Saturday, June 23, 2012

Teri Meri Kahaani is the most generic cutesy, campy garbage

I love love stories. I honestly do, if you dont believe me you can read my piece on Bollywood's incessant flow of love stories since its inception here. In May 2004, Kunal Kohli came up with a delectable Hum Tum that won Saif Ali Khan a National Award that year and Rani Mukerji another Filmfare for her earnest performance. He went on to make an arguably appreciable Fanaa in 2006 with Aamir Khan. Thereafter, he deluded into an unreasonable mob of the ordinary and the overdone with Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic He nudged into the producer's chair for Break Ke Baad in 2010 and and the film slipped into a mediocre second half after handling post-modern relationships well for a while. Teri Meri Kahaani brings back Kunal Kohli to the director's seat. The first trailer of the film did not create much of a buzz despite two charming leads and its been the same story of drudgery from there on with all the promos just playing safe and alluring the preys of cute romantic movies in India as well as in the diaspora across the world. Here is a sample conversation which Kunal Kohli had with his co-writer, Robin Bhatt before they began writing TMK -

KK: Dude, I just saw this movie called Three Times last night. Its a Taiwanese hit and is nominated for Palme d'Or at Cannes. Would be great to make it here?
RB: Whats it about?
KK: Its a love story set in three different eras
RB: Sounds good, maybe we can do the same, just change the years a little bit, make it more Indian, you know
KK: I was just thinking that no one knows how and when do we meet a person first and then whether or not we will meet them again. If so, where and how? Life is so strange. Possibly, my friend or my wife is someone who I met sometime before when I was a kid or maybe in another era, right?
RB: Yeah, we should have two lovers who meet in different eras just because they are destined to do so
KK: Perfect! I think we should throw in some nice looking sets for the 1960s period and for the 2012 period, we should definitely shoot abroad because all the kids these days go to study abroad
RB: We must use the lingo of the gen-next because that whats working these days and will make our film hep

KK: I want one of the periods to be strikingly different, like set in a village or something. In 1910, we can possibly go to old-style romance and use shayaris, because people seem to be liking them after ZNMD
RB: Cool. But whats gonna be the title?
KK: Something that goes along with 'Thrice upon a love story'?
RB: Hmm, but how is it all gonna come together, like whats the motive behind two people falling in love over three different eras?
KK: We will figure that out as we go, dont worry. But we should definitely have the most charming leads for this one, so that people wanna come and watch them fall in love, you know?
RB: Allright, Lets roll!

Teri Meri Kahaani, directed by Kunal Kohli, comes from the camp of movies where overloads of cuteness and saccharine are an order of the day. No harm in doing that, but then it also belongs to the camp where brazenly producing the most generic garbage is not a shame. In TMK, Kohli paints three different stories on the cinematic canvas for a little more than 2 hours, all of which are essentially the same. Guy meets girl due to some contrived happening, falls in love, there is another girl/guy in the picture, minimal conflict follows and they are back to being happy together. Why? Because they are destined to be with each other in every age or era. Kunal Kohli appears to be perpetually consumed in the blithe that comes in with the idea of destiny bringing two people together again and again that he forgets that all this rigmarole needs to buttress on a motive when you are making a movie. TMK is a chagrined product, served with no real conflict in the lives of the lead characters. The episodic nature of the screenplay relies on setting up the era rather than the love story. If you can forgive that, once the repetitive episodes end, you are waiting for a masterstroke finale that packs in a punch engulfing the pizaazz of the parallel episodes and streamlining them with a common conflict, a running motive or a likable outcome. But Kohli and Bhatt had alternate plans for this harmless love story, they just end the film moronically with the lovers uniting without much ado. Clearly, they never looked beyond creating distinctive eras and fun moments or into the epiphany of a climactic deficiency.


