U ME AUR HUMNR
Starting off as the kind of rom-com fluff that would normally star, say, Jennifer Aniston or Catherine Zeta-Jones, the Indian musical U Me aur Hum shifts gears right before intermission to become another, better movie that explores what happens with the couple after the happily-ever-after ending—in this case, in the wake of a tragic, life-altering accident. Not surprisingly, this directorial debut by one-time action star Ajay Devgan is light on the big musical numbers for which Bollywood is known, and though repetitively talky in the first half, shows an accomplished eye for visuals and a confident hand for narrative.
In a crowded, casual restaurant, a twenty-something guy (Aditya Rajput) smitten with a young woman (Hazel Croney) makes a half-serious bet with his dad (Devgan) over who can pick up a chick. The son chooses for his father an attractive middle-aged woman (Devgan's real-life wife, Kajol Devgan, née Mukherjee, known as simply Kajol in most of her films till now), and dad does his stuff. After a couple of old gents at the next table (Mukesh Tiwari, Sachin Khedekar) ensure that the hesitant woman isn't being harassed by this Lothario, they and eventually others get as sucked in as she is to the love story the man begins to relate.
On a cruise ship 25 years ago, single psychiatrist Ajay Mehra fell in love at first sight with cocktail waitress Piya. (The present-day couple, in their mind's eyes, render the story-couple as looking like them, only younger.) Declaring his undying love, Ajay makes a drunken fool of himself with the warm yet needling "help" of his friends: bickering married doctor-couple Reena (Divya Dutta) and Nikhil (Sumeet Raghavan), and hot young unmarrieds Natasha (Isha Sharvani) and Vicky (Karan Khanna)—the latter a guy's name in Hindi. Piya, though amused at Ajay's antics, wants nothing to do with the fool. A determined Ajay, however, slips into her room, reads her hope-and-dreams scrapbook, and suddenly Piya is discovering that this guy loves salsa dancing and big white dogs and chocolate-liquor candy just like she does. But when Ajay grows too guilt-stricken to keep up the charade, and confesses to her, boy loses girl.
Boy eventually gets girl—it's a romantic comedy, after all, or is it?—and months later the two are married. And then…well, without giving spoilers, it's safe to say that just before intermission, the couple's storybook life takes a tragic turn. No, she doesn't break her neck. But it's something that tests the limits of love, endurance, self-deception, denial and, unexpectedly, the power of surrogate-family friendship. One cocktail-party scene at the Mehra home, with a devastating monologue by Piya, is so sad and brilliant it's shocking.
So is, more prosaically, the fact that the movie is perfectly well subtitled except for the song lyrics—which are inexplicably rendered in Hindi. It's hard to tell how good the songs are as a result; only a couple have catchy music, and except for the nicely done salsa number and some moments in a late wedding scene, the choreography is unexceptional.
No matter. Unlike the broadly played comedy and melodrama that is the Bollywood style, the latter part of U Me aur Hum (“You Me and Us") is an emotionally affecting tragedy wonderfully acted by Western standards, and which earns the positive ending that lets you walk out of the theatre wiser but not sadder.