Hasee Toh Phasee: Watch out for Parineeti Chopra

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Film: Hasee Toh Phasee

Cast: Parineeti Chopra, Siddharth Malhotra, Adah Sharma

Director: Vinil Mathew

Rating: ****

She is certifiably wacko, eats toothpaste, hobnobs with foreign powers, steals from her father, talks Mandarin and bluntly asks her sister’s fiance to marry her.

“I promise I won’t run away…Life-time guarantee,” Parineeti Chopra, as the zany fey and mad Meeta tells Siddharth Malhotra in a beautifully written and directed sequence in an empty bus.

Ab bus bhi karo! How many more commercial Indian films are going to be set in the Great Big Fat Indian Wedding? And really, Jab We Met, Tanu Weds Manu and Mere Brother Ki Shaadi, there’s nothing runaway brides can do to shock us any more…

The good news here is, there is no runaway bride in Hasee Toh Phasee. But don’t break into a Bhangra just yet. Because there is a runaway bridegroom.

Set during a Gujarati wedding between two souls who are not meant to be together, the film at heart is not a comedy at all… unless you think a grown-up girl who is locked up for hours in a room peeing in her pants is funny… so I wonder why it was promoted as one!

Though the surface mood of the film is skittish and cheeky, this is a sombre study of dysfunctionality as seen during a time of tremendous festivity.

So here’s the all-too-familiar scenario. Nikhil (Siddharth Malhotra) is about to marry Ms Money. Luckily for Nikhil and for the audience Karishma, as played by the sweetly believable Adah Sharma, is not a rich bitch like the hero’s embarrassing fiancee in this week’s other release Babloo Happy Hai. She is rich. But not a bitch. Got that?

The characters in this darkly humorous tale of misfits and other adventurers steadily remain within the realm of the believable even when the situations handed to them by the uneven script wobble dangerously out of control.

Nonetheless there is so much here that just warms the inner-most spaces in our hearts.

The longish sequence where Nikhil takes Parineeti outside her home so she can get a glimpse of her estranged father, or that moment when Nikhil picks her up from a dingy guest house… these are bravely written scenes.

There are many sluggish moments in the storytelling. You wish the editing was tighter, and the film’s setting and festive mood less cliched. And you wish there wasn’t so much stress on catching the characters in a constant condition of quirkiness. It’s like watching decent people on pot and on the potty all the time.

But then there is Parineeti Chopra, so wonderfully articulate even as she grapples with the gibberish grammar of her character’s screwed-up personality. It’s not easy to play a wacko with such steadfast empathy.

Siddharth Malhotra seems more taken with putting his best profile forward on screen. He struggles to subjugate his innate vanity and look sincere in his space. But it’s a losing battle. One doesn’t see the actor identify with his character’s wayward entrepreneurship and his sudden discovery of a protective warmth towards the zany girl who jumps in to his life.

Mohan Joshi as the father of the bride gives a first-rate performance. To me this is more a father-daughter drama than a loverboy-wackogirl rom-com.

No matter how you look at it, the film and every rich resplendent moment in it, belongs to Parineeti Chopra. She irons out the rough spots in the storytelling, hides the wrinkles in the jaded plot and makes her character seem far more empathetic than it would have been in a lesser actress’ hands.

Yup, if the film gets your undivided attention it’s because Parineeti won’t let us look away.

Subhash K. Jha 

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