Saturday, December 8, 2007

Take notes, Hollywood! Hum Tum & Pyaar Ke Side Effects.

I grew up on romantic comedies. I've loved them throughout my life probably because they're the most basic combination of two simple, escapist passtimes; romance and comedy.

However, it has to be said that it's not easy to make a good romantic comedy. I realized this at some point in life, when I was watching the whatever umpteenth Meg Ryan film I've seen and had to conclude it was tired, unfunny, formulaic. Because yes, there's a formula to these films (as there are to any films), but that doesn't mean the formula always works, nor does it mean the formula can't be worth watching.

Enough vagueness. I suppose when I first watched the Kunal Kohli film Hum Tum starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherji, I thought it was merely good, okay. It was quite early on in my Bollywood-watching days - I suppose I wanted more glamorous song-and-dance or something. But with rewatches, numerous rewatches, I realized what a total gem the film was despite its flaws. The When Harry Met Sally inspired storyline is a rare love story in which people grow to love each other; the immature hero has to wisen up to deserve the heroine.

I think Hum Tum became the perfect romantic comedy in my eyes because while it's masala, it's not as masala as many other Bollywood films and the emphasis is on the two; romance and comedy. At comedy it excels, and I think I laugh harder with every rewatch. With romance, it completely delivers; some scenes on the second half leave my heart genuinely aching. Now, cut the cartoon stuff and one song and you've more or less got the perfect Bollywood romcom.

But! Hum Tum has a rival...

Pyaar Ke Side Effects surprised me completely. How was it possible that I had previously not seen one of the most delightful Hindi films of the year 2006? I blamed the cast - Mallika Sherawat was not somebody I heard praised often and Rahul Bose had mostly done artsy films that weren't on top of my to-watch lists. Regardless, when I saw PKSE, I fell in love.

If Hum Tum is the romcom that gets the romance right, PKSE is the romcom that gets the comedy right - oh so very right. It borrows from Hollywood, it borrows from the romcom genre itself largely, telling the classic Hollywoodian love dilemma; the girl wants marriage, the guy doesn't. But while borrowing from Hollywood, PKSE exceeds Hollywood. It's like I said in my initial review, "Pyaar Ke Side Effects is like a Hollywood romantic comedy. Except it's funny. And it's romantic!"

Both leads do an excellent job at portraying modern Indian city youths - Rahul manages to be a lovable neurotic commitmentphobe and Mallika absolutely shines (I do hope she makes more movies like this one!). The dialogues are Hinglish all around but I don't blame anybody; it seems to fit the characters' mouths, and the comedy works great along with it. What PKSE also does great is consistency - it doesn't drag, it doesn't take a dramatic turn halfway through, it doesn't feel like a different movie on the second half.

And for all those who complain about how this isn't how Hindi cinema is supposed to be, take a walk. To me, Hindi cinema is what it is, and the only thing I can hope for is that it continues to produce great movies. Or you could think of it this way - Hollywood made a genre, and now India's making the best of it.

If Hollywood wants its romcom formula back, they have these films to top.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if you read my lil rant a while back about how Hollywood movies suck nowadays (ESPECIALLY their take on romance) and you have basically highlighted why.

I haven't seen PKSE (totally want to though, I've only heard good things, hee!) but Hum Tum definitely gets better with each viewing. I think I've seen it twice or maybe three times, but I didn't think much of it after the first viewing. It's sort of a subtle movie in a strange way.

But tell me, how many Hollywood romcoms can you say get better as you watch them more? :P

Rosalind Francis said...

I had the same thing with Hum Tum. When I first saw it, early on in my relationship with Bollywood, I thought it was okay. But it stuck in my head and I rewatched recently and really loved it (apart from the cartoons). I think one of the ways in which Bollywood excels at romance over Hollywood is that (when done well) they develop the characters better in the film, you get to know them and they have some humanity and complexity, so you can actually care for them. This is probably due to the traditional length of the films - the more time you spend with them, the more you care about the characters and their relationship with each other.

veracious said...

Anita - I don't recall that post even though I think I've been keeping with your journal quite well. :/ If you can link me to it somewhere, I'd love to read it!

And yes, it's oddly subtle. Like I only noticed on the third watch how awesome Rani's character is in it, it's very girl power-y. :D

rossywar - Yes. Bollywood characters can be cardboard cutouts, too but sometimes the script just gets a million things right and manages to fit lovely characterization into those 2.5 hrs.

Anonymous said...

Right, here's the link! :)

It was actually quite a short rant. ;)

Anonymous said...

What is that building in the first picture?

veracious said...

>>What is that building in the first picture?

Beats me, my dear anonymous reader. The scene was filmed in Amsterdam, though.

Mansi said...

Your blog reminded me of the two most dear films to me (Though HT is a notch up :)....
lost track of how many times I've seen them... Here's my take on HT

Have bookmarked you!