Perhaps time moves slower at Vishesh Films than it does anywhere else on Earth. 'Hamari Adhuri Kahani', a soppy melodrama produced by them that feels like an afterthought from 2002, is definitive proof of this.
Directed by Mohit Suri ('Murder 2', 'Aashiqui 2', 'Ek Villain'), this is a story with a one-line plot involving a married woman named Vasudha (Balan); her husband Hari (Rajkummar Rao), who has been mysteriously missing from her life for five years; and a hotel business tycoon named Aarav (Emraan Hashmi) who is besotted with her.
The film begins in what one would assume is circa 2030, since Saanjh (Namit Das), Hari and Vasudha's son, is now a married man. We aren't told this explicitly, but it's the only reasonable assumption to make since the events involving his parents took place when he was about six years old in what seems like present-day, as currently-on-market Samsung smartphones are featured prominently.
Ooh, this is a first. A Mahesh Bhatt film (he wrote the story) that opens in the future? Guess the production department never got that memo since there is no real acknowledgement of this fact.
"In a year that has seen a bunch of good films and several more that made valiant attempts to be good, 'Hamari...' is an eyesore that should never have released."
Nevertheless, this isn't important. We're told that Vasudha has now passed away and Hari (a doddering, grey-haired Rao who seems to have been told to 'SRK-up his acting a little') arrives at Saanjh's house to grieve, after being estranged for years. He is thrown out and told to leave the premises, following which, he steals the urn with her ashes and leaves behind a diary with The Entire Truth Of Everything That Happened.
You wonder at that point: isn't this redundant? Saanjh was young, but very much around at the time. He was also subsequently raised by his mother. Wouldn't he, by now a married man of roundabout 30, know most of the truth?
But even if this is a bad question with a simple explanation, the movie doesn't bother to answer it or even hint at one -- it just sidesteps it, as though it were a puddle or, I don't know, logic. We're taken to a flashback which shows us how billionaire Aarav wooed Vasudha with intense stares, a job in Dubai, and requests for selfies. Imagine swiping right on this guy on Tinder.
Vasudha, however, has a peculiar moral dilemma. Hari, who disappeared within a year of their marriage, never treated her well. Twice, we're shown a scene where he had forcibly gotten his name tattooed on her hand to solidify a saat-janamon-ka-rishta. To make matters worse, a cop (Narendra Jha) tells her that Hari is a terrorist who is wanted for the murder of two American journalists in an Odisha jungle.
"It is difficult to see actors of Balan and Rao's stature plod through a script that's this clichéd and take it seriously, resulting in career-worst performances from both of them. "
Aarav, on the other hand, is a billionaire who loves her, treats her right, and will give her everything she wants. But her upbringing, i.e. one scene in which her father tells her the importance of parampara and sanskaar, doesn't allow her to fall for it that easily.
'Hamari...' is a ham-fest that wallows in the kind of melodrama that Hindi cinema left behind a while ago, only shot with such lens flare much wow. It is difficult to see actors of Balan and Rao's stature plod through a script that's this clichéd and take it seriously, resulting in career-worst performances from both of them.
An interesting moral complexity arrives only late in the second half, by which time Shagufta Rafique's painful, recycled dialogues (they're actually a series of monologues, really, since characters tend to mostly speak without being interrupted) have bludgeoned you into dejected submission. Until then, the only way to sit through this movie is find humour in its astoundingly earnest attempts at being banal. Poor Prabal Panjabi, who plays Aarav's work associate, ends up being the unintended butt of all jokes in this film, thanks to his character's tendency to enter a scene mostly to say, "Aarav, we're getting late."
However, trust Bhatt and Suri to think that a tacked-on, feminist monologue will resolve all the script's issues and give the antagonist a change of heart. Let's not even talk about all the unanswered questions that involve discussing what Saanjh is going through, how people are paying for certain things, and what Aarav really does, since we barely ever see him work.
In a year that has seen a bunch of good films and several more that made valiant attempts to be good, 'Hamari...' is an eyesore that should never have released. After the failure of 'Mr X' and the sure-shot debacle that this will end up becoming, it looks like it's time for Vishesh Films to invest in good scripts and directors instead.