Hope Aur Hum cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Bashir, Sonali Kulkarni, Sajid Kabir, Beena Banerjee
Hope Aur Hum movie director: Sudip Bandyopadhyay
Hope Aur Hum rating: 1.5 stars
Old age, old machine, old times, old haveli, old gramophone, old jazz record, and one really old box. Hope Aur Hum doesn’t believe in subtlety when it comes to drumming home its message of old giving way to the new, saddling Naseeruddin Shah with the burden of making audiences hope that, surely, there is something better around the corner.
But being much too obvious and doing injustice to Shah as well as Bashir, another great actor gone to waste here, isn’t even the worst of Hope Aur Hum’s crimes. That would be its insistence on straying off on tangents to yawn-worthy non-plots, one of which involves a Dubai-returned rich man looking for his phone for nearly 15 minutes of screen time. The talented child actor Kabir (Secret Superstar) has another plot that adds nothing to the central premise, but he at least is more delightful while at it.
In the Srivastava household around which Hope Aur Hum revolves, Kabir’s Anu and Shah’s Dadu form the two most interesting bookends. A finer film could have churned an entire story out of them, and some of their scenes will remind you of the endearing award-winning animation Up!. Anu’s Naani’s home, in a sprawling, decrepit haveli in the countryside, also has a charm about it and the hint of a mystery that yet another fine film could have spun into a tale of growing up during one lazy summer.
But, first-time director Bandyopadhyay doesn’t know when he has a nice thing going. So we have Anu and Dadu, Anu and Naani (played by the much-missed Beena Banerjee), Anu and cricket, Anu’s chacha’s missing phone, and even Anu’s chacha’s missing girlfriend. She, thankfully, remains largely missing.
And we haven’t even mentioned yet the highlight of Hope Aur Hum, the one thing Bandyopadhyay, by his own confession, recognised. That would be a vintage photocopying machine, made by German firm Soennecken, that Dadu loves and cares for. He sees it as his last companion, the last vestige of his former life in a fast-changing world. Bandyopadhyay, a fine arts student and an ad filmmaker, has talked about how he remembered one such 100-year-old machine from his childhood, and how he and his art director spent “blood, sweat and tears” and much imagination recreating it for Hope Aur Hum.
In its burnished-wood splendour, its big and scratched lens, its giant plates, its bellows that hang out at the back, and in the faded prints it belches out with much effort, ‘Mr Soennecken’, as Dadu calls it, is the character with the most heft and history in Hope Aur Hum.
Don’t ask what happens to it.