It is an unpretentious little odd-couple romantic comedy. But the plot of Hasee Toh Phasee is a conundrum that takes some doing to crack.
The film opens in a chawl in Mumbai. It then moves for a bit to a police officer’s home in Bareilly before stopping over, again all too briefly, in the same gentleman’s official residence in Delhi.
With the quick prelude out of the way, it finally returns, with all its narrative paraphernalia, to the western metropolis and plunges into the pre-nuptials of a big fat wedding.
All this unfolds over a period of two decades. But that definitely isn’t difficult to figure out. The film provides clear pointers to its chronology and geography.
The deeds of the unabashedly flighty lead pair and their two wacky extended families are, however, deeply mystifying.
A runaway daughter forced to return from China, a heart-broken but tight-fisted saree trader-dad, a dashing drifter head over heels in love, and a pretty television actress all set to be hitched constitute the quirky quartet at the heart of the plot.
The hero, a charming young bloke in search of a breakthrough in life, dreams of staging a slam-bang Twenty20 contest on a revolving field with airborne fielders in the 30-yard circle.
The boy describes himself, none too inaccurately, as an “emotional dhakkan”.
The heroine, a rebellious and nerdy Gujju girl with crazy plans of her own, conjures up a little polymer ball designed to bounce incessantly and generate enough energy to light up metropolitan highrises.
She is referred to by somebody from the groom’s side as “bahut hi khatarnak experimental”.
If all that sounds outright wonky, it is only the tip of the iceberg.
The things that the duo does in order to get their pet projects off the ground are as daft as they are desperate. One steals, the other begs.
Mercifully, Hasee Toh Phasee, notwithstanding its rather unimaginative title and its muddled core, is a mildly diverting, if somewhat woolly-headed, entertainer held together by its unapologetically absurdist spirit.
The film works primarily because the lead pair is in fine fettle, flowing along with the unstoppable tide of fluffiness while adding their own angularities to the proceedings.
The multiple cross-connections that occur as the film meanders to its predictable climax are bizarre.
After a sluggish first half that is expended largely on setting the stage for the eventual scramble to unravel the tangle, the second half springs to some semblance of life, and in pleasantly surprising ways.
Hasee Toh Phasee has two emotional sequences that hit home and both involve the distraught father and the daughter who has been missing from the family for seven years.
The comic sequences may not be consistently funny, but these two father-daughter moments are primed for full impact.
Hasee has all the ingredients of a Karan Johar production, including a robust Punjabi wedding song of the kind that we’ve heard on umpteen occasions before.
But the tentative romance that blooms between the hero and the winsome would-be bride’s edgy elder sister isn’t all candyfloss and that is probably attributable to the involvement in the project of Anurag Kashyap and gang.
The female protagonist is a delightfully off-centre nonconformist who sings and dances when the need arises but does little else that is conventional.
Once she gets over the initial hiccups caused by an inclination to try too hard, Parineeti Chopra is pitch-perfect with her goofball act.
Sidharth Malhotra, in only his second film, is no less effective.
Although he starts off by exhorting everybody to ‘shake it like Shammi’, his elegantly gangly gait and cool, confident screen presence are reminiscent of the mannerisms of the early Amitabh Bachchan.
It is widely accepted that the Script is King. In the case of Hasee Toh Phasee, it is the chemistry between the two leads that stands out above all else.
Of course, the credit for extracting the best out of two relatively raw actors should accrue to first-time director Vinil Mathew.
True to the norms of Bollywood love triangles, Hasee Toh Phasee has more than its share of departures and homecomings, of abrupt partings and dramatic reunions. So what if some of them appear to be merrily arbitrary?
If you do not let the occasional lapses in logic get in the way, you might actually find yourself enjoying the film. Do check it out.
Hasee Toh Phasee is a watchable, if not scintillating, film.