In 1995, Aditya Chopra directed his debut film, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge under his father’s banner, Yash Raj Films. The film changed the game of Indian cinema in more ways than one and is considered the most landmark film of its generation. So much so that it ran for 18 years at a single screen in Mumbai and people still went for it. In all the years following its release, many films have aped it or parts of it in various ways at various times. Fair enough. Karan Johar started his career by assisting Aditya in DDLJ and today he has produced Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya with Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt, helmed by a new director, Shashank Khaitan. In its true sense, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania is the closest tribute/rip-off/parody of DDLJ and it amicably accepts it, referencing the original at every step, to the extent that in a poignant moment of the film, the heroine’s dad says, “Jaa, Jee Le Apni Zindagi.”
Now the initial promos of HSKD were not doused with freshness or alacrity that made me expect a lot out of it. Even the song promos were of refurbished famous numbers of the past. Yet, I wanted to see the lead pair in action, mostly because I have developed a fair liking for Alia as an actor. Wait, I might have to take that back as she did not have to do much in either 2 States or HSKD. But more on that later. Humpty and Kavya are star crossed lovers who are also DDLJ obsessives. They meet, they fall in love, she is getting married, dad is positively against them, he goes to her house, wins the girl. DDLJ much? Well yeah, but then Shashank Khaitan’s writing modernizes the classic and strains out the manipulative emotional wrangling bits. He even makes the girl’s dad share a smoke with the hero and the actual discovery of Humpty’s intentions comes much earlier than DDLJ. Varun Dhawan is no Shahrukh Khan and it is Khaitan who makes sure that he does not have to be either. Humpty and Kavya have an irritable spunk when they meet where they are constantly trying to show each other down, while solemnly falling in love. The smart one-liners disappear right when they are separated from each other and this brings a rare depth to their love, making it believable. Khaitan’s writing is extremely entertaining, high on the goof and quirk.
Now the flipside of HSKD. Delhi is used as a canvas again to build a world around the characters but nothing here seems inspired or fresh. Its just new jokes of the same kind. Same supportive friends, same helpful sister, same friend in problem, same boring fiancee, and what not. I totally believe you can make an extremely fun mainstream film, even if its like a tribute to DDLJ, but you can bring in your own freshness to the story. This is what Khaitan’s writing lacks completely. Not once does he try to do something differently which leaves HSKD shackled in extreme mediocrity. Dharma’s earlier production, Hasee Toh Phasee, had the most ordinary story ever. Yet, the nuanced writing brought in a masterstroke with Parineeti’s character and HTP rests itself on a much higher level than HSKD can ever get. All in all, you will have a bitter sweet feeling at the end of the film of having seen too much of this kind. Are we seriously so short of fresh writing? Is formula unchangeable and absolutely no compromise can be made?
Produced by AA Films and Dharma Productions, HSKD is a rich film where everyone looks good, has elaborate weddings and parties at best places with prettiest people. Even when they dont have money to buy a lehenga for a wedding or a buy a car. Music by Sachin-Jigar and Sharib-Toshi buttresses in remaking the already successful numbers like Main Tenu Samjhawan and Saturday Saturday as all the new songs are extremely average. Neha Matiyani’s cinematography is standard Dharma palette while Manan Sagar’s Editing is crisp, keeping the film constantly likable. Production Design by Parichit Paralkar reeks of campy filmmaking but is easy on the eyes. Another special mention for Shashank Khaitan’s quick-witted dialogue which is the backbone of the film.
HSKD belongs to Varun Dhawan and he plays out his shtick well, from being more comfortable as the scamp to being a corny lover boy. He is earnest, but struggles in extremely emotional scenes, which is why Khaitan smartly avoids any of those. He rides the film home with his frivolous and notorious Humpty. Kavya is a character which could have been essayed by any other actress as well and Alia is unable to bring anything distinctive to the plate here. However, it is their bubbling chemistry that is an inimitable spark lighting up HSKD all through the run time of 134 minutes. It is Ashutosh Rana as Kavya’s dad and Sahil Vaid as Humpty’s friend Poplu who leave a seeded impact in character roles. Siddharth Shukla is impressive as Angad, the fiance, but lags behind due to a uni-dimensional character. Most of the supporting cast is likable in the zone of the film.
Overall, HSKD is the perfect weekend family entertainer, something which Dharma has promised to deliver since its birth. But then even for a regular audience, it is too ordinary and too done to death. More so with the old songs. Yet, people will go in herds for this one, I am sure. After all, we are the superficial Indian audience who would do anything to see two good looking people having fun on screen. For me, I feel shortchanged. For a production house which gave one film in two years, only because it marked that grand an event, Dharma has come a long way to producing 5-6 films a year. But then in the barrage of archetypal factory churned products, are we not losing the exclusivity of content? I am genuinely worried about this trend. We cannot watch the same story again and again and this must stop. The audience does not seem to care much, though. So till then, enjoy your weekend escapist stuff!
Rating – 2.5/5