February 15, 2020
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Dum Laga Ke Haisha

A piece of nostalgia wrapped up in the actual.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha
Dum Laga Ke Haisha

Starring: Ayushmann Khurana, Bhumi Pednekar, Sanjay Mishra, Alka Amin, Sheeba Chaddha, Seema Pahwa
Directed by Sharat Katariya
Rating: ***

Dum Laga Ke Haisha is set in 1995 Haridwar. The small-town UP it captures was no different if you were growing up there in the ’80s. Perhaps it retains some of its core still, in 2015, in the midst of the newly sprouting malls and multiplexes. But yes, the voice of Kumar Sanu and those ubiquitous cassettes, that you got specially ‘filled’ with your favourite film songs, are no longer there. DLKH is a beautiful snapshot of this world, lost and yet not quite; it’s a piece of nostalgia wrapped up in the actual.

Two mismatched individuals thrown together in matrimony discovering love, and sex: for a film built around such a trifle DLKH is engaging. If Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi off­ered something similar in the garb of glamour and fantasy, DLKH gives it the real sheen. Well-crafted characters and a superb ensemble performance breathes life into things. The individuals could be us, the relationships and families, their warmth and quarrels, feel much like our own. DLKH is cin­ema of empathy, a film that you bring back home, all because it took you home.

What is refreshing is the portrayal of sex as a familial concern, not something brushed under the middle-class carpet. From an entire family concerned about a marriage not getting consummated to a mot­her telling her daughter to watch English films for stimulation (“Mahaul banega, kranti aayegi vicharon mein”), to the new bride teasing her husband: “Aapki tarah aadhe mein na thakoon main.” Yes, the film is about a man weighed down by  complexes, including one of intellectual inferiority to his wife. But it’s the women around him who bring the house down. Women, who may seem to actively seek constricting domesticity, but who subvert the family patriarchy from within, by belonging rather than breaking away.

The fun is in the unobtrusive details. From the music and lyrics to the Hindi lingo, from the nylon saris and socks worn with chappals to the door latches, from the Harison locks to Limca, from pineapple pastries to cream rolls: the recent past isn’t served up as pretence period, but a time well lived-in.

For someone who spent her summer holidays in Mathura, totalling marks on exam sheets checked by her professor aunt, it was de rigueur to find little notes slipped in by the students, begging the examiner for a raise in marks. Some didn’t want to fail thrice in a row, others couldn’t bear to face the family’s wrath. A similar scene in DLKH then felt too close. As did many, many more. The families of the boy and the girl meeting each other the first time, the cussed boy being coaxed into marrying a girl he doesn’t fancy, the long conversation on why the boy threw up on his wedding night.... Then there’s that lovely, fleeting moment: the mot­­her telling the girl, uncomfor­table in her sari, “palla kar le”, and she replying, “mil hi nahin raha”. Life, for most of us, is a sum total of such minutiae. So is DLKH. A rare recent film to endear itself to me.

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