again and both times, they’ve played husband and wife. Both times, it’s been disappointing. Ghanchakkar did not do them justice. In HAK, the perfect duo of The Dirty Picture couldn’t be more imperfect to tell Bhatt’s parents’ real love story.
When the delightfully bold and supremely clever, pregnant wife from Kahani changes into Vasudha, a whimpering, mangalsutra-clutching wife, it’s nothing short of a casting blasphemy. It’s also a surefire way to kill every acting talent cell in the wonderful Balan, who is reduced to a whimpering mess. As Vasudha keeps palming her mangalsutra — as though doing so makes her a conscientious, dutiful wife with A-plus character certificate — you can’t help but remember Farah Khan’s famous “ek chutki sindoor…” spoof in Om Shanti Om. It was meant to be about the movies in the seventies, but could very much apply to HAK.
Vasudha marries Hari (Rajkummar Rao), who forces her to tattoo his name on her arm. Satisfied with that stamp, he disappears for five years, leaving Vasudha to bring up their son alone. She works as a florist at a five-star hotel owned by business tycoon, Aarav (Hashmi).
The smitten Aarav suddenly turns shy and expresses himself by asking her to send him selfies. The two romance amidst exotic flowers in greenhouses and exotic landscapes that fail to match Yash Chopra’s gorgeous tulip fields inSilsila. Along with the singing twosome, you too might wondering , “yeh kahan aa gaye hum….?” Both the selfies and the flowers repeatedly pop up until the mindblowing significance of the two is written into the oh-so-(not)-clever climax.
How can this flowery love story be without conflict? Of course, the missing husband turns up as a bearded terrorist hiding under a bed in his own house. Here’s a fine example of what a bad script and direction can do to perfectly good actors. Rao is at his worst playing this lunatic, jealous husband, looking like a homeless lunatic, mumbling silly lines and shaking his white-haired head like Shah Rukh Khan in Veer Zara.
HAK moves from Mumbai to Dubai and ends up in the deserted and dangerous roads of terrorist-ridden Bastar in Chattisgarh, which apparently is a dead ringer for South Africa. This is a journey of pain: the pain of watching the talented Balan struggling to justify a badly-written role; the pain of seeing the director of Arth stuck in a time warp and refusing to grow out of a poor-me syndrome; the pain of watching Bhatt kill the memorable Kahaani girl of Ooh La La land with the that mighty Indian weapon: the mangalsutra.