Disappointing Directorial Debut

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U ME AUR HUM. Director: Ajay Devgan. Players: Ajay Devgan, Kajol Devgan, Divya Dutta, Sumeet Raghavan, Kunal Khanna, Isha Sharwani. Music: Vishal Bhardwaj. Theatrical release: April 2008.db1e53edac93132f24b9aead29f753ca-2

Ajay Devgan really gives a new meaning to the term “home production.” Not only is he the producer, director, and lead actor of U Me Aur Hum, Devgan’s wife, Kajol, is also in the lead. This marks the debut of another actor-turned-director since Aamir Khan.

The film opens with an older Devgan sitting with his 20-something son at a lunch buffet. A friendly banter leads his son to challenge Ajay (Devgan) to prove that he can win over any woman in the restaurant. Ajay takes on the challenge, and his son points out an elderly woman (Kajol). Devgan introduces himself to the woman and recounts the story of a young couple, Ajay and Pia, he knew 25 years earlier.

Ajay meets Pia (Kajol) on a cruise. For Ajay, it’s love at first sight, but Pia doesn’t feel the same way. The rest of the first half consists of Ajay trying to woo Pia, by fair means or foul. Ajay’s friends on the cruise, Nikhil (Raghavan) and Reena (Dutta), an unhappily married couple, bicker incessantly and repeatedly threaten to divorce one another. Another couple, Vicky (Khanna) and Natasha (Sharwani), happily unmarried, also provides an element of drollery, as Vicky keeps proposing to “Nutty” and she keeps turning him down. Ajay finally wins over Pia, and they are married. The film takes a dramatic turn right before intermission, when Pia suddenly has a memory-loss attack, and can’t remember for a short interval who or where she is.

At this point, we realize that this is the story of the older Ajay and Kajol’s character, who we saw in the beginning of the film. Our suspicions are also confirmed that U Me Aur Hum is based on the Hollywood film The Notebook, which is based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name. But while The Notebook was purely a love story, and the revelation of Alzheimer’s comes at the end, as the “icing on the cake” of a beautifully told romantic tale, U Me Aur Hum reveals the Alzheimer’s halfway through the film. From there, we follow the struggles of the young couple as Pia continues to deteriorate in her memory loss, to the point where she no longer has any recollection of her former life.

U Me Aur Hum is structured like many Hollywood-based Bollywood films that elongate a 90-minute story into two-and-a-half hours. The result is that nothing happens in the first half, and the story only really begins after intermission. While there are funny, fleeting moments in the first half, there are also many nonsensical instances with no pay off, including Ajay’s charade to win over Pia.

Pia’s first memory-loss attack is a dramatic and powerful scene. But that, too, loses its impact when Pia is asked to tell the doctors what happened, and we see the scene all over again from Pia’s point of view. Had it been told in a linear fashion, the impact would have been much greater, and the director wouldn’t have broken the cardinal rule of never having a flashback within a flashback! The second half is too long, but the comic relief provided by the two couples is welcome.

Cinematographer Aseem Bajaj (Shabd, Chameli) has shot the film stylistically and artistically. However, quite a few of the dialogue scenes are shot in macro-close ups, which feel claustrophobic. Music by Vishal Bhardwaj (No Smoking,Omkara) is average, but the title song, sung by Vishal himself, is the best of the tracks. Kajol has always been a strong performer and continues to prove her mettle as an actor. Devgan also plays his role admirably. Dutta wholly embraces her character, and Raghavan does well.

For those of you who like Bollywood tearjerkers, this is the film for you. Devgan understands the pulse of his audience, and will guarantee that you shed a few tears. For those of you with more subtle sensibilities, you might want to skip this one.

Antara Bhardwaj is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco.

 

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