Director: Ajay Devgan
Cast: Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Divya Dutta
Storyline: A couple’s ‘Happily Everafter’ is interrupted when Alzheimer’s condition strikes.
Bottomline: Sucker for sentimentality? Try this.
“You know something?”
That phrase is used to punishing levels in this near-meandering melodrama littered with borrowed jokes and stolen moments from ‘The Notebook,’ ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ ‘50 First Dates,’ among other films you can’t remember because memory fails you.
Yet it all works strangely and comes together quite effectively in the second half. Largely because, even if the world of his constructed reality is borrowed from a different sensibility, Devgan seems to have taken its occupants from the real world. His characters are as real as they get in mainstream films.
They come up with the most inane commonplace comments about each other, even SMS jokes and moral-of-the-story email forwards. They bond like normal people do. They don’t always speak intelligently. They are flawed. There are no side-kicks. They are capable of making even the hero the butt of all jokes. And, they are comfortable singing out of tune.
No, this is not realistic cinema by a long shot. It is every bit the quintessential melodramatic Bollywood film employing larger-than-life devices in the story-telling and jumping genres quite comfortably. Be it the light-hearted split-screens that show the little boy as the villain of the piece or the comic flashback sequences exaggerated to make you smile, the wide-angle point of views, jump cuts or even the ghostly dissolves…
There’s this scene where the camera (Aseem Bajaj’s cinematography) jerkily establishes the mental health facility like the Ramsay Brothers would introduce their bhooth bungalow. Devgan seems to suggest that the inmates are living ghosts, sending a shiver down your spine. That’s because this is a point-of-view film where the camera slips into the shoes of different characters to make its point.
“Are you sending your husband to the facility to make life easy for you or him?” the shrink had asked his patient’s wife much earlier in the film. Now, here he was bringing his own wife to the facility, trying to avoid eye contact with the woman he had counseled. He feels helpless, ashamed, guilty, vulnerable, heavy and even understanding and empathetic.
As an actor, he’s brilliant.
As a filmmaker, even better.
A fine example unfolds (again in the second half) when the doctor hands him his newborn and adds that he’s not sure if the mother would even recognise the baby.
There’s no melodramatic response or a background score to heighten the mood before the cut. The director does not forget that the man is a doctor himself. Just a moment of thought, which, in no time melts into baby-talk and he fondly greets his newborn with a “Hi baby.”
Also, but for the climax, the rest of the melodrama is contained and surprisingly restrained, restricted to metaphors and visual cues. Sample: the drama of rain washing away memory, doors and windows employed as transition to signify blackouts, the lizard about to swallow its prey inter-cut with impending danger or the colour white to represent memory (déjà vu Black and an Alzheimer’s-afflicted Amitabh Bachchan walking around in a white room?).
Devgan is a thinking storyteller with a flair for the ‘answers first, questions later’ narrative technique, breaking linearity to deal with predictability, to infuse pace into an indulgently told story. He has absolutely no problem with long monologues affecting pace. He sets it up for all his actors to unleash their histrionics, giving them ample scope to pour their hearts out.
Kajol revels in her role with an unforgettably electrifying performance to match Devgan’s career-best. The couple is likely to walk away with a few awards and is finely complemented by a solid support cast in Divya Dutta, Isha Sharwani (fully utilised to flaunt acrobatic flair, salsa and cleavage), Sumeet Raghavan and Karran Khanna.
Ashwini Dhir’s lines (the ‘Office Office’ guy who made ‘One, Two, Three’ and also wrote the forgettable Krazzy 4) help quite a bit to keep the balance between the light-hearted feel-good and the heavy-duty drama but the You-know-something’s take a toll on you, more so if you’re watching it for the second time.
But, you know something? For a film that isn’t too original, ‘U, Me Aur Hum’ has a lot of heart.