A Mahesh Bhatt classic

Khadija Mughal reviews the latest Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan starrer Hamari Adhuri Kahani

A Mahesh Bhatt classic
The Plot

tft-19-p-20-kThe latest addition in the Mohit Suri and Bhatts series of romantic drama productions, Hamari Adhuri Kahani tells the story of Vasudha (Vidya Balan), shown in the opening shot as an aging woman traveling in a bus, who, we later find out, is the wife of a mentally unstable man called Hari (Rajkummar Rao). A while later, the audience finds out that Vasudha has passed away, and that her dead body was found near Bastar. When Hari appears on her funeral, the longstanding differences between the couple emerge when the husband calls his deceased wife “promiscuous”. Upon hearing this, his son, Saanjh turns his father out of the house. Later in the day, Saanjh discovers a diary left by his father at the table where his mother’s ashes lay – a diary that tells the story of Vasudha, Hari and Aarav in all its truth.

Years ago, Vasudha is shown as a single mother, working in a hotel as a florist. Vasudha’s husband had gone missing five years ago when he took a few American tourists to Orissa and never returned. The police later informs Vasudha that Hari had joined a gang of terrorists and was now a wanted criminal – something that would ensure that her and her son’s lives would always remain plagued by Hari’s criminal activities. However, despite not hearing from her husband for so many years, Vasudha remains loyal to him – until a multiple hotel owner, Aarav Ruparel (Emraan Hashmi) expresses interest in her. Initially resisting his attempts at wooing her, Vasudha finally gives in to her feelings and agrees to marry him.

Everything in her life finally seems to be going smoothly – until husband Hari returns.
Producers need to realize that, at times, a 'message' is completely superfluous

The Performances: Emraan Hashmi Stars

It’s hard for anyone to shine in a movie opposite two actors who have garnered their fair share of critical acclaim – Vidya Balan and Rajkummar Rao – let alone for someone who is more often than not dismissed as a “serial kisser”. Although Emraan Hashmi, in many ways, picks up where he left off – the ladies’ man aura is very much retained – however there are many acting dimensions in which he has improved considerably. Hashmi’s performance as the self-made millionaire, Aarav Ruparel, succeeds in conveying the many emotions that the character feels. His love for Vasudha, his anger at her ignorance of her feelings towards him, his cool confidence that ought to come with a man of power, and his look of satisfaction when he knew his death was imminent – Hashmi pretty much nails all of it.

Vidya Balan in her role as the repressed Vasudha was also convincing, which shouldn’t be surprising since Balan has often played somewhat similar roles. It seems as though Vidya Balan should start looking to expand her range of roles in order to be reconsidered as the top actress of Bollywood that she once was – a slot that has, over the years, been taken over by actresses like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and, most recently, by Kangana Ranaut. In my personal opinion, out of all of these actresses, only Kangana Ranaut has proven herself as a truly versatile actress. While the rest of them keep reprising old roles, adding a touch of different flavour to call them new – much like Vidya Balan – Ranaut has shown herself to be capable of completely transforming herself for each role. Vidya Balan should aim for the same in order to prove herself worthy of being called a great actress.

Lastly, Rajkummar Rao did a very commendable job at filling all the nooks of a very complex character, Hari – a role that evolves considerably over the course of the movie. That Rajkummar Rao wasn’t given more screen time in the movie, is pitiful yet understandable, since essentially, Hamari Adhuri Kahani is Vasudha and Aarav’s love story.

Emraan Hashmi stars
Emraan Hashmi stars

Why Watch It: The Love Story and the Music

Hamari Adhuri Kahani is a classic Mahesh Bhatt romantic drama film – sans the thrill that usually comes with an Emraan Hashmi starrer – with a touchy love story. The only gaping loophole in the romantic side of the movie is the chemistry – or the lack thereof – between Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan. With someone like Emraan Hashmi, who is known for romancing actresses on the big screen, it would have taken a very romantically limp performance from the female lead to make the chemistry fail. However, despite the lack of chemistry, the power of the story and the melodious soundtrack manage to carry the film through and delivers the romantic feels that the producers intended to convey.

Why Not: Feministic Sermons

While it is commendable that Bollywood is producing many movies that show strong feminine characters, and is touching upon issues that women face in their daily lives – Vidya Balan’s own Kahaani is a perfect example – yet, Hindi cinema’s producers need to realize that, at times, a “message” is completely superfluous. Why do all movies have to deliver a lesson – why can’t they be just stories, like they once used to be? Why couldn’t Hamari Adhuri Kahani be just a story of a married woman who falls in love with a man more deserving of her than her oppressive husband? That, in itself, would have been a powerful story.