Batty girl meets sweet fellow. Is it cute? Yes, that first mulaqat is. And then? Then Hasee Toh Phasee wanders about figuring out whether it wants to be a contemporary rom-com, or a Gujju soap, or a ‘60s melodrama, or all of the above. This confusion confounds the film, fronted by the most talented female lead working in Bollywood right now, and makes her much less fun than she can be. And that holds true for the film, too.
It is most exasperating, because Hasee Toh Phasee seems to have everything going for it. The smart, varying sensibilities of co-producers Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap, a likeable leading man, and a crackerjack heroine. What it doesn’t have is a coherent story, and that’s why none of the refreshing bits add up.
Meeta (Chopra) is the kind of girl who uses her mind to invent things. Gasp. Mind, in a Bollywood heroine? But before we can break into a bhangra, or break out the bubbly, we are pulled up short. Lest Meeta is condemned to be one of those intelligent behenjis, she is saddled with a jhalli other self, and made to do all kinds of strange things for no good reason.
That, right there, is the problem. You want Meeta to be sharp and bright and talk about plastic and polymers and renewable energy, more power to you. Why the cop out? People can be bright and weird at the same time, but then you have to make it the right kind of weird. Meeta’s weirdness comes down to making faces, sticking her tongue sideways, talking fast in sing-song: basically acting hard at acting weird. She’s given a reason to be like that, but I didn’t buy it. Nor her over-the-top act, which overshadows her natural easy self.
So many of the plot devices feel so contrived and cobbled together that you lose sight of the best things about the film. Some absolutely delightful sequences get lost. I would count Sidharth Malhotra’s floppy-haired loser-trying-to-find-himself as one of the pluses of this film, even if he doesn’t come across too different with two girls he oscillates between: Cracked Meeta and Hardheaded Practical Karishma (Adah). His Nikhil is nice because he doesn’t try too hard. I would also say, that despite her missteps here, there really is no one quite like Parineeti Chopra in Bollywood: she is a mainstream actress bringing in freshness to jaded mainstream products.
The loose, random plotting, and motivation, lets them down. Some solid supporting acts – Manoj Joshi, as the father of the bride, a curly-haired comic as the relative of the groom – go waste. There’s also the crucial thing about spark: why are our love stories so chary about showing throbbing passion? In a stand-out scene, which has Meeta and Nikhil high in the sky in a picture-perfect Valentine Day Hallmark card-type setting, we see the start of something. And then there is a thud, and the film takes them into an entirely different Hum Aapke Hain Kaun alley with enraged uncles who have no compunction about slapping young girls across the face. And sobbing mothers yelling about “ghar ki izzat”. Did I also hear a “door ho jaao meri nazaron se”? Even if I didn’t, it would have fit right in with the scene. What is this, a dated four-hanky tear-jerker?
When, dear Bollywood, when will we get a real, rousing rom com?