Zara Hatke Zara Bachke Review: Vicky Kaushal, Sara Ali Khan Rom-Com Is Overcrowded With Emotional ExcessVicky's characters are really obsessed with houses, na?
So, erm, this is the… *counts on fingers*… third film in which Vicky Kaushal lies to his middle-class family and almost loses the girl in pursuit of a house that he ultimately realises, he doesn’t really care for much? Is this going to be his Ayushmann Khurrana problem? Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, for a major chunk of its runtime, felt like the other side of his first fake-it-till-you-make-it outing, the charming and warm Love Per Square Foot. It’s not intolerable like Govinda Mera Naam (another movie where he is in pursuit of a home), thank God, and genuinely funny in some places, thanks to a good supporting cast. I was also buying into Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan’s chemistry; they were genuinely adorable. And yet this Laxman Utekar romantic comedy fails because it is weighed down by the same old emotional excess that Bollywood really needs to trim down.
The film is written by Laxman Utekar, Maitrey Bajpai, and Ramiz Ilham Khan, and stars Vicky Kaushal, Sara Ali Khan, Inaamulhaq, Himanshu Kohli, Akarsh Khurana, Anubha Fatehpuria, Rakesh Bedi, Sushmita Mukherjee, Kanupriya Pandit, Neeraj Sood, Srishti Rindani, and Sharib Hashmi.
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Kapil Dubey and Somya Chawla Dubey are a madly in love couple, now married for two years. On their second anniversary, they spend the night not rumbling in their marital bed, but on a mattress in the living room of their overcrowded, joint-family home. Their secret plan of buying their own home in the city (Indore) is shattered because it is way over their budget. And to some extent because Kapil is kind of a cheapskate, as are most people raised in a lower-middle class home that runs on savings.
Thankfully, the government has a scheme, and Somya is convinced she and Kapil can pull off whatever it takes to become eligible for it. She convinces Kapil to file for a divorce, but their families find out. So now, the couple that cannot keep their hands off each other must feign differences. Easy peasy. Yet, we all know that thing about best-laid plans…. If it’s a Bollywood romantic comedy, chances are the plans always fail in the most spectacularly stupid fashion. And often you’re left wondering why characters do things that are so uncharacteristic and make them look idiotic.
Zara Hatke Zara Bachke takes a long, long time to establish its setting. It’s enough time to sow seeds of doubt in your head and make you start comparing it to other movies of the “let’s pretend” genre. It’s an arena of which director Laxman Utekar (Mimi, Luka Chhupi) is an experienced player. ZHZB tries to give you funny moments, most of which you’d feel guilty about laughing at in a moment of reflexive conditioning taking over. Like the opening scene where Somya and her Punjabi parents are trashed for their non-vegetarian diet and women’s free drinking habits polluting the ‘pure’ air of a Pandit household.
Yes, it is normal in Indian households. No, we probably shouldn’t be laughing at it. But you do because the characters delivering these lines have nailed the comic timing. They are funny, not the lines. A special mention here for Himanshu, Kanupriya Pandit, Rakesh Bedi, and Inaamulhaq, who bring such conviction to the over-the-top characters they play.
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Around the middle, the film picks up, because things are moving forward, and because this is the part where Vicky Kaushal’s Kapil and Sara Ali Khan’s Somya really made me feel the love, so to say. This small bit is my happy place in this film. Their romance is probably one of my favourite things because it is so perfectly representative of most Indian couples’ lives. And both the actors play off each other’s energies so well making the most ridiculously cheesy things (a particular scene where they both eat a bar of Five Star simultaneously) look cute. Unfortunately, there arrives an ugly—this time real and not pretend—fight between the two, which feels artificial and unnecessary, and escalated to arrive at a certain plot point.
Everything from here on out feels forced. Their squabble? Forced. The emotional family tragedy that brings them together? Forced. The resolution in the end? So damn forced. A poor security guard character (played by Sharib Hashmi in an utter waste of his talents) was introduced, made annoying, and then used for a ridiculous feel-good ending? Forced max.
There’s a scene where Kapil and Somya are looking through a window in a hospital room door. It’s a moment of tragedy, meant to steer their hearts into that one big realisation of their follies, and they’re both looking at each other pleading and understanding. Vicky Kaushal has this act down pat, and yet the scene feels a bit too much. I was on tenterhooks as I looked at Sara Ali Khan, wondering if the ghost of her Love Aaj Kal 2020 performance would return for a haunting. In a film like this, where every character is a bit extra, knowing when to rein in your character’s melodramatics and when to let it fly is an important currency. Some of the supporting cast manages to do this really well. And yet Sara feels like she is trying way too hard. She’s good with the cheesy romance, and even the OTT comedy, but in emotional scenes, you can feel the excess oozing out of her pores.
My biggest disappointment was the ending, uncharacteristic and tone-deaf. I hate when characters do things that they wouldn’t normally do just for a comedy of misunderstandings. But it’s worse when they do it because the film feels guilty on their behalf and wants to do damage control with an emotional social good message in the end. I snorted out loud when Kapil, who has always struggled with lack of money, tried to make it look like money will be a manageable problem for someone on an even lower economic rung than him. That love is the answer to all problems is actually a filmy notion that the very economic class this film represents, actually detests.
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There’s a scene in the film, when Kapil’s friend, a divorce lawyer, is channelling your typical Bollywood lawyer in a courtroom when the judge tells him to tone the F down. Somebody should’ve applied that to the film.
Zara Hatke Zara Bachke is rooted in urban middle-class problems, yet its characters make decisions they would never be able to afford, throughout the film. Sara Ali Khan definitely needs to be economical with her performance during scenes that require emotions to run high. And Vicky Kaushal needs to leave movies about real estate problems behind. It’s like a pro sitting for a beginner-level exam. The film makes good on its romance, and is peppered with some decent comedic talent, but really drops the ball with its disappointing ending and emotional excess. Thoda bachke rehna tha from falling into the same old trap.
Zara Hatke Zara Bachke is currently in theatres.