Filmmakers can┬┤t be blamed for harking back to the past for inspiration. The endeavor can be rewarding as both Veer-Zaara and Parineeta have recently demonstrated. Of course, it is not simply a case of trying to recreate the old, but of presenting familiar motifs in unexpected ways. Bunty Soorma and Vikram Bhatt┬┤s Humko Tumse Pyaar Hai has all the trappings of an old-fashioned melodrama, but fails to engage on any level. It is a heavy- handed amalgamation of predictable plotting notions weighed down by very ordinary acting and picturizations; a film which sinks before intermission.
Durga (Amisha Patel) - a simple Rajasthani village girl, is blind. She regains her sight through the efforts of a stranger (Arjun Rampal) who falls for her winsome ways and wishes to marry her. Tragedy strikes at the precise moment that Durga is to gaze upon the world for the first time. Her beloved Rohit, is taken away from her. (I am groaning as I write this because it is so hackneyed.) Yet, why can I watch a vintage film like Deedar (1951) which is based on a similar premise and consider it to be good cinema?
It all boils down to belief. The makers of Deedar believed that their story had resonance. Its stellar cast believed that the combined power of the film┬┤s dialogues and Naushad┬┤s music could transcend the ordinary and really move viewers. Classic melodramas can disarm cynical modern audiences precisely because these films are not as naive or as simple as many would suggest. The sense of imagery in them is strong, taking meaning to deeper levels as they work with our imaginations in much the same way as poetry.
No-one seems to believe in Humko Tumse Pyaar Hai - not the film makers or the actors which isn┬┤t surprising because the man with the vision - Soorma, died before the work was completed. Vikram Bhatt took over and finished it. The result is too simplistic and predictable to be satisfying. What you see is what you get; a screenplay which has been cobbled together using elements from Deedar (1951), Deewana (1992) and Suneel Darshan┬┤s Andaaz. The beauty of Veer-Zaara and Parineeta is that they used retrospective story-telling techniques to maintain our curiosity and interest pre-intermission, before releasing a few surprises as the outcomes become known. There are no surprises in Humko Tumse Pyaar Hai - only inconsistencies.
Dilip Kumar played the part of the blind hero in Deedar with appropriate control; suggestive of the dependence engendered by his disability. Amisha however, does far too much running around, spinning and swirling to be considered blind. It can be argued that these are just flights of fantasy within songs, but they often start with the idea that she is unsure of herself then launch into vigorous, confident movement. It┬┤s almost as though the choreographers hadn┬┤t been informed that she was supposed to be blind and added in a few "wobbly" bits to give that impression as a last minute fix.
A further inconsistency arises when we are led to believe that Durga is quite helpless at home and accidentally sets the house on fire. Where is her brother? Why does her fiance leave her alone? She lives in a village but there isn┬┤t a neighbour in sight. What┬┤s more, a wonderful doctor whom she calls "Papa", quite inexplicably takes charge of her life. Prior to intermission they are just doctor and patient but afterwards, by some magical turn of events, we find them in Switzerland as father and daughter. Durga┬┤s brother conveniently disappears so things can start afresh, unencumbered by the "loose threads" of her previous life.
Even the most interesting aspect of her previous existence isn┬┤t followed through. Durga is an artisan - a talented sculptor whose art is central to her being. Consequently, it would be quite appropriate for her to channel grief into art but it doesn┬┤t happen. She┬┤s a pretty porcelain-faced doll who smiles, cries, wears elaborate saris and not much else. Admittedly, during the climax of the film, she does produce a sculpture but it is very unconvincing. The bust bears little resemblance to Arjun Rampal even though it really needs to look like him. There┬┤s a nice little theme-song enhanced interlude in the earlier part of the film when she sculpts his likeness. This works and I┬┤d like to believe that Bunty Soorma was responsible. The second attempt at sculpting her fiance┬┤s image is laughable because, even a novice knows that an artist doesn┬┤t construct shoulders and a headless neck first, but works holistically with the clay as shown in the first instance.
It took Vikram Bhatt 18 months to complete the film which suggests that Bunty Soorma┬┤s vision might not have been fully realized. Soorma┬┤s screenplay may also have been a work in progress so the Humko Tumse Pyaar Hai that we see isn┬┤t really the Humko Mohabbat Hai Tumse which was intended.
The performances are all mediocre; perhaps Bobby Deol is a little stronger than the other two leads as the new man in Durga┬┤s life. In good melodrama it┬┤s all about stillness; about the depth which is projected by the actors in the close-ups of their faces - the shifts in understanding mirrored in their eyes and the inflections of their voices. Watching Nargis, Dilip Kumar and Nimmi, one senses a lot of action beneath the surface. In Humko Tumse Pyaar Hai the actors try but the closest they get is imitation. At one point, when Arjun Rampal was offering up an expression of offended dignity, I felt he was imitating SRK.
There┬┤s a rustic feel to the film but I┬┤ve been spoilt; I┬┤ve seen Paheli which had nicer Rajasthani costumes, a more varied soundtrack and more convincing moustaches. In a sense (economics aside) I┬┤m sorry this film has been completed, because I feel it┬┤s not the directorial debut that Soorma would have wanted.