Film Review: Hamari Adhuri Kahani

Mismatched lovers struggle for happiness in a sweeping romance that loses its way in plot contrivances.
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Can a single mom find happiness with a billionaire? What if she's actually married to a terrorist who's been missing for five years? And what if the billionaire has his own secret past involving a cabaret singer mother and an alcoholic stepfather? Hamari Adhuri Kahani ("Our Incomplete Story") aims to find out, no matter how many tears are shed in the process.

Hamari Adhuri Kahani spans three generations and several belief systems in telling of the love between Vasudha (Vidya Balan), a florist, and Aarav Ruparel (Emraan Hashmi), whose economic empire includes 108 luxury hotels. Crisscrossing India and the Middle East, the movie provides a very plush and colorful background to a story that insists on inflicting as much pain as possible on its characters.

Terrorism, land mines, corrupt politicians, arum lilies, outmoded religious traditions and arranged marriages all conspire against Vasudha, who maintains a stalwart decency despite both the obstacles and temptations facing her. Marking her 20th year in movies, Balan is effortlessly appealing. Her glistening eyes alone are enough to seduce the most skeptical viewer; she also projects an air of sincerity even when the script forces her into absurd situations.

Hashmi, Balan's co-star in two previous movies, fails to find a convincing strategy for what is a much less rewarding part. He plays Aarav as a masochist, choking back tears as he lets happiness slip through his fingers. Stoic, passive, whatever—he can't even break a sweat during an orgasmic fireworks display.

As Hari, an abusive husband who falls prey to hallucinations, Rajkumar Rao chews whatever scenery he can find. Off-screen for much of the movie, and trapped under a fright wig for his big moments, Rao resorts to actorly clichés to tip off viewers that he's not as crazy as his part.

Director Mohit Suri had an unexpected hit last year with the romantic thriller Ek Villain. He has a knack for building anticipation, and can make the most worn-out emotions still seem heartfelt. He surrounds his stars with alluring visuals and a warm, supportive editing scheme, lulling viewers into a sort of stupefied calm.

The script by Mahesh Bhatt, brother of producer Mukesh, raises worthwhile points about feminism, mental illness and other topics. Unfortunately, they are mostly crammed into the movie's last 20 minutes, a succession of false endings that comes close to entirely dissipating the good will generated earlier.

The movie's songs, primarily Western-oriented power ballads, help elevate the material, which despite its flaws succeeds in building a sense of romantic loss. But Hamari Adhuri Kahani works best as a showcase for the graceful, dignified Vidya Balan. She deserves a better vehicle.

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