What can one expect from a script that has come out of NFDC’s Film Bazaar? Well, for the uninitiated, National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) runs an annual Film Bazaar for films that have been developed in labs to reach out to potential studios and independent producers. Well, YRF and first time producer, Maneesh Sharma, deserve a hat tip just for picking up a script from the Film Bazaar. Director Sharat Katariya’s debut venture, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, is that genteel deft ‘small-town’ film that Yash Raj had been aiming for in many of their last ventures, and failing miserably due to none of them ringing true. The first trailer spoke of much hope, post a disastrous 2014 for the studio. The songs worked unanimously, with the veteran Anu Malik being brought back on board. Yet, there was not enough buzz for the film, quite preternaturally. And even YRF was not sure if they should plunge in the market with large number of screens. But ahoy, DLKH is probably the best film to come out of YRF in years, and I mean years. No kidding, this one’s a stunner and there should be no skepticism in whether to watch it or to widen its release.
DLKH is the story of Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Sandhya Varma (Bhumi Pednekar) who have been forced into an arranged marriage by their selfish families. While Sandhya likes Prem, he cannot see her eye to eye. Why? Because she is fat, not very appealing to look at and not what he wanted. Prem’s wife is not his only problem. He is a loser who has never been able to grow outside the shadow of his father, or make a mark of his own in any way throughout his life. Despite Sandhya’s best attempts, Prem remains distant and largely imbecilic, and thus, Sandhya must leave him until he recognizes her love. Well, that sounds agonizingly dull. But then Katariya’s screenplay is a nuanced masterpiece, dissolved in the grain of Haridwar 1995, honed with saucy dialogue and lyrics, fleshed with astute innovative situations and most importantly, seamlessly and stunningly true to its heart. Not just that, his direction graduates the film to a remarkable standpoint. Nothing here is woefully out of place or surreal. Beguiling the undercurrents of joint family issues, women power in small town arranged marriages, the necessity of sexual love in a marriage, and a few others, he heaps on impish situations which will make you chuckle, laugh out loud, cheer, as well as tear up. All this, he carefully laces with a sheer love for 90s Hindi film music, Kumar Sanu and an era of taped music cassettes. Soaked deep in nostalgia, Sharat ensures that DLKH is insulated from plastic. While he gives meat to all the characters, the way he has characterized Sandhya is spellbinding. He makes her stand up for her own, as well as persevere for her love simultaneously, instead of becoming a bot of women power who goes all Kill Bill on her man. Kudos!
DLKH benefits highly from a cadre of supremely skilled technical team. Buttressing on Yash Raj Films, Maneesh Sharma has backed the project with much fervor. Elbowing out the clutter, it is Anu Malik’s alluring OST that rules the roost. Many years later, Malik churns out convivial and very likable numbers. While Moh Moh Ke Dhaage is my pick of the lot, there is no song which you would not listen more than once to. DLKH as a film owes a lot to Varun Grover, the lyricist, whose infallible words are unrelentingly peachy. The cinematography is fresh and striking, while the Production Design is crucially detailed and effective. Namrata Rao’s Editing is just the icing on the cake. If one has to really nitpick, Katariya’s script does rely on caricatured characters to give them a fresh spin. DLKH dips for a bit in parts, but the overall loveliness dukes out any small shortcomings.
Ayushmann Khurrana is not a one film wonder, finally. Or your regular Delhi kid only. As Prem, he remains quiet for a large part of the film but his wistfulness reaches you at periodic intervals, all due to his earnest performance. An unlikely hero, Prem is the regular guy most of us dont want to remain like, and neither does he. However, it is the newcomer Bhumi Pednekar who outshines him. As Sandhya, she is the woman who has made her own life, and yet looks out for her love. Bhumi is vulnerable, cheeky, strong and effervescent, all as and when required to be, and in right amounts. Pretty eclectic, if not just lovable. The ensemble of the supporting cast is a savory bunch. The brilliant Sanjay Mishra, Seema Pahwa, Sheeba Chaddha, Alka Amin get the tone just right. Watch them orchestrate naturally in the court scene where a divorce petition is filed for the leading couple and its pure magic. Even smaller parts like Prem’s friend Nirmal or his mentor Shakha Babu are given to delectable actors.
On the whole, Dum Laga Ke Haisha is the first wholesome great film of this year, where there is very little to complain about. Now it is our responsibility to give it the due it deserves so that YRF does not serve us festering curd such as Bewakoofiyaan, Daawat-E-Ishq or Kill Dil again this year. The word in the market is blustery positive and the film has all the tropes to win your heart, if not provide you unadulterated entertainment for 111 minutes. Dont think twice, please go watch!
Rating – 3.5/5