TMK is laid out with only a handful of positives to talk about. While the first episode of 1960 is loaded with garishly leaking backgrounds and tacky production design, the story is instantly entertaining. The London sequence in 2012 looks like a modern version of the previous one with barely any standout moments. The Lahore sequence of 1910 could be the most deft owing to its endearing portrayal of the love story until it falls into the clutches of a choppy backdrop of independence movement, which is ludicrously handled. TMK guns itself forward with heavy doses of permeating cuteness and fairly entertaining dialogues but the distracted focus on the episodes leaves it sparse in terms of moments that actually erect that magical love between the lead pair that such a screenplay should be bagged with. The intermittent crooning and shimmying does not make up to a high-point where you want the lovers to unite. The finale is executed in parallel nature with all the episodes reaching their outcome but it doesnt weed out the need for a real conflict or a motive that hinges the overall plot.

Backed by Eros International and produced by Kunal Kohli Productions, Teri Meri Kahaani hails of money being poured into every department of production. Music by Sajid-Wajid is honestly appealing, but nothing close to memorable. Mukhtasar is the pick of the lot with Uff and Humse Pyaar Kar Le Tu being close seconds. Predictably, Kohli shoots his songs with profuse song and dance sequences that barge into the screenplay as and when they feel like. Cinematography by Sunil Patel rises from a predilection to capturing the locations better than the emotions. The Production Design by Maneesh Sappel ranges from shoddily lurid in 1960s Bombay to meekly fine in Lahore 1910. Film editor Amitabh Shukla suffered pretty much from tied hands in a smudge of shlock but he could have done a little more playing around with the episodes making them non-linear. Background score by Sandeep Shirodkar is ordinary. Choreography by Rekha and Chinni Prakash and Ahmed Khan doesnt have a gamut to offer, which puts Shahids dancing skills to waste. Kunal Kohli's dialogues keep you mildly entertained.

Shahid Kapoor lands up with the role of a lover boy. Wait, how many times have we heard that? As redundant as it may sound, Shahid has always played the guy next door. So what, this one is different because it has three entirely different characters and we all love Shahid, as he plays the scamp who woos us with his million dollar smile. Actually, I dont mean a word of the last statement but Kapoor doesnt sleepwalk through these characters. If you can look beyond his brawn, he plays all of them with a hint of nuance, the simpleton zany music director in 1960, the witty callous college guy in 2012 and the romantic rascal in 1910 but he fails to reconstruct his image in any of these as TMK adds on to his unending list of symptomatic lover boy characters. Priyanka Chopra, unexpectedly, brings in confused hammy parlance to the table with some slack to the Punjabi girl character in Lahore 1910. Though she looks absolutely gorgeous in most frames, her acting range displayed hereby is merely of a waxwork, stuffed with similar expressions and uninspiring dialogues. Despite the lackadaisical nature, one must mention that both of them have some chemistry which could be tapped in a less crotchety screenplay. None of the other side characters stand out in this fare. Prachi Desai and Neha Sharma are wasted in cameos while Vrajesh Hirjee looks like a creepy rapist.

When I went in to watch Teri Meri Kahaani, I had scant hopes out of it and it did not rise much above that. Many people actually would be contemplating that I went in to hate it, and hence I am deriding it now. Thats outrageously false, I dont judge a movie based on my preconceived notion of it but with TMK, I found myself struggling to find the shining spots as I wrote this review. I doubt there are many out there who would align themselves with this thought process. I see people around me gushing rapturously about it and desperately wanting to watch it, just to watch two good looking people fall in love. Agreed, TMK is a harmless film that deals out moments filled with dainty niceness and adorable love but it fails miserably due to its banal episodes, non-driven screenplay and lack of emotional heft. It has taken an expected decent opening at the Box Office and the theater I was at, was housefull with families and teenage girls who like exactly this kind of insipid stuff. Its not a terrible film, just that it is nothing more than a series of pretentious lovey-dovey moments that succumb to a weak overall scheme. I would strongly urge you to watch the awe-inspiring Gangs of Wasseypur, directed by the maestro Anurag Kashyap, instead of this generic romance drama.

Rating - 1.5/5

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