Somewhere deep inside this abysmal misfire of a film, there’s probably a nice premise with a throbbing heart, even though that too has been done to death in Hindi films. What exactly makes a family? Are you born to one or can you create one, the idea of blood ties and familyhood, the fragility of relationships, man’s innermost longing to belong. But the artifice that coats the narrative, the sheer banality of the writing, belies any hope the viewer might harbour about the filmmakers digging that deep. They don’t seem to have a clue or, even worse, are smug in the belief that with names like Rajkummar Rao, Kriti Sanon, Paresh Rawal and Ratna Pathak Shah, they can regurgitate hoary Hindi film cliches to an audience that has always been a sucker for family drama (a character even says, ‘What’s a family that hasn’t seen Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…! together’ — well, my family hasn’t, so there!)
Dhruv Shikhar (Rajkummar Rao) starts off in life as Baal Premi, an orphan who dreams of a family of his own, working at a dhaba run by a man nicknamed Premi (Paresh Rawal). Though Premi is a decent man, Baal Premi runs away one night to make a life for himself. In a rags-to-riches transformation, he becomes a gaming whizkid who creates a VR app. The only thing that has remained unchanged in his life is his longing for a family.
So, when he meets sprightly vlogger Anya Mehra (Kriti Sanon) and falls in love, it goes without saying that he will do anything to hold on to her. Even if that involves conjuring a fake family only because she has one condition for marriage: The groom has to have ‘a sweet family and a cute dog’. Never mind that the mother he ‘adopts’ for the role, Deepti Kashyap (Ratna Pathak Shah), tells him, ‘What you are going to do is sheer stupidity’ — an advice the filmmakers could have done well to heed. Dhruv’s family obsession is immune to all reason.
Watching the insipid narrative stutter its way to its overblown finale, I could not help wonder what a delightful detour it would have been if only the filmmakers had the imagination to play this obsession as a variant of the psychotic lover/serial-killer. But that’s expecting too much from the vapid writing. Instead, what we have is a mountain of artifice.
The artifice of Baal Premi’s desire for a family, the artifice of Anya coming across Dhruv teaching a group of underprivileged children on the pavement, the artifice of Anya’s parents perishing in a movie hall fire (poor kid, she is an orphan too, though she has a loving uncle and aunt as family). Then there's the artifice of Deepti getting Dhruv maa ke haath ka ghar ka khana to office, the artifice of the game-for-anything sardar buddy Shunty (Aparshakti Khurrana), the artifice of Premi, whose full name is Purushottam Mishra, watching Amar Prem, because ‘prem amar hai’, the artifice of hiring a marriage fixer Shaadiraam (who can get anyone from a vampish aunt to a sexy sister-in-law for your marriage party) to find Dhruv his fake parents, right to the artifice of the climactic wedding where all is revealed and resolved.
Hum Do Hamare Do is a mind-numbing exercise in artifice with not one honest moment to redeem it, and four good actors looking like deer in the headlights with the material they have to put across.
At an appraisal of the app that Dhruv has created, he is told, ‘I wear the VR for hours … I put it off … there’s no product experience.’ Exactly what watching the film made me feel. I watched Hum Do Hamare Do for 128 minutes. I switched off the TV. There was no product experience.
Title: Hum Do Hamare Do
Directed by: Abhishek Jain
Cast: Kriti Sanon, Rajkummar Rao, Paresh Rawal, Aparshakti Khurrana, Ratna Pathak Shah, Manu Rishi Chadha, Prachi Shah
Streaming on: Disney+Hotstar
Rating: One star
(Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri is an award-winning publisher, editor and a film buff)