I have been meaning to write about this—my very most favorite film ever, of any kind—since I started this blog. Alas, procrastination is my middle name!
But finally, here goes. This film was actually made in 2001 or so, but its release was delayed because the producer died or something. It is a remake of the Hollywood film “Housesitter” but it isn’t a scene by scene ripoff. Rather, it has taken the storyline and retold it in an Indian setting with an Indian sensibility, and it’s just perfect. The script and direction (and editing) are tight and the pace perfect; there is nothing extraneous, and every scene adds dimension to the film. The songs by Sajid Wajid are wonderful and fit perfectly into the movie, and all the characters—even the most minor—are portrayed vividly by an exceptional cast which includes the legendary Kamini Kaushal.
It is the star pair, though, whose chemistry sizzles and sparks, and who are so true to life that you can immediately identify with them. Khushi (Rani Mukherjee) is alone in the world, an orphan bluffing her way through life with a lively curiosity and an open heart. Ranvir (Ajay Devgan) is a dreamer and a bit of a loner, whose large, boisterous family doesn’t really understand him, and who has learned to keep his emotions shut up inside.
Our film opens in Delhi during Diwali, with Khushi celebrating a lonely holiday with her stuffed monkey, Jonathan. She’s a cheerful, happy girl, though, and makes the best of it. When an Aunty from the orphanage she grew up in calls to tell her about a friend’s wedding, she promises to sing at the wedding and makes up a story to get out of going to work. She tells her old friends that she’s very happy living on her own in the big city but they aren’t fooled by her positive attitude—they know she is lonely. One of the Uncles says that she “gives so much of love to everybody”
Meanwhile, in beautiful Simla, our hero Ranvir is planning to show Puja (Sonali Bendre), the woman he’s loved from childhood, the dream house that he’s building for them. Ranvir is an architect at a large firm in Delhi. Puja is taken by surprise when he says it’s his engagement gift to her—he has never told her of his feelings for her. She rejects the idea of marrying him:
Ranvir, crushed, returns to his job in Delhi. He’s frustrated by his work designing office buildings; he dreams of building homes instead. One evening the company has a party at the banquet hall where Khushi works. Ranvir sits at the bar, where he downs whiskey and draws the house he’s building on a napkin. Khushi has been put to work taking inventory at the bar as punishment for bunking work earlier, and they strike up a conversation. Khushi takes a look at his drawing. He tells her about the house in Simla, and about how he has been “found wanting” by the one he was building it for.
The next morning her boss (who is also her landlord) comes and throws her out of her job and her home. He has lost patience with her repeated absences from work and lack of rent. As she sits on the sidewalk with her belongings and a homeless pair of drunks whom she has befriended, she takes out a napkin to wipe her tears, and realizes that it’s the drawing she had picked up the evening before. Her problems are solved!
Cut to Simla. The house is still under construction, but it beats being homeless for sure!
Khushi has very little money and plans to shoplift some supplies until she overhears the shop owner talking about another woman’s account. When it’s her turn to pay, she tells him to put it on Ranvir’s account. The owner assumes that she is Ranvir’s new wife and congratulates her heartily, which she plays along with happily. Someone else is in the store too, and overhears—Puja. She follows Khushi out and introduces herself. Khushi recognizes her from a photo Ranvir had shown her and explains that they aren’t married—yet, just engaged. She’s using her holiday to check out Simla and the house to make sure she’d be happy here with him, but he’s busy with work and couldn’t come there with her. She invites Puja to take her out to dinner the next day and Puja, naturally bewildered, agrees. Khushi decides that in exchange for living in his house, she will convince Puja to marry Ranvir.
On the way home, she decides to buy some furniture that’s for sale outside a large house. When the proprietor (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) comes out, he finds her lounging on an expensive sofa. She tells him to put it on her husband Ranvir Malhotra’s account. Oops—he is Ranvir’s father, and the house belongs to the large Malhotra family. They embrace her as one of their own. The next morning Ranvir’s mother and aunt take Khushi some bangles to welcome her into the family. She accepts them with some pangs of guilt. It’s the first time she’s experienced this kind of familial love, and she is seduced by it. She meets Puja for lunch and lays it on thick.
Puja is suitably impressed. Ranvir in the meantime has decided to take some time off from his job to work on the house. He arrives to find Khushi in possession. She tells him a sad, sad story which is mostly untrue, and he doesn’t believe her anyway. He is furious when he finds out the whole town—and his family!—think she is his fiancee, and she has even gotten bangles from his mother (it’s an extremely funny scene). He accuses her (not entirely unfairly) of being a thief and a liar. When she tells him that Puja also bought her lunch, he chases her out of the house—only to come face to face with Puja herself. Khushi escapes back into the house and Ranvir starts to explain things to Puja. She interrupts him:
and he realizes that she’s looking at him in a new light because of Khushi. After Puja leaves, he strikes a deal with Khushi. She’ll continue to help him win Puja, and she can stay in the house. She also makes him give her a weekly salary, and the furniture, and he agrees.
The drama commences. Khushi helps with the building and decoration of the house, and becomes a much loved member of the family. She gives Ranvir advice about Puja, songs are sung, dreams are shared. She convinces Ranvir’s boss to promote him to partner, and have him design houses instead of office buildings, and encourages Ranvir to follow his heart—something nobody has done for him before:
As things become more complicated, they realize that they will need to actually go through with a wedding. They decide that Khushi will back out at the last minute, accusing Ranvir of still loving Puja—and then Ranvir can marry Puja on the spot. They haven’t noticed that they have begun to fall in love with each other.
When they finally do realize it, they are unprepared. In his confusion, Ranvir lashes out at Khushi, accusing her of taking everything away from him, his family, his love—everything, and all just because she’s after his money. She is unbearably hurt, and though his family convinces her not to leave (with a wonderful song):
she withdraws completely from Ranvir. Her dreams—and her heart—have been shattered.
As the wedding day approaches, family and friends gather, and the house is finished (and spectacular). Can Khushi and Ranvir go through with the charade?
It’s a full-box-of-tissues movie for me, and I highly recommend it. It’s funny, poignant, and sweet. And how I wish Ajay Devgan would do more romantic roles! (Is there anyone that Rani doesn’t make a good jodi with?)