Movies that draw from an overlap of multiple historical eras often have a built in excitement quotient in allowing the filmmaker to create a visual trajectory of how lives, fashions, and politics evolve over time. Spanning a 100 year timeline, Teri Meri Kahaani should offer exactly that. What Kohli’s first venture outside of the Yashraj label does offer, instead, is staging that is both eye-catching and intermittently fun and yet suffers from poor handling.
Kohli’s own screenplay follows Kapoor and Chopra through three lives lived in different eras. Beginning with a Lahore setting in 1910 where the ne’er do well ruffian Javed (Kapoor) shows interest in village belle Aradhana (Chopra) even as Javed gets under the trespassing radar of British officer Green (Heffernan). Then there is a struggling musician Govind (Kapoor), who arrives in what was then Mumbai in 1960, befriends a neighbor (Desai) while he falls for Rukhsar (Chopra), an established star who can help promote Govind’s career. Finally, as the third spoke in this wheel, there is a Londoner Krrish (Kapoor) who gets mushy with Radha (Chopra).
The off screen on-again, off-again links between Kapoor and Chopra has been tabloid fodder for some time now. Mercifully, the twosome retain onscreen chemistry that is clearly evident here. Incidentally, two period pieces retro-fitted on top of contemporary theatrics very nicely gives ace costume designer Manish Malhotra (Agneepath, Agent Vinod, Ek Mein Aur Ekk Tu) a chance to explore time-appropriate threads. By far the most interesting costumes are the ones from the 1960s.
Sajid-Wajid is very much making a mark at the charts. Teri Meri Kahaani is their best work since Dabangg. The time-shifting theme also allows the two brothers to get into period specific tunes that are ear-worthy. Sajid’s “Mukhtasar” pounds away with a mod vibe while the colonial era feel to the group-dance number “Humse Pyar Karle Tu,” already hugely popular on YouTube, nails the jail-break mood it is earmarked for onscreen. The combination of folk-earthy choreography and decent tune elevates the soundtrack even more.
Then there is Sonu Nigam-Shreya Ghosal’s torchy nightclub number “Jabse Mere Dil Ko Uff” (when was the last time you heard “Uff” in a song title?) captures a nostalgic glance at an era when male leads worried about the tightness of their white pants and female leads about tightness of their saris and possibly the height of their beehive ‘dos. Four decades ago, this would surely be Shammi Kapoor and Helen having a cabaret tete-a-tete crooned by Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhosle while a sullen-looking Asha Parekh sat in the crowd sipping Fanta and looking forlorn. If only the movie would end there and then.
And that brings us to the drawbacks of Kohli’s film. While Kapoor and Chopra look pretty as leads, a more forceful and cohesive narrative behind their stories would have given the story more purpose and made it more memorable. Also, the powerful staging of the songs works against the movie in that they serve to highlight the weak plot of the movie. If only these were a collection of stand-alone single song videos. If only we could loop through “Jabse Mere Dil Ko Uff” every time Kapoor’s characters fumble with what he really does for a living in any of these incarnates. If only.
The sophomoric plotlines and quick fixes to sub plots do little to push forth an “epic” feel. In the past, Kunal Kohli worked almost exclusively for the Yashraj label and had considerable success there with Hum Tum (2004), Fanaa (2006) and to a lesser extent, Mujhse Dosti Karoge (2002). Outside of his comfort zone Kohli flounders. While the music score may be the best of any Kohli film to date, Teri Meri Kahaani is a great concept that lacks oomph in execution.