Writer and director Sharat Katariya’s Dum Laga Ke Haisha tells the story of two such people – Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Sandhya Verma (Bhumi Pednekar). But the beauty of his narration is how intimately it soaks in the milieu, the mood and the melody of its time – 1995, Haridwar.
Katariya doesn’t allow himself to be burdened by his choice of venue and its sanctified reputation. Tourists or temples aren’t forcibly filling the frames. Instead what we witness is the everyday aspirations of lower middle-class Haridwarians, their congested homes, unseen bankside views of Ganga, tiny shops lined across potholed streets, a gorgeous, grand library and old-school workout clubs.
Two decades behind in time, it’s a different world, this Haridwar. Don’t let the cow enter the shop, warns Prem’s father (Sanjay Mishra) quite matter-of-factly to his petulant son preoccupied in recording mixed tapes for customers. Humare yahan mann pasand gaano ki recording uchit mulyon pe ho jaati hai, reads a note on the glass door of their dingy store.
A Kumar Sanu fanboy, Prem ceases to be Lappu, as his family address him, once he puts on his headphones and compiles music with utmost dedication. He’d probably make a great music jockey but the half-sweater and ochre pants-clad high school dropout is much too Lappu, er, weak-willed to make something of his half-baked ambitions.
All his hopes for a Princess Charming are dashed when financial crunch in the family pressures him into marrying a plus-size belle during a mass wedding ritual. Sandhya’s educated, job-ready credentials make her a perfect fit for his circumstances if not heart.
While our perky bride seems to make the most of it, Prem gets nauseous by the second. Their 111-minutes long journey (deft editing by Namrata Rao) from awkward to awe-inspiring is why this adorable romance is a must watch.
Hindi films aren’t exactly known for their sensitivity where overweight characters are concerned but Katariya builds his leading man’s embarrassment over his big bride with thoughtful nuances. And Khurrana gets the tone of this smothered, vexed but essentially vulnerable chap just right. In trying not to play hero, he becomes one.
His co-star and Yash Raj Films’ latest discovery Bhumi Pednekar is quite a find. Nicely done for a brand that kick started the size zero trend, YRF. Dum Laga Ke Haisha banks on Bhumi to make her character accessible enough to relate yet spirited enough to inspire.
The newcomer doesn’t let you down and renders Sandhya worth rooting for, racing for. If her feisty side tackles her new home singlehandedly, the incorrigible romantic cannot resist catching fond glimpses of her grumpy husband from the corner of the eye.
Having said that, there’s a scene where Prem behaves like a complete jerk around Sandhya. She doesn’t take it lying down either. It’s a stunning instance of how poorly demonstrated displeasure can quickly snowball into irreconcilable differences. Dum Laga Ka Haisha is a series of such riveting moments that make you moist in the eye and chuckle with joy.
Speaking of the latter, there’s a funny sequence where Sandhya tries to seduce her stiff significant other into submission by setting up the mood armed with Disclosure VHS and silky nightie.
This isn’t the only droll part. How Prem’s mom (Alka Amin) reacts to it is.
Amin’s comic timing is priceless at all times. As is Sheeba Chhaddha’s sharp-tongue aunt and her believable, melodrama-devoid household squabbles with Sandhya.
Here it must be added that Katariya receives solid support from his cast and crew.
Quite a few from Team Ankhon Dekhi collaborate. Sanjay Mishra is reliably crusty; Seema Pahwa is perfect as the hassled, small-town mom, Chandrachoor Rai, Mahesh Sharma do well as Khurrana’s sneaky and supportive cronies respectively whereas Shrikant Verma steals quite a few scenes with his chaste Hindi punch-lines (Hum toh thehre pracheen Bharat ke avshesh) as the wisdom-spewing Shakha Babu.
Dialogues are sheer joy of this experience where “moti saandni” and “stree sukh ya shararik vivashtha?” happily co-exist.
As with Ankhon Dekhi, Meenal Agarwal’s production design is authentic in its depiction of life in the heaving interiors. It’s a vision cinematographer Manu Anand beholds and beautifies in compositions of bright marigold strings adorning pale green walls that linger on like the aftertaste of this film.
I wasn’t too thrilled by the background score, which wears strong heard-before air to it and often overlaps the actual sounds of a scene. No complaints from Anu Malik’s soundtrack though. Moh moh ke dhaage’s dulcet tune and Dard karara’s retro vibes, penned by the versatile Varun Grover, cover quite a spectrum.
Maybe it’s a tendency to look romantically at the decade that’s closest to you but the 1990s were a fanciful decade. DD’s iconic Mile Sur Mera Tumhara trills in the background, Shah Rukh Khan stutters for Kiran on cable television, Kumar Sanu is the closest we get to divine intervention –yet Dum Laga Ke Haisha is subtle in the nostalgia it invokes, it has to be; the characters are living in the moment not basking in its influence.
Watch this utterly warm film and relive it with them.