A Mohit Suri film doesn’t come with a lot of expectations. Since his debut, Zehar (2005), Suri has averaged almost one film per year. His movies are remembered more for their soundtracks and less for their storylines or directorial ingenuity. His latest, Hamari Adhuri Kahani, is a sharp contrast to his earlier films, because you don’t associate actors like Vidya Balan or Rajkummar Rao with a Suri film.
But HAK is as good an example of the fact that an impressive cast cannot save a film, especially when it's riddled with plot holes. One early scene shows Hari (Rao), a mental asylum patient, turning up at the funeral of his wife, Vasudha (Balan), whom he hasn’t seen for 21 years. He soon flees with her ashes and leaves a diary for his son that is basically about Vasudha’s relationship with Aarav Ruparel (Emraan Hashmi), a wealthy hotelier.
But here’s the problem in this setup: Hari couldn’t have known Vasudha and Aarav’s relationship. They met and fell in love when Hari was not even in the same country as the canoodling duo. When Hari finally returned to Vasuda, he was so paranoid and intimidating that his wife — already in love with Aarav — left him. So, in a world where screenplays make logical sense, HAK wouldn’t have lasted more than five minutes. But, this is a Mohit Suri film. Let's gloss over that ginormous plot hole and judge the film on what it has to offer.
What’s quickly striking about HAK is its heavy melodramatic tone. The characters, especially Aarav, are filmi in the worst ways possible. When Aarav first sees Vasudha, who works as a florist in one of his hotels, she’s arranging flowers in his room. What flowers are these, he asks. “Arum lily,” comes the answer. Aarav responds with lines like, “Inke liye toh main mar bhi sakta hun (I can even die for these)." He also observes that lilies symbolise “saadgi, innocence, sacha pyaar.”
Later, when Vasudha is making rangoli and decorating one of Aarav’s hotels (he owns 108 of them) for Diwali (in Dubai), our man thanks her. She says something on the lines of “It’s not a big deal”, which prompts him to spout this gem: “Agar yeh roshni tumhare andar nahin hoti toh baahar kaise hoti (Had this light not been inside you, how could it have been so bright outside)?”
It appears he can only react to situations by reciting lines memorised from "Lovelorn Freshmen Essays Vol. I". In fact, this eloquence runs in the family: When Aarav makes Vasudha meet his mom, she says, “Yeh kaun banjaran hai jo apni si lagti hai (Who’s this nomad who looks like one of ours)?”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with melodramatic lines. One of Hashmi’s better crowd-pleasers, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, was filled with over-the-top dialogues, but that choice worked because it befitted the film’s tone and characters. HAK, on the other hand, revolves around ordinary characters, and hence, this grandiloquence is confounding. Nearly no sequence in the film is complete without one of its characters launching into an extended soliloquy about love, life and what not. After a point, Hamari Adhuri Kahani feels like a rather tedious kavi sammelan than a feature film interested in telling a story.
The stock characters mar the film further. Aarav is a rich guy who will do anything for love (going so far as being creepy). Vasudha is a harried housewife skeptical of falling in love (and later, convinced of not going back to her husband). Hari is, well, just a controlling, petty douchebag (who in the final five minutes undergoes a bizarre change of heart).
It doesn’t say a lot about a film when its only convincing and enjoyable character is Aarav’s childhood friend, Apoorva (Prabal Panjabi), who has a screen time of around 10 minutes. There’s much to like about this guy, who sounds sufficiently urban and normal, and often deflates Aarav’s philosophical inquiries by these nonchalant bits: “Aarav, what was that all about?”; “We will miss our flight”; or “I just don’t get you”. He's almost the Voice of Reason in HAK.
It’s fitting then, that Apoorva gets the film’s best line, which is of course very meta. When Apoorva gets fed up of lovelorn Aarav, he says, “Yehi problem hai tumhara. Tum har cheez ko itna deep bana dete ho (That’s your problem; you make everything so deep).”