Monday, May 12, 2014

Hasee Toh Phasee: overcomplicating a good thing.

My first reaction to Parineeti Chopra's character in Hasee Toh Phasee was enthusiastic - to use the cliche, it was something new, something different, and something that would allow her to further stretch her already great acting abilities. But then, the more I thought about, and considered the movie itself, the more this enthusiasm turned into a pensive frown. Here's the thing: what would this film be, if we placed a moratorium, a blanket ban on quirky mentally ill characters, quirky mentally ill super-genius characters, and most of all, slightly gimmicky performances surrounding them?

A lot of films, both Hollywood, Bollywood and elsewhere in the world, would be robbed of their central conceit. Hell, gimmicks are a significant part of Indian films, and you wouldn't get me to agree to this ban if it meant no Dhoom 3, or no Anniyan, or no Paa in the world, I just wouldn't allow it. And yet, when it comes to Hasee Toh Phasee, a movie that attempts at a frothy but heartfelt romantic comedy, I wonder if such a ban might be wise in the first place.

The story is simple: Nikhil (Sidharth Malhotra) is about to marry Karishma, despite all signs pointing to this being a bad idea. He discovers that a girl he met and bonded with shortly before meeting Karishma, Meeta (Parineeti Chopra), is in fact Karishma's sister, disowned by the family for various reasons. Now Meeta is back for the wedding, and Karishma asks Nikhil to make sure she's not seen by her side of the family, and thus wacky hijinks and an eventual budding romance ensue.

There's a lot to unpack when it comes to Meeta's character, her mysterious past, her strange mannerisms, her super-genius rattling off of factoids in fast English and her pill-popping antics. At first I was merely intrigued, but the further along the film went, the more I wondered whether less would be more when it came to this character. I'm sure, as ever, everything to do with her was properly and meticulously researched (isn't it always?), but something about this hodgepodge of symptoms and quirks, no matter how medically accurate, was kind of a mess.

It doesn't particularly help that the movie relies on this character to really work, so when Parineeti Chopra's natural charm doesn't quite manage to come through in this performance, I wasn't quite as engaged with the movie as I was hoping to be. The second lead, Sidharth Malhotra, does okay, but he's no acting or charisma powerhouse at this point in his career, and so the resulting romance doesn't quite feel as touching as it might with a better cast or a less messy script.

However, if it works for you, it works, and this becomes a passable cutesy romcom with heart at the core of it. Some of the songs are great, while others are cringeworthy. I still wish, being a fan of Parineeti's, that they would've scaled back on the character a bit: while I appreciate the something new in the character, especially as female protagonists can be occasionally bland in terms of characterisation, there may have been some pieces missing, both in the scripting of the character and the performance. 

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