Dum Laga Ke Haishaa – * * * 1/2

bhumi-pednekar-with-ayushmann-khurrana-still-from-dum-laga-ke-haisha_139289574100

Nostalgia and love, often intervened, are the two emotions which probably touch the deepest chords of our hearts. Yet, while it has been reasonably and excessively milking the latter for stories, Bollywood hasn’t really mastered the skill of evoking nostalgia on screen, often confusing it with period setting or a bland regressive imitation of the era. Hence, this sweet little film deserves accolades for getting it just as perfect as seen in a really long time. The opening credits, where the usual Lata Ji’s voice with the YashRajFilms logo is replaced by a Kumar Sanu ‘heheaaaahaaa’ set the mood just right which reaches the tipping point very aptly with the suitably over the top ‘Dard Karara’  number in the end credits over a 110 mins journey, and what a journey!

Thankfully, the makers did not get buoyed by the perfection of their success in detailing and did not lose the sight of the script in the penchant for getting the minute details right. The story traces the journey of a 25 year old Haridwar boy Prem (Ayushmann) who cannot clear high school despite multiple attempts, and sits on his father’s cassettes/VCR shop and mixes tapes, and an overweight but educated and confident girl Sandhya (Bhumi), who become an unlikely couple. Amidst the embarrassment of Prem due to his wife’s plus size and his own inferiority about his failures, how their relationship grows forms the crux of the story, supported by a set of delightful actors,  Buaji (Sheeba Chaddha) being the most impactful of the lot. Apart from setting up an authentic small town of 1995, the writers also deserve full marks for showing the small towns in a fresh and positive light, and handling marriage, relationships and an overweight lead character with maturity and sensitivity. The small town characters here are neither your regressive abusive males, melodramatic mother-in-laws, nor the overtly sexed up versions as is the norm in movies. The women might be happy cooking in the kitchen and getting water for their men, but they aren’t afraid to express their opinion or even force them if need be. The men might be waiting for rotis to be served and clothes to be washed, but there is no sense of malice or dominance out of prejudice, rather it is just a way of life. Amidst all this, the lead character of the overweight Sandhya is probably one of the best etched ones in recent times. She isn’t ashamed of her size, and yet thankfully isn’t the fat girl with a golden heart, as is the cliché. Her temper, outbursts, demand to be treated as an equal and with respect are all independent of her body size, and the debutant nails it almost perfectly. Same can be said for Ayushmann, who is back in his element after a glorious debut. After a delightful first half, however things get a bit slow in the second half, and climax might seem a little rushed up. But again that delightful retro song comes as a rescue. While you get the feeling that much more could have been done with the story, we’ll give the director credit for keeping it short, simple and not trying to attempt anything larger than life.

But most credit must go to the producers, the Yash Raj Films for breaking out of their mould – of the archetypical ‘slim-milky-white’ actress, glamorous settings and trying something different. As long as the Yashrajs and Dharmas can keep making movies like this, we have hope. And for that hope, the movie deserves to be seen.

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