Special Feature: Revisiting ‘Hum Tum’ 10 years on
“Kabhi kabhi to pehli mulaqat hi kafi hoti hai aur kabhi kabhi bahut si mulaqate lag jaati hai...”
The year was 2004. I had optimism. I believed in love. Ten years and several heartbreaks later, cynicism took over and most of this kinda fluff these days makes me sigh and do my trademark #eyeroll. Anyway, enough about my soap box. I caught this Yash Raj Films romcom on the idiot box on the off chance the other day, and I'd seriously forgotten how much I'd enjoyed it back in 2004. The film’s ten years old and yet, all these years on, it still has a very distinct, likeable and optimistic charm about it.
Rani Mukerji (now Chopra) was at the zenith of her career — she swept most of the awards that year and followed up Hum Tum with Black, Veer-Zaara and Bunty Aur Babli, while Saif Ali Khan was still struggling to carve a niche for himself. Kunal Kohli had a disastrous Mujhse Dosti Karoge behind him, and so really, apart from Rani, at the time, this film had very little going for it, except perhaps a decent soundtrack by Jatin-Lalit.
The premise of the film was simple. There was barely anything here that we hadn’t seen before, but despite abounding in clichés, it had heart and touching performances that made it a cut above the rest. It’s the film that turned the tide for Saif, especially after he won the coveted National Award for the same (although the circumstances behind his win were dubious and controversial), and it was also the beginning of Rani’s ascent to becoming one of Tinsel Town’s most bankable heroines.
Hum Tum revolves around Karan Kapoor (Saif) a cartoonist by profession and the creator of a successful sketch 'Hum Tum' — a newspaper strip which highlights his contrasting views on men and women and their different takes on love and life. Karan's a firm believer of living life spontaneously — he lives for the moment, has a different paramour every week and doesn't really believe in the institution of marriage, or even monogamy for that matter.
At the opposite end of the spectrum there's Rhea (Rani), who despite being modern in her outlook to life, is conventionally Indian and traditional at heart. Unsurprisingly, fireworks and friction ensue when she has a chance encounter with Karan on a flight to New York, owing to their different takes on life.
Spanning ten years and three continents, the film then goes on to examine how their relationship develops from initial hatred, gradual friendship and inevitably into something much more deeper and meaningful.
Hum Tum ran on a simple premise and an extremely thin plot, but it sailed through probably because most of the actors seemed tailor made for their respective parts, even if they were just cameos or fleeting guest appearances.
The wisecracking Karan was a part that fit Saif like a glove. He gave the character the right amount of cockiness, deadpan wit, sarcasm, arrogance and heart, in a way only he could. In hindsight, I can't imagine anyone besides him pulling off the character with his trademark spontaneity, style and panache.
This film turned Rani’s fortunes around to an extent too and parked her right at the top of the heap. It came merely a week after her bravura act as a downtrodden housewife in Mani Ratnam’s ambitious yet epic dud Yuva, a character that was in complete contrast to the one she pulled of here, and as Rhea, she was elegance personified, looking gorgeous besides. In fact, her disarming, charming chemistry with Saif in the film was its major highlight — something they failed to pull off in their subsequent films together, Tara Rum Pum and Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic.
It wasn’t just Saif and Rani that made the film what it was though. The supporting cast too delivered gems in terms of performances. As Rhea's loud, English attempting Punjabi mom, Bobby, Kiron Kher was simply marvellous and brought the house down in a brief albeit important role. Rishi Kapoor and Rati Agnihotri as Karan's estranged parents were effective too, especially Kapoor who got a chance to shine after some poorly written character parts in inconsequential films.
Jimmy Shergill as Mihir, Karan’s earnest and dependable friend played his part well even if his character was a bit of a wet blanket while Abhishek Bachchan in a cameo (he did several at the time the other one being a terrible one in Salaam Namaste), was as dull as ever and added very little to his part. Similarly, Isha Kopikar and ex veejay Shehnaz Treasurywalla brought very little gravitas to their roles and were quickly disposed of in blink and miss appearances.
Incorporating animation into the film was clever and successfully conveyed the emotions the key characters were trying to portray, although it’s just a shame that they weren’t voiced differently, because the actors that voiced them began to grate on your nerves as the film progresses.
Two tracks in the film really stood out for me, 'Ladki Kyon' and the effervescent, lovelorn title track, which still has a prominent place on my playlist even today.
All in all, Hum Tum was definitely not novel and neither was it path breaking cinema, but if a film can hold your attention ten years on then it definitely had something going for it, right?
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