Dil HaiTumhaara

Director: Kundan Shah
Music: Nadeem-Shravan; Lyrics: Sameer
Year: 2002
Running Time: 2 hours 55 minutes

This oddly formed film makes you think of having stumbled across an extremely ugly baby that someone has left by the roadside and you have every intention of doing the same, but it gurgles at that moment, looking rather homely but cute and you take it home and have it for dinner. No, I mean take it home and eventually become quite fond of its quirks and idiosyncrasies. While watching the film in the theater, both my friend and I turned to one another at the “dramatic” intermission pause and each exclaimed, “this is a terrible film, but I’m totally loving it”. By most measures, Dil Hai Tumhaara is a real clunker but as it gurgles along I found myself thoroughly enjoying the silly humor – some intended, some not -, an absurd and not very convincing plot, some dusty story devices that are as old as film itself (a classic eavesdropping scene), lots of rather fun overdone performances and loads of music. It makes for a surprisingly engaging three hours, but you have to watch it with the appropriate goofy attitude.

Preita Zinta and Jimmy Shergill and the dummy
It is also an unusual Bollywood film in that it is very female centric with the male actors around for either comic relief or to simply look good – and it is the three female characters and their relationships with one another that drive the story forward. Unfortunately, female oriented films generally don’t fare well in India where the Hero is king of the box office. The 2001 Lajja that focused on four females to often wonderful effect died a quick death at the box office, so it is a nice sign to see a film like this being produced. Of course in a period in which nearly 90% of the films being made in Bombay have been losing money – producers are more willing to look for something different – but at the same time it is hard to imagine this lovable little film will bring in the crowds.
Mahima Chaudhary
Rekha thinks she is in a perfect marriage – o.k., so hubby doesn’t have time to go out with their small daughter Nimmi on her birthday – but she happily takes Nimmi to the local fair for some rides. Soon though the daughter is screeching “daddy, daddy” and sure enough there is good old dad on another ride with a woman and another small girl. Oops. It seems dad had been busy on the side with his true love. Well he soon gets his as on the way home his car goes off the road and over the side and dives headfirst 20 feet below where it explodes and turns into a ball of fire. Yet he still manages a traditional Bollywood death scene! With Rekha at his side, he begs her to take care of his other daughter, Shalu, who miraculously survived without a scratch. Rekha ponders and we already get a quick flashback of everything that took place in the first five minutes of the film for those who arrived late. Dad utters his last plea and promptly dies on cue and Rekha grudgingly takes in the girl.
Doing her best Joan Crawford, Rekha showers Nimmi with love while giving Shalu the cold heartless shoulder over the next number of years – and the extremely homely child actress who plays Shalu is soon making menacing faces and ripping up pillows. So much so that you fully expect the bad seed or at least someone with mild homicidal tendencies – but instead she grows up into the absolutely adorable Preity Zinta who shows all that inner anger by sliding down the banister to piss old mom off or breaking the occasional vase – pretty scary stuff indeed. In all these years Preity has yet to get a mom’s hug – and she has the pictures to prove it  - but older sis – now the lovely Mahima Chaudhary – has never noticed this disparity of affection from mom. But these are not the most observant of children as the six year old Nimmi never noticed that all of a sudden she had a brand new sister or the younger Shalu didn’t seem to notice that mom and dad were suddenly missing – so they think they are real sisters and unaware of Shalu’s sordid past. Not for long of course!
Mind you we are only about fifteen minutes into the film at this point so I will speed up this review considerably! Now the film starts getting wacky. Preity applies for a job at Khanna Industries – a totally corrupt company being managed by two brothers in frightful wigs that are often on backwards and who seem to be in a perpetual state of sweating – clearly bad guys – but she hoodwinks them into a job by telling them that the distant owner of the company – Mr. Khanna (Alok Nath) – is her uncle. Meanwhile the son of Mr. Khanna, Arjun Rampal, has come back from business school abroad and along with his Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee right hand men – CEO I and CEO II (you know this by their badges) – is full of theories on productivity, non-productivity productivity and productive productivity. He wants to close the unprofitable plant, but his kindly father asks him to first visit it and make sure something can’t be done to fix it. Arjun disguises himself as the chauffeur’s son with slicked back nerdy hair, glasses and a look of total stupidity and gets a job as a clerk and driver in the company working for Preity. Even though she sends him on an amusing wild goose chase up a mountain and across a lake in a boatful of sheep, he soon is of course falling in love with her dimples. Nimmi though is totally besotted with him and when they all discover who he really is mom is intent on marrying him off to Nimmi and not Preity.
Arjun Rampal, Mahima, Jimmy and Preita
Throw into this pot a ventriloquist, Jimmy Shergill, with a giant puppet who is in love with Preity, but unable to tell her. Not that I am an expert on courtship, but a few love tips to future ventriloquists out there. Leave your dummy at home. Don’t have intimate conversations with your dummy in front of your hoped for love one. Don’t have your dummy appear smarter than you are. Believe me, you are going to freak out the girl who will likely think that you are looking for a kinky ménage a trois with the dummy and her. The fact that you live in a little grass hut in an enchanted forest probably won’t help either – or the fact that your dummy seems to move on its own at times. Is it possessed or what? Thankfully he disappears from the film when some Japanese talent searchers spot him and take him on a tour of Japan where Hindi ventriloquists must be in high demand.
It all gets very complicated towards the end of course with Preity wanting the love of her mom and sister, Arjun wanting her, Nimmi wanting him, Alok wanting some good food, Jimmy wanting Preity, the dummy wanting Jimmy, the mother wanting a coat hanger and revenge on her dead husband, the bewigged sweaty guys wanting more screen time and the Japanese wanting their investment back. The performances are far from nuanced, but highly energetic – especially Preity who is non-stop movement and charm – and entertaining. The music is not inspired, but certainly listenable with a few catchy tunes and the picturization is well done with some clever moments. In an odd way, it’s all quite bad and quite wonderful at the same time.

My rating for this film: 6.0

Song 1

Song 2