Director Mohit Suri’s Hamari Adhuri Kahani is the story of Vasudha Prasad (Vidya Balan), a single mother who works as a florist in a Mumbai hotel. Her husband Hari (Rajkummar Rao) has been missing for five years.
Vasudha meets Aarav Ruparel (Emraan Hashmi), a super-rich, globetrotting hotelier who falls for her. After a few songs and some emotional blackmailing by Aarav’s mother, Vasudha overcomes her reservations about having a relationship with a man while being married to another.
Things fall apart when Hari returns after being on the run from the law. He is far more hateful and vituperative towards his wife than before. His return puts Vasudha in a dilemma and throws her life out of gear once again.
Hackneyed as it may be, the plot suggests Suri, who last directed Aashiqui 2, set out to make an intense drama about love, betrayal and sacrifice. But the movie suffers from soap-opera hyperbole and risible dialogue that makes the audience laugh even during angst-ridden moments.
For starters, Hamari Adhuri Kahani is one of those films in which everything has to be spelt out. The opulence of the hotels Aarav owns, his penchant for handing out bits of management advice, and the permanent scowl on his face are enough to establish how unbelievably rich and powerful he is. But the film still has a minor character whose sole purpose is to further establish his status.
Suri’s characters are also fond of speaking in similes and metaphors, each carefully inserted to offer hints about their life or portending disasters. During a stroll in one of Aarav’s hotels, Vasudha tells him there ought to be some withered flowers because “why should a garden be clean and clear even when the moon has scars?”
When Vasudha’s mother-in-law implores her to discard the mangalsutra, she replies it would only be destroyed on her funeral pyre.
Not to be outdone, Aarav spouts more clichés. The minor characters mouth their share of bizarre lines, with one of them saying “love is a responsibility that falls only on the shoulders of the fortunate among us.”
The movie isn’t just about weird dialogue. It is also crammed with generally odd behaviour, even by the standards of mainstream Hindi romantic films churned out in the early 1990s. Aarav starts a fire that sets off smoke alarms only to gauge the safety preparedness of a hotel he wants to acquire. One look at Vasudha’s flower arrangements in his suite is enough for him to offer her a plush job in Dubai at twice her salary, Mills and Boon style.
But Hamari Adhuri Kahani does have a handful of memorable moments. Empathy for Aarav finally sets in when he decides to help Vasudha’s husband get back to normal life. The title song gels well with the mood of the film’s final moments. These scenes have the potential of choking up the throat, but that’s all you can say in favour of this unintentionally funny love story and revenge saga.
Balan is solid as an actor. Despite being saddled with silly lines and ham-fisted direction, she performs with a degree of conviction and ease.
For the most part, Hashmi has a deadpan expression and delivers flat dialogue. Rao is a cardboard cut-out of a regressive husband. He is made to look so vulgar and vicious that it justifies his wife’s rebellion—anything less dire might offend sensibilities after all.
The tragedy of Hamari Adhuri Kahaani, like so many movies before it, is that it turns out looking and sounding so stupid. It could have worked if only the director had taken the effort to de-clutter it.
The message to Suri is simple. Lose the metaphors. Kill the background score. Go easy on the explanations. Cut your script by half. And most importantly, trust your audience’s intelligence and their ability to digest modern notions of emancipation and gender equality without building a ridiculously elaborate case for it.