If you're wondering why U Me Aur Hum, starring the ultra talented Ajay Devgan and his seldom-seen-nowadays-but-still-loved wife Kajol was only a moderate success, I've got the answer: It was really only a moderately good movie.
(***Warning****There aren't any real spoilers to U Me Aur Hum here, as anything I've discussed in the next paragraph can be told on the DVD jacket, but there's a slight spoiler to the Hollywood film The Notebook****).
U Me Aur Hum, which marks Devgan's first attempt at directing, has been criticized for being another example of Bollywood plagiarism, in this case a copycat of the Hollywood blockbuster The Notebook. I'm not sure that's fair. Yes, in The Notebook the heroine suffers from dementia, and in this film, Kajol ends up with Alzheimer's, but the issue is dealt with very differently. The Notebook centers around the love story of the two main characters in a flashback of their younger years--when both were healthy. The only time we hear about the dementia is in intervals throughout the narration, in "real time". U Me Aur Hum, though narrated in the same format, turns into a film about how the couple, now married, faces the disease.
It starts out as your average "boy-meets-girl" love story. Ajay (Ajay Devgan) is a single psychiatrist vacationing on a cruise with two couples, which we quickly learn are supposed to be his best buds. Piya (Kajol) is a cocktail waitress at a nightclub on the ship. Naturally, when Ajay lays eyes on Piya he falls in love with her. He spends the remainder of his time on the cruise attempting to win her heart.
I had problems with the film right off the bat. For one, the side stories involving Ajay's annoying friends were obviously supposed to add comic relief, but I ended up with a headache instead (I will note that by the end of the film I realized why they were there and considered them a positive addition to the second half of the story). It seemed as if Ajay was trying to duplicate the corny humor found in a typical Karan Johar love story, but it just didn't work. In fact, he made Kjo look like a comedic genius. Yikes!
Secondly, the first song, "Dil Dhaka Hai", featuring a drunken Ajay, was completely unattractive and unappealing. Not to mention a certain layer of sleaze that could be felt every time one of the scary looking extras did a pole dance. See for yourself...
Also, the path Ajay took to win Piya's heart was filled with deception. One day, upon sneaking into her cabin, Ajay snoops through Piya's "Book of Possibilities"... a diary of some sorts which just happens to be lying around practically on display and is clearly labeled as such. The book is a collection of all of Piya's hopes, dreams, and best loved things: Liquor chocolates, salsa dancing, Labradors. Ajay, of course, takes advantage of this newfound knowledge and uses it to become the man of her dreams. Inevitably, he repents, but its not a very favorable first impression to make.
Throughout the film, Devgan seems to get creative with his directional moves, experimenting with different shots and angles. I can appreciate that. But some of the stuff just comes across as odd. For example, the kid on the cruise ship that followed Ajay around like a little stalker was weird enough--we didn't need the darkened split screen to add to his creepiness:
And as Ajay flips through Piya's diary, he has some strange ways of reflecting on what he's read:
My final nitpick about the first half of the film is that you can't learn salsa overnight. Obviously. Unless you're a natural, which Ajay is clearly not. But I could have accepted that if we'd have gotten some snazzy salsa moves from Ajay and Piya in the catchy "Jee Le" (my favorite song of the film). Instead, the camera seemed to be editing Kajol and Ajay to make them look like they knew what they were doing. I don't mean to criticize--I have two left feet myself--but I honestly think Ajay and Kajol were capable of more! Especially Kajol--C'mon, girl, I've seen you work it out in Fanaa!
Somehow, the film got sooo much better after they got off that stupid cruise ship (pretty as it was). Once Ajay and Piya got married, and as Piya's mental health deteriorated, U Me Aur Hum proved it was more than just a mediocre rom-com. Though some things were predictable, the movie did a decent job of showing the different aspects of Ajay and Piya's lives that were affected by the illness.
Ajay's devotion to Piya was beautiful--and heartbreaking. Now here was the talented lass that won me over in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and blew me away in Omkara(review forthcoming). I literally felt his love for his wife, particularly in the emotional final scenes. I actually had to remind myself that the leads were married in real life and perhaps what I was seeing was real love, but I quickly dismissed that thought. Yes, they were most likely really in love, but their performances weren't in any way reliant on that. They were completely and totally in character, and if the film worked it was because of them alone.
Kajol, looking more beautiful than ever, lit up the screen in her happier moments as Piya. In the heavier scenes, she did seem to hold back a tad bit, but still managed to pull it off. Heck, who cares about the film: I was just happy to see her onscreen again! And the part where Piya dances for her husband was toooo adorable...When I get married, that's how I want to be--Dancing to a Kajol song for my hubby!
I'm not going to lie to you: U Me Aur Hum had me in tears by the end. While that's not a complete miracle, a film has to touch me in some way for me to react. And U Me Aur Hum did--The problems with the film diminished by its end, and the solid performances from Ajay and Kajol made it worthwhile. Still, for me, its one of those movies that you sort of enjoy while you're watching but becomes forgettable a couple of weeks later.
There are two things I should say before I close this review, because they may be responsible for my crankiness with this one: First, The Notebook happens to be one of my favorite films of all times (If you haven't seen it--Don't bother with U Me Aur Hum--go rent that one instead!), so I'm a little biased, even though I maintain my stance that the two don't really deserve to be compared. Secondly, I popped this in after the whole Arth mishap, so I was probably a little bitter about that, too. Because of those two points, I think its safe to say you have a pretty good chance of enjoying this film more than I did!
One final, disturbing thought: Is this all we get of Kajol until My Name is Khan?