‘Maang meri..sindoor tumhare naam ka..haath mere..choodiyan tumhare naam ki, kokh meri..khoon mera par baccha tumhare naam ka..tumhari iss duniya mein kya kuch bhi hai mere naam ka?”
When Vidya Balan’s Vasudha says these words to her insanely possessive husband (the unerring Rajkumar Yadav) in Hamari Adhuri Kahani, you recall the 80s when Mahesh Bhatt basically broke every story telling convention in Hindi cinema to make you wince, hurt and occasionally weep cathartic tears because his films set you free and gave you characters you had never seen before. A single mother who takes off her mangalsutra and tells her son (Ashiqui), ‘’Mare hue rishte se zyada mara hua kuch nahin hota.”
A cheated wife who has moved on (Arth) and tells her sheepish husband, “Agar main wo karti jo tumne kiya aur laut ke aati toh kya tum mujhe maaf kar dete?”
An old man who takes his grieving wife to a flowering patch to show the miracle their son’s ashes have brought about because life goes on, in some form and even death can’t change that. Because that is the saraansh (summary) of life.
Or a man who realises that even if he has rescued a woman from hell and given her a new lease of life, she does not belong to him (Aawargi, starring Anil Kapoor). That Mahesh Bhatt? Well, there he is, stamped all over Hamari Adhuri Kahani. You hear him when a bitterly angry widow tells her daughter-in-law, “marne ke baad bhi aurat ke jism par mard ka hi haq hota hai.” And when she says, “Don’t waste your life like me. Don’t grow cold before you are dead.” And another older woman who says, “You are told, ‘be like Sita.’ But you already are Sita. There is love right before you..when will you dare to be Radha?”
Or when Vasudha tells Emran Hashmi’s Aarav, “This garden is too beautiful. That is why it doesn’t touch the heart. Jahan kuch sookhe patte aur murjhaye phool na hon, woh bageecha bageecha nahin hota..” Or when Aarav tells Vasudha,”What can be more painful than the fact that you are not scared of death but of life, not of loneliness but of love?”
Or when he explains his passion for her, “It took me all my life to figure this. That you can love someone only when you stop caring about yourself. Zindagi sirf len den ka karobaar nahin hai. All I want is to give now.”
Mohit Suri has to some extent inherited from Bhatt, his penchant for never leaving things unsaid. But to see them unravel in all their ugliness, fury and glory. This is not a perfect film though. There are big ‘ifs’ and ‘buts.’ How does the estranged husband know his wife’s life story so intimately that he can write a book about it? Why does a millionaire go in the woods to get evidence that could have been arranged in any other way? How does a disadvantaged child become a hospitality tycoon?
Also for all the beautiful verbosity about life and love, the woman at the centre of it all, shows no sense of volition. Her father arranges her marriage. Her husband vanishes mysteriously from her life and then reappears to take control of her life. A tycoon falls in love with her, offers her his heart and soul but she confusedly keeps waxing and waning between guilt, denial and misplaced loyalty and is even shown falling at the feet of the man she loves. Even then she will not stop him from going on a reckless mission to prove her husband innocent. And when she says, “Everyone is in pain because of me,” you want to say, “hell, yeah, we all are.”
Even her last meeting (metaphorically, speaking) with her one true love is orchestrated by a man. But if you can suspend the disbelief a bit, and brush aside memories of Love Happens, Maid in Manhattan, Pretty Woman et al, there are moments that will move you. The way Aarav doodles a name even before he has discovered the extent of his feelings for Vasudha. The way she clicks a selfie to send it to him.
The way, she refers to her mangalsutra with compulsive touching whenever her ‘sanskars’ are being threatened by life. The flowers that bind the two together.
And there is the mess inside a woman’s mind whose body and soul now belong to another man but her conscience is still tied up to the well-being of a husband who has given her nothing but pain.
The performances are just about okay with Vidya exuding habitual dignity, despite the degradation her character allows herself to go through. And Emran is understated in his portrayal of a man who will go to any length to protect those he loves.
And in a hugely surprising appearance, you have Amala playing a cameo. And Uday Chandra who is a tragically undersung actor,(Hum Panch and Baaton Baaton Mein) and is mostly known in theatre circles for living and breathing KL Saigal in a Tom Alter play, gets to play a small part too. This is a film that will be berated for its hyperbole at a time when writing is not about punchlines but subtle suggestions, but Mahesh Bhatt’s pen has a piercing energy that will stay with you long after the film ends. — Reema Moudgil