- Gaurav Patki
- 14 February 2019
Being true to the characters and their world
Script Analysis of Hindi film 'Dum Laga Ke Haisha'
DUM LAGA KE HAISHA (2015)
Written and Directed by: Sharat Katariya
‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ is a nicely made love-story, similar to another film that I love in this space, ‘The Lunchbox’. It's simple yet catchy. It's rooted yet it stands-out. It's romantic yet not escapist. The strength of the film lies in it being more than its gripping one-liner. To create a beautiful film everything has to fall in place; but we will be focusing only on writing which, for me, is the real hero in this case. The film succeeds in achieving the small-town romance with rooted characters, simple plot and credible character growth.
In this article, I will try to bring out the elements of the love story genre that work very well in DLKH making it a memorable movie.
LOVE STORIES: The Most Loved Genre
Love stories fall under a much-explored space and yet they're popular with filmamakers and the audiene alike. With the changing Indian society and maturing film-narratives, poisonous villains such as the heroin’s aunt and the hero’s father, cease to exist. (Having said this, a film like Sairaat - Dhadak is the official remake of the former- is very much relevant even in today’s space.) When the external conflict rapidly gets out of the picture, cinema brings love stories with character’s internal conflicts. That is why the closest genre to love stories is ‘coming-of-age' dramas. In such stories, love helps the hero to find his/her sur of life and makes him/her a better person. Even DLKH is the coming-of-age story for Prem (Ayushman).
The catch with such stories with internal conflicts is that they easily get repetitive. The genre and its beats are so much familiar to the viewers that the story can become predictable. To resolve this issue the film-makers come up with a solution where they find a quirky element in the logline. (Sperm donation, erectile dysfunction and so on). This surely brings a freshness to the story but (Yes, there still is a BUT here) the foremost fear, in this case, is that the quirky element can make the writer lazy. The one-liner becomes so catchy that makers may hope that it will be enough to sail them through.
The essential reason behind DLKH standing out is that in spite of having a log-line with a strong hook, the writer did not overplay and remained true to the world of the story and allowed the narrative to grow with its characters. That is why Sandhya and Prem become so familiar to us, we feel sympathy for them while getting invested in their journey.
Character Arcs of PREM and SANDHYA
What this genre offers to us, as writers, is an opportunity and a challenge at the same time. The common theme behind love stories is that the person is incomplete till s/he finds the other one. In this pursuit, s/he changes inside out and becomes a better person. In other stories, we keep our entire focus on the Hero - his weaknesses, his strengths, obstacles for him, his inner struggle and his character arc. In other genres the antagonizing force is a means to achieve the hero’s success; whereas in love stories, we have to find fulfilling journeys for both the central characters. Not only that, but their respective journeys should also complement each other. It naturally happens that one of them gets a little more edge (generally it’s the boy) but still it is a story of two people. DLKH is as much Sandhya’s (Bhumi) story as it is Prem’s.
Let us try to understand how the writer achieved the complementary journeys of both the characters.
PREM: He is the narrator of the film and we see the story from his point of view. So, during the first act viewers get familiar with him, his family and his world. He is not very well educated; neither he is a breadwinner of the house. He’s afraid of his father and in no position to take any decisions of his life. He is the perfect example of a man-child.
Like all the arranged marriage set-ups, he doesn’t get to know much about Sandhya before his family gives an approval. The only thing he notices is her weight. He doesn’t want a plump wife, and when his friends giggle looking at their Bhabhi at the wedding, his dislike towards her gets affirmed. So outwardly that’s the problem our hero is facing. But as the story progresses, we see that the size of the bride is not his core issue. His inner inferiority complex is the outcome of his educational failure and the fact that he is not at all in a position to control his life. On the other hand, Sandhya is a well-educated girl who knows what she wants from her life.
The film doesn’t say that we should accept love in all sizes by showing that Prem accepts Sandhya in spite of her being fat. Instead, the story not only uses this situation to bring out all the complexes in Prem's mind but also puts Sandhya in a superior position where she helps Prem to grow over his limitations. The lack of self-esteem has stopped him from finding his love. When Prem finds the confidence in himself, he becomes ready to love Sandhya.
SANDHYA: As we know, Prem has a central position in the narrative and Sandhya’s character arc is subtle and smaller. Having said this, Sandhya is not a mere catalyst in the film and her journey isn’t only to help Prem’s character grow. Sandhya doesn’t have any apparent complex due to her weight. She is an educated, confident and ambitious girl. She is not at all apologetic about her weight.
The film doesn’t play on the obvious and Sandhya never uses the sympathy card but that doesn’t change the reality that she is fat and the film doesn't shy away from the natural drama that the premise offers. After marriage, she has to find her place in her new house. Her in-laws, especially her father-in-law, are supportive and it is only her husband who's ashamed of her. He doesn’t let her mingle with their neighbors. When his frustration gets out of hands, he even body shames her in public.
All this surely puts her in a vulnerable situation but that doesn’t break her core. She is ready to give a divorce and lead her life. She is living her dream of being a school-teacher. What breaks her heart is Prem's behavior. In spite of all his limitation, she has genuinely liked him. So, she feels sad when they are having their final talk beside the lake. She expresses herself freely when she feels assured that he will understand. She is a strong-headed girl and yet she's sensitve enough to see that Prem needs help while realizing his mistakes.
THE CURSE OF THE SECOND HALF?
Many movies suffer from this problem. The movies with quirky one-liners, face this more often. The novelty in the idea dies in the first half and the potential conflict is explored enough during this time. Therefore, an entirely new conflict is thrown in the second half or to make the second half work, the original conflict that the premise has to offer gets introduced very late in the story. In either of the cases, the film gets derailed in the second half or it feels stretched.
Here, the writer saves the story from going all over the place by keeping its focus intact on the premise and the central characters. As a result, the story doesn’t rely on big plot points or character-reveals to engage the viewer. When we read the screenplay, we can see how the narrative is developed considering all the smaller beats. It proves that the simple story of simple people can weave an entertaining film.
‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ shows why love stories will never dieand if we remain true to the characters and their world there is still a lot to explore in the space!