Just like perennially happy people, there is something about totally sorted individuals that makes one very wary of them. These are people who seem to have figured out not just themselves, but their relationships, life, future, everything; who are seemingly content with what life has to offer and comfortable with the regular and the accepted. Then there are the eternally restless souls — constantly questioning, eternally claustrophobic, wanting desperately to break free, at times even from themselves.
Of late, a clutch of Hindi films has been playing on these binaries and eventually making the one at a tangent fall in line. Nitya Mehra’s Baar Baar Dekho is the latest in that list. Only it moves a level up from the theme of recklessness and commitment phobia in films like Wake Up Sid and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani to have its protagonist smacked into accepting the importance of family over professorship at Harvard and Cambridge. It’s all about making him learn to love his family than mathematics.
Director: Nitya Mehra
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Katrina Kaif, Sarika, Ram Kapoor, Rohan Joshi, Sayani Gupta, Rajit Kapur
Run time: 141.19 minutes
If it’s a Dharma and Excel combine then the film doesn’t just have to be about looking good, but doubly so. However, the fetching frames, the element of time travel, futuristic mobiles, homes, cars and gadgetry and the advanced prosthetics and makeup can’t quite take away from the familiar, time-worn take on relationships. So we have a maths genius, Jai Verma (Sidharth Malhotra) travel ahead (10 days, two years, 16 and then 30 years) and later a bit back in time to get a second chance at mending his marriage with Diya Kapoor, aka DK (Katrina Kaif) and learning that it’s the small moments together that count more than his own big ambitions. Though to be fair to him not once in the unconvincing film does he come across as the one neglecting his relationship and family. That is, unless wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned with “Roamers and Seekers” and surfing a website called totallyimmersed.com is enough to stamp him as selfish. In fact, my heart reached out to him when, on the eve of his wedding, he asks the domineering DK if he doesn’t even have the right to think for himself.
The film is structured around small vignettes, or, as Jai himself puts it, the highlights of his life — wedding, honeymoon, children and more. There are no layers to the characters, no complexity to the warp and weft of urban relationships. So the parents, siblings, friends and progenies are more like frame fillers and props rather than full blown people. The couple itself is cardboard flat and dull. Neither do the two reach out to each other on screen nor does their love work any magic on the viewers. The opening credits — showing the birth and growing up of the lead pair — has more romance packed in it than the entire film itself.
There are no standout performances, no scenes that can pack in an emotional wallop and the conversational dialogue turns banal beyond a point. Kaif very consciously focuses on making the audience concentrate on her impossibly well-toned midriff. But she displays no such commitment and motivation towards acting, goes ahead and botches up the emotional scenes and gets way too shrill and hysterical for comfort. In the midst of all this, it gets relatively easy for Malhotra to make his presence felt. However, just as it is way too hard to believe a passionless Kaif to be a painter of modern art, it is impossible to think of Sidharth as a mathematician.
The film makes a case for emotions over mathematical equations, problem solving and logic and yet doffs its hat to Vedic mathematics. That is, how it helps in figuring space travel and how all the problems of today can be solved with the help of ancient Indian sciences. Add to that, a holy thread and panditji that fill in for a time machine. If in K3G the Britishers were made to sing the national anthem we have one of them recite the Hanuman Chalisa here.
Who says our popular cinema doesn’t know how to keep in tune with the changing times and the regimes?