Saturday, February 8, 2014


Release date:
February 8, 2014
Vinil Matthew


Parineeti Chopra, Sidharth Malhotra, Adah Sharma, Manoj Joshi, Neena Kulkarni, Sharat Saxena

Hasee Toh Phasee is an unusual Bollywood romantic comedy that uses the clichés of the genre as a mere backdrop to give us two characters of the sort we rarely meet in Hindi cinema. So yes, there’s a large, very rich joint family, there are bodies laden with heavy jewellery and expensive clothes in the run-up to a shaadi, and there are happy parivaars singing and dancing on grandly conceived set pieces. None of that though is allowed to overshadow the young couple at the centre of it all: Meeta and Nikhil.

Parineeti Chopra plays Meeta, a drug addict and scientific genius with questionable moral values who fits into the chor-ke-bhi-usool-hotey-hai category of people: she steals without pangs of conscience but will only steal from her dad because that’s her principle, she explains. At the start of the film she briefly meets Nikhil (Sidharth Malhotra). Seven years later, she is back in the home from where she stole money to fund her student research, armed now with a supply of anti-depressants and a plan to steal once again to repay a debt for a lab she started in China. This time when she meets Nikhil, he is engaged to her sister Karishma (Adah Sharma).

Nikhil and Karishma are in a relationship of a kind often seen. They’re fond of each other but clearly not in love. She keeps breaking up with him or threatening to do so, and each time he desperately tries to gain her forgiveness. He is yet to make anything of himself professionally so her constant anger is not unjustified, but her repeated break-up threats and haranguing render her charmless. Why does he not call it quits when being with her is so stressful? Well, because they’ve been together for seven years which in his book is a commitment.

So far so good. The lead characters seem credible and their relationships believable. The acting is pleasantly low-pitched. The songs too are likeable though Zehnaseeb is the only one that truly lingers. The film is visually pretty from A-Z (Karan Johar is a co-producer so that’s a given, I guess) but unlike some of KJo’s own directorial ventures, the prettiness does not threaten to overwhelm its soul. Director Vinil Matthew adopts a storytelling style reminiscent of the low-key tone and tenor of Shakun Batra’s 2012 film Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu which was produced by Johar. That film was about whether a friendship is possible when unrequited love is in the picture. Hasee Toh Phasee, on the other hand, is about a completely mismatched pair who you cannot help but root for even as you wonder whether they’re right for each other.

HTP’s screenplay by Harshavardhan Kulkarni is peppered with under-stated humour and unexpectedly sensitive situations. Meeta’s emotionally charged first encounter after seven years with her father (played sweetly by Manoj Joshi) and the references to TV's C.I.D. during a comical family investigation by Nikhil’s father (Sharat Saxena as a retired police officer) stay on in the mind. However, the writing leaves many questions unanswered. How, for instance, does a girl so deeply fond of her father leave him for seven years without once looking back?

That’s not the only unconvincing portion in the film. Yet, so palpable is the chemistry between the lead pair that all the inconsistencies seem secondary in comparison. From their first meeting, there is an instant connect. Later, as their friendship blossoms in the run-up to his wedding, two scenes wrench the heart: the one in which he discovers her sleeping peacefully in a filthy, run-down building; another in which he forgets her in a locked room. Their bond is electric with empathy. Such chemistry is possible only when good acting, writing and direction come together and in that regard, it’s hard to believe that Vinil Matthew is a director on debut.

That little sparkler called Parineeti we first encountered in Ladies vs Ricky Bahl in 2011 is in fine fettle here as a woman who doesn’t bat an eyelid before telling a fellow that he should dump her sister because it’s they – Meeta and Nikhil, not Nikhil and Karishma – who are made for each other. The manner in which she pulls off Meeta’s disarming, child-like frankness though can’t excuse her inconsistency with the physical quirks she gives her character – attributable to her penchant for pills, one assumes. If the intention was to convey the highs and lows between doses, the point is not effectively made. 

Sidharth is to Parineeti in Hasee Toh Phasee what Shahid Kapoor was to Kareena Kapoor in Jab We Met: a perfect foil to a female co-star’s more energetic presence and role. That he is gorgeous was evident in his first film Student Of The Year (2013). HTP is a reminder that there’s more to him than the arresting face. There’s a well of sensitivity in those speaking eyes, and he’d be wise to seek out directors who tap that aspect of his personality rather than just his handsomeness. Of the rest of the cast, a special word must go to the ever-dependable Neena Kulkarni as Nikhil’s watchful mother. The jarring element of the lot is the actor playing Nikhil’s cousin, the one with the disturbingly lecherous eyes that we discover in the end were inappropriate for his role.

Hasee Toh Phasee is not without flaws – the dry title being one of them – but it’s unusual and fun overall. Besides, when was the last time Bollywood served us an important female character who is a chemical engineer from IIT? Hindi film women who are not home makers tend to be in the glamour business (models, designers actors) or of a vague, indeterminate profession. Over and above everything else in HTP though, there are the sparks between Parineeti and Sidharth. By the end, as a viewer I felt an overpowering desire to do everything in my power to get those two together. It’s not often that a film can make you feel that way.

Rating (out of five): *** (stars out of 5)

CBFC Rating (India):

Running time:
142 minutes

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