It was 2002. Stonybrook. I was watching the Ajay Devgun-Sonali Bendre starrer “Tera Mera Saath Rahen” in a company of raucous graduate students as part of “Baatcheet”, a mix and greet that the Indian Graduate Students Association there used to hold. The movie had a serious theme– that of Ajay Devgun trying to cope with the responsibilities of raising a physically and mentally challenged brother. However, with myriad side-plots, issues and songs that arrived with the regularity of pop-ups at a porn site, “Tera Mera Saath Rahen” induced more derision than empathy from the audience. When Ajay Devgun, at one point, shouts at his brother, who has a bed-wetting problem, something on the lines of: “Tang a gaya hoon main tumhare susu saaf kaarte kaarte” (I am sick and tired of cleaning up your pee), there was more than a few snickers. Now lest people think us heartless, let me say in our defense that it was not the situation but the way that Devgun delivered the line that made the audience, which I should say was bored out of their wits, react so.
For me however the moment of the movie came towards the end of the movie when Ajay Devgun, under pressure from his girlfriend, sends his brother to an institution and starts regretting the decision.
In a supposedly heart-wrenching scene with a sad song blaring in the background he wakes up at night, looks at the bed, realizes his brother isn’t there and starts crying.
At this moment of pathos, my calm was shattered, not unpleasantly, by one of the insensate grad students commenting: “Abh usko pata chala ki un dono main bistaar pe kaun susu karta tha” (Now he understands which among those two actually wets the bed).
“U Me Aur Hum” sees Ajay Devgun essaying thematically a very similar role to the one he played in “Tera Mera Saath Rahen” with the brother being replaced by an Alzheimer’s-affected Kajol. And this time the concoction is even worse. “Tera Mera Saath Rahen” albeit simplemindedly and despite multiple distractions, managed to maintain something akin to focus on an extremely complicated issue by focusing almost exclusively on the following dilemma: should one spend all your time caring for a sick loved one whose recovery is impossible or should you move on in life? Even though it failed to be good cinema, you had to give it points for trying.
“U Me Aur Hum” doesn’t even make the attempt. Or perhaps with Devgun as director, it simply cannot. Pleading with the audience to be taken seriously and trying desperately to be a cross between “Taare Zamein Par”,”Notebook” and a Mills and Boons (Ajay Devgun is no M&B hero, thank you), “U Me Aur Hum” is a trite, hammy endeavor that is so way out of its league while dealing with an issue as serious as brain atrophy that it is not even funny.
Starting from the SMS-ese title, the cheesy romantic lines in the starting credits, the straight-from-the-age-of-Tuntun ugly fat kid (not however called the usual “Panchu Beta”), the never-ending PJs and shayris, the almost-ready-to-order-from-your-Hallmark-store “book of possibilities” to the casting of over-acting, irrelevant side-characters (the likes of which I last saw in “Mann”, a similar monstrosity set on a cruise), “U Me Aur Hum” is a vision of hell where the Devil would be the manager of an Archies store, a vision brought to realization by Ajay Devgun’s directorial ineptness in which the serious issues (like the dilemma of Tera Mera Saath Rahein) are given 5 minutes of ham-time while the fluff and floss are allowed to bubble and froth. And lest I forget, there are some amazing directorial “touches” like when in an operation theater (where we assume the lighting has to be stable) the halogens flicker on and off in a horror effect seen many times in the “Saw” series but totally out of place in a movie with “U Me Aur Hum”‘s ostensible theme.
And did I snicker as the serious events unfolded on the screen? Yes. I confess I did. Not of course at the scripted comedy moments but when Kajol, after singing a seductive song lies in bed with her screen and real life husband. And as Ajay Devgun makes love to her and the camera focuses on her face, we see her vacant, unfeeling, not aware of where she is, oblivious to her husband’s manful exertions.
At that point of time, I had to interject : “That’s not Alzheimer’s disease madam. That’s just marriage”.
Yes some things are better forgotten. Bad love, bad food and of course “U Me Aur Hum”.