Feisty Ambala girl, Kavya Pratap Singh, daughter of an automobile mechanic-turned-transporter, wants an expensive designer lehenga for her impending wedding. Brash Delhi boy, Rakesh alias Humpty Sharma, whose dad owns a small college bookstore, craves the new car that his old man has been saving up for. When the two severely cash-strapped youngsters meet, they strike an instant rapport and resort to means fair and foul to help each other out in the pursuit of happiness.Sure enough, love happens while they go about chasing their material desires. And just before it is time to part, they kiss and make out. That is only one half of Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. It is reasonably watchable. The next half unspools in Ambala and it is all over the place. The smitten hero has his task cut out: he must win over the heroine’s no-nonsense father and stop him from giving his daughter away in marriage to an old friend’s NRI son. That, needless to say, constitutes a huge a mountain to climb, as much for the hero as for the audience.Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania is Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge for those that weren’t old enough to fully delight in the spectacle of SRK’s Raj wooing the parents of Kajol’s Simran against all odds nearly two decades ago. The retro rut that Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania is stuck in might be good for a mildly diverting spot-the-DDLJ-allusions game. But beyond its surface gloss and spry spirit, it is way too pat and predictable to be regarded as a worthy doff of the hat to one of the most successful films ever in the history of popular Hindi cinema.A film whose male protagonist is called Humpty Sharma should have been humming with earthy wit and humour. It isn’t. For the most part, it swings wildly from the facetious to the fatuous. The lead pair of Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt is actually pretty impressive, but the material placed at the disposal of the young actors reeks of staleness.Shashank Khaitan’s directorial debut has been produced by Karan Johar, who incidentally played SRK’s friend in DDLJ and clearly hasn’t rid himself of the hangover yet.Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania dishes out dollops of pop sociology for the less demanding and treads a path that has been oft taken by Bollywood romcoms in which social opposites go head to head in a fight for true love. It suffers from want of genuine inspiration. The film hangs by a thin thread from two principal plot devices, both of which are terribly contrived. Neither the instant bonding that develops between the strangers-turned-lovers nor the onerous test the girl’s father subjects the hero is convincing.Ignore these obvious irritants and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania might just work, thanks to the positive spin that the lead actors put on the proceedings. But if you can’t, you’d be left with a slew of questions. Can’t Bollywood look for ideas anywhere else? Is slavish imitation really the best form of flattery? Is modernity only skin-deep for today’s youth? Would the lovers in this film have been any less effective in their revolt against the old order had they not jumped into bed after their very first smooch? The characters are exasperatingly half-baked. None is more so than the hero’s handsome and eminently eligible rival, the ‘superman’ that Kavya is engaged to.This man is a hunk, and a boring Mr Perfect. His virtues are many: he does not drink or smoke, is scrupulously health conscious, and can rustle up an Italian lunch spread at very short notice. The man from the US, Angad Bedi (television actor Siddharth Shukla in his first big screen role), gives our nondescript and full-of-vices hero a massive inferiority complex, but does nothing else. It is obvious that 20 years on from DDLJ, the world has changed beyond recognition. And how is that transformation established? The heroine not only thinks nothing of going the whole hog with her lover, she also guzzles beer faster than the boys. On the acting front, both Varun Dhawan and Alia resort to some heavy hitting, but they receive no support worth the name from the rest of the cast. Ashutosh Rana is no Amrish Puri and his unyielding father act is palpably low on energy and impact.Siddharth Shukla is a beefy presence. Had his performance come anywhere near matching his physique, he would have been the best thing in the film. To be fair, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania does have some warm passages. But the overall package that it adds up to is about as appetizing as a bottle of beer gone flat. Recommended only for Bollywood junkies that love their froth served in receptacles that have no depth.
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