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July 1, 1999


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The parting game

Sharmila Taliculam

A still from Hote Hote Pyar Ho Gaya. Click for bigger pic!
Excuse us if this cliché vexes you, but if you seen one, you've truly seen them all -- or at least a sizeable percentage of them.

Hote Hote Pyar Ho Gaya reminds you of an old film called Shriman Shrimati where the modern thinking man wants a modern thinking woman and the simple, traditional man wants a traditional woman. They end up with the opposites. And that's where the story begins. But the makers say this is a story with a difference and we find some reason to agree -- and we aren't discussing the fact that here the length of the title might consume half the script.

Pinky (Kajol) is a spoilt child of a retired colonel (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). She is stubborn, modern and very outspoken. She meets Bunty (Atul Agnihotri) at a picnic and they fall in love.

Bunty is betrothed to Shobha (Ayesha Jhulka), a bespectacled earnest woman in traditional mould who thinks that her rightful place doesn't extend two feet beyond those of her husband's pair. Pinky is to be married to Arjun (Jackie Shroff), a police inspector.

Pinky and Bunty want to marry each other but realise they could be out on the roads if they don't bow to parental pressure. Till Bunty's loving and scheming aunt (Aruna Irani) points out that perhaps a miserable marriage could be a way out.

So Bunty and Pinky decide to get married to the partners picked for them, and then make such a botch of the marriage that their respective spouses opt for a divorce. If that isn't a hare-brained scheme, one wonders what is.

This film is a little different from Shriman Shrimati, but the main difference is that despite its trite assumptions, the earlier film held your interest.

Click for bigger pic!
And, unlike in Shriman Shrimati where the mixed-up marriage was a result of confused identity, here the main characters this film Bunty and Pinky are in love. And that kind of draws the innocence out the story.

Either way, HHPHG is so loosely made that it drags at points. And the complacent claims that kids don't do what they are up to and that all their love is infatuation do tend to get your goat.

Kajol's performance as a stubborn spoilt girl is, perhaps, the highlight of the film. And then there's Jackie in a quiet role. Kajol's is a refreshing change in most of her roles. And she does it again. But to carry this film really called for an Atlas, not a Kajol. For the script is loose and the scenes look like discrete units strung together. It's a pretty amateurish attempt at making a complex storyline work. And in the end, the film's plain boring.

Agnihotri is somebody who is almost forgotten. One might remember him from a hit called Sir, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Pooja Bhatt. His portrayal here of a boy impressed by western clothes and sporting a I care a damn attitude is about passable. He is not a very good actor, but manages a little better than some of his more successful competitors.

Ayesha also passes muster as a traditional wife who turns modern as the occasion demands it. Not, of course, that that ploy isn't clichéd too -- the Bollywood wife who dons modern clothes just to draw her husband's attention. Maybe it was intentional -- and maybe not -- but it grates on you when, despite the husband's superficiality, the woman goes on gushing about how much she loves him.

Jackie as Kajol's miserable husband has given a very restrained performance. He looks the mature, tolerant man he plays. And since that was what he was expected to do, you can't apportion him blame for the weaknesses of the film.

Click for bigger pic!
Aruna Irani's role combines those of Rakhee and Sanjeev Kumar in Shriman Shrimati. She manipulates her nephew and his new bride to get things just right, speaking in traditional terms. But, after a point, she concentrates more on her nephew than on Kajol. That is what we could expect, of course, from any aunt. But since Kajol was the one bright spot there, the shift in action has leaves it's on the plot.

Hote Hote Pyar Ho Gaya probably intends to instil the importance of ancient Indian culture, whether the makers believe it or not. Well's that a fine thing of course -- commercially speaking.

But, again, you have those trite dilemmas cropping up. So, as in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, you have the karva chauth ceremony where the wife is told that her husband will live a long life if she adheres to the rules of the ceremony. Not particularly hot on the idea of the husband she's trying to shed last forever, the wife doesn't bother to go through the rigmarole.

Then you have a scene where you are informed that marriages are indeed made in heaven. Even cornier is the result when a gal tosses a garland at a deity from a distance: The floral wraparound tumbles around the neck of the man that the family's chosen for her. Shucks, even god hams it up here.

The songs come in the milk and water variety, with only two of them sounding at least tolerable -- the title song and Jab tune mere paas aake.

It may be a passing fad, but Bollywood's current preoccupation with Indian culture and tradition is getting a little tiring. Time might come, all the gods forbid, when we'll actually be looking forward to a return of those ghastly 1980 action dramas.

To get to the point, Hote Hote Pyar Ho Gaya isn't the stuff that makes you wonder why all movies aren't made like this. In fact, you're certain all movies, however they are made, shouldn't be made like this.

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