Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania is an extended, 134-minute review of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge by a debutant writer and director who has watched the film closely enough to have his own spin on it. Shashank Khaitan’s film-making debut arrives 19 years after Aditya Chopra’s blockbuster became the gold standard of screen romance, and he has the necessary distance from the source material to unpack the conservatism that beats loudly at the heart of the original movie.

In Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Shah Rukh Khan’s flamboyant Raj falls in love with Kajol’s reticent Simran, but he is traditional-minded enough to refuse to marry her until he gets the go-ahead from her orthodox and obdurate father. Amrish Puri’s Punjabi patriarch, who decrees an arranged marriage for his daughter and presses on even after he learns about her love for another man, is the kind of immovable object against whom countless dreams of love and matrimony have been shattered. There’s something of Puri’s bulbous eyes in Ashutosh Rana’s father figure in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, but the two men are vastly different. Puri’s character represents the whole weight of conservative Indian tradition, a value system that allows a father to pick the man with whom his daughter will spend the rest of her life even though she desires otherwise. Rana’s character has more intimate concerns—the Ambala businessman is merely upset and hurt at the physical abuse and subsequent divorce suffered by his elder daughter, and thus decides to send his younger one Kavya into the arms of a well-placed American doctor.

Not that she is complaining. Pragmatism replaces defeatism in this enjoyable Dilwale re-up, with Kavya initially preferring to go with the flow, and appearing far more concerned about the design and price tag of her wedding lehnga. She travels to Delhi to get her hands on the dress of her dreams, only to run into Varun Dhawan’s Humpty, a lovable flirt who is ripe for a rite-of-passage moment.

It’s hard to believe that the impossibly youthful leads are ready for graduation, let alone marriage, but once they meet, they set the screen alight, first with the kind of zingy repartee that is the stuff of screwball comedy, and later with a physical chemistry that goes far beyond the decorous hug between Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaynege’s Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. Humpty (real name Rakesh) and Kavya are as contemporary as they come, engaging in beer drinking sessions and sleepovers and trading harmless jibes and bodily fluids before Kavya returns to her upcoming nuptials—only to be followed by her boyfriend who has unearthed the brave heart that lurks beneath the brawn.

Khaitan’s relaxed and breezy attitude towards big existential issues suits the movie well—he worships the ability of money to solve life’s obstacles and is never above landing a Punjabi-accented joke even when all seems to be lost. Humpty faces some competition from Kavya’s fiancé, an Almodovarian dream object played with gum-baring broadness by television actor Siddharth Shukla. As the movie gets closer to its inspiration, Khaitan’s carefree approach threatens to come undone. Kavya’s father is more confused than menacing, and the conservatism that informs the conceit of both movies refuses to be replaced by boldness. For all her tough talk and unconventional behaviour, Kavya prefers to wait for Humpty to rescue her, even though she does ask her father at one point, “Why are you ruining my life?"

The question is never answered, since the movie is about Humpty rather than Kavya. (The field remains open for a second update of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge from the woman’s point of view.) Khaitan rolls out one energetic scene after the next, displays a fine ear for dialogue, and creates an ensemble of charming characters, especially Humpty’s buddies, played by Gaurav Pandey and Sahil Vaid. Rana, who has appeared as caricatured monsters for far too long, finally get to behave like a normal person, even though his character’s transformation isn’t as convincingly written as it should have been.

The confection spins on the spontaneity and vigour of its leads. Alia Bhatt, in her fourth film, is still a tad self-conscious of her youthful beauty, and is still more comfortable acting out her feelings through dialogue and actions. Dhawan is far more effective in the few quieter scenes. He has to run a gamut of emotions, and he keeps pace admirably. Despair is never allowed into this sunny and funny update of a popular classic, and the movie is all the better for it.

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania released in theatres on Friday.

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