Verdict - Hasee Toh Phasee is the best Hindi romantic comedy in recent times
I am going to begin this review with a personal impression. Hasee Toh Phasee opens with a scene where we see a little boy called Nikhil sneaking out of his house to watch his favorite film. In my head I pointed at the screen and said “Oh wait, that’s me”. Basically, this film had me at hello. Name and everything.
If this is not relatable for me then I don’t know what is. The fact that rest of the film is in equal parts relatable and riveting is not just a surprise but also a relief.
Hasee Toh Phasee is the best Indian romantic comedy since Imtiaz Ali made his one-two punch with Jab We Met (2007) and Love Aaj Kal (2009). Then came Wake Up Sid (2009), Band Baaja Baraat (2010) and Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012). The most commercial one - Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) had its moments as well. Hasee Toh Phasee joins the ranks of these successful films. Say what you will but this is one genre Indian cinema has been getting right since the past few years. These films are made within the confines of the genre and find unexpected spark in them. Hasee Toh Phasee is easily the quirkiest and most unconventional of them all. It doesn't boast about it but becomes it.
It gives equal weight to both its characters. It’s heartening to see a film about a girl with parental issues than the guy. Be it Wake Up Sid or Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, it’s always the male leads who get the sub-plot where they have to overcome some familial obstacle. The women get left behind. They are either manic pixie dream girls or the jilted one who needs saving. I wouldn’t say that Harshvardhan Kulkarni has written Meeta’s character (played by Miss Chopra) and redefined female characters but he doesn’t treat her like a woman who needs saving, even when she does. I could see a flash of Silver Linings Playbook (2012) here, particularly the mental instability bit. Vinil Mathew doesn’t ever look down upon it. But then credit must be given to the actress who portrayed this character on screen.
Parineeti Chopra. These two words have an actress behind them that is changing the face of modern Indian cinema. She makes everyone in the movie look good, she makes bad movies look good and when a movie is actually good, she makes it look absolutely fantastic. This is her best performance yet.
Sidharth Malhotra has improved from his Student days. He can emote better and dance better. He has a cinematic presence but he needs to connect with the audience bit more. It won’t be too late till we find a film where he surprises us with his hidden acting talent. The supporting cast is effortlessly brilliant. The ones who stand out are Manoj Joshi, Sharat Saxena and especially Anil Mange. Half your work is done when you cast a film well.
The music by Vishal-Shekhar is a diverse bunch. There are fun songs like Punjabi Wedding Song and Drama Queen. Ishq Bulava also strikes a chord. I hadn’t heard Manchala properly before watching the film but as I exited the theater, that was the song in my head. Although, my pick of the lot is Zehnaseeb. Sometimes you don’t know how to praise certain artistic creations. You just wonder and question: how did they ever make a song like that. It’s beautiful in every sense of the word.
I haven’t mentioned the plot yet. Frankly, I don’t want to bore us with it. It’s the same boy meets girl scenario. Boy and girl fall in love and then complications arise scenarios follow. Or not. I could tell you how they meet or fall in love but then what would be left for you to discover? Discover, you must.
Of course, there are flaws. Motivations of certain characters are skewed, back-stories don't check out and a couple of sub-plots are contrived. There are these and some other things I don't care about. I've never been a fan of logic. Especially when the filmmakers are convinced of the story they are telling. Even better when the actors are inspired and more convincing than the faults in the script. I care more about whether I want the lovers to unite at the end or not. I care more about whether I feel the romance, the longing or not. Needless to say, this movie made me care and feel for the lovers. It's hard to watch Parineeti bawl like a baby and remain dry-eyed.
As far as romantic comedies go, I would pick this film over most recent others. It strikes the perfect balance between clichés and experimentation. No wonder the two production houses behind the film are Dharma and Phantom. One embraces clichés and the other goes offbeat. No Shuddh Desi tomfoolery here, where the film nosedives into awful faux-unconventionality, this is the real deal. Move over Jaideep Sahni and Maneesh Sharma, we have Vinil Mathew and Harshvardhan Kulkarni to show you how it’s really done.
I began the review with a personal whimsy, which may have sounded irrelevant to many people, so I am going to do exactly the same thing as I close it. Parineeti Chopra, my most favorite actress in Hindi cinema (probably ever), happened to speak my name quite a few times in the film. She speaks it only during the last half hour, to be exact. Heart skips a beat when it wants to. I’m sure this will make you wince and/ or roll your eyes. While you are at it imagine your favorite actress calling out your name on the big screen. Pretty cool, right? (Yes, you can judge me, thanks). This film will always have me at goodbye. Tears and everything.