After his raggedly likable supporting turn in the aces "Kal ho naa ho," Saif Ali Khan proves he's more than capable of carrying a romantic comedy in "Hum tum," the latest colorful piece of candy floss from veteran producer Yash Chopra. Otherwise, this Westernized tale of mismatched friends who just can't fess up to their real feelings is a couple of notches below the Chopra par, with so-so dialogue and lack of strong chemistry between leads Khan and Rani Mukherjee.

After his raggedly likable supporting turn in the aces “Kal ho naa ho,” Saif Ali Khan proves he’s more than capable of carrying a romantic comedy in “Hum tum,” the latest colorful piece of candy floss from veteran producer Yash Chopra. Otherwise, this Westernized tale of mismatched friends who just can’t fess up to their real feelings is a couple of notches below the Chopra par, with so-so dialogue and lack of strong chemistry between leads Khan and Rani Mukherjee. Pic opened well in Indian metros May 28, but looks set for only OK returns in the long term.

Film is one huge flashback, as well-known cartoonist Karan Kapoor (Khan) reminisces about the love of his life, Rhea Prakash (Mukherjee), at the launch of his first novel, based on his popular battle-of-the-sexes comic strip “Hum tum” (literally, “Me and You”). Structured as a series of episodes, as the pair meets in various locations (Delhi, New York, Amsterdam, Paris) across nine years, pic is never less than an easy sit, but fails to deliver the emotional goods in its latter stages.

Playboy Karan and seriously studious Rhea meet cute on a plane from Delhi to Gotham, where both are going to study. Despite his attempts to charm her during an Amsterdam stopover, the Western-hip lothario fails to impress the over-serious prude, and when he plonks a kiss on her, she slaps his face.

Six months later, they bump into each other in Central Park, where he’s romancing his g.f., Shalini (Shenaz Treasurywala), who turns out to be an old school-chum of Rhea’s. That meeting also ends badly.

Three years on, back in Delhi, Karan is now a well-known cartoonist with a shaggy “Tom Cruise haircut,” and at a mehndi (engagement party) arranged by his mom, Anju (Rati Agnihotri), Karan discovers the bride is none other than Rhea. When he tells Rhea that her husband, Sameer (Abhishek Bachchan, cameoing), sounds boring and asks if they’ve had sex yet, Rhea’s ire is raised again. However, her mom, Parminder (Kiron Kher, eating up the role of a colorful Punjabi mother), takes a liking to him.

Following a minor reversal prior to the intermission, as they meet on a train outside Paris, pic’s second half fans out into a more conventional romance, with Parminder playing discreet matchmaker and Karan’s friend, Mihir (Jimmy Shergill), entering the mix.

Both Kher and fellow vet Rishi Kapoor (as Karan’s estranged dad) bring some character heft to Part 2, but the central duo’s relationship doesn’t gain the necessary depth to click emotionally with the viewer. Khan is very good as the jokey womanizer who can’t put the lessons of his cartoon strip into personal practice, but Mukherjee’s Rhea remains a one-note, reactive character who’s difficult to like or understand. Instead of sparking, their scenes together simply coast along in well-worn Bollywood grooves.

Helmer-writer Kunal Kohli, whose super-fluffy “Mujhse dosti karoge!” showcased the gravel-voiced Mukherjee far better, here directs competentlyrather than at full throttle, and musical numbers are lively and tuneful without ever really taking off. (Rhea’s mehndi, staged as a comic battle of the sexes, is a case in point.) Copious Yank-style animated segs — showing the cute boy and girl from Karan’s comic strip — basically repeat what’s just happened between Karan and Rhea in the movie.

Production values are OK, without being super-glossy. However, Amsterdam doubling as the French capital won’t fool anyone familiar with Paris for a second. One musical number is even shamelessly staged in front of the famous Concertgebouw building.

Hum Tum

India

Production

A Yash Raj Films release of a Yash Chopra presentation of a Yash Raj Films production. (International sales: Yash Raj Films Intl., London.) Produced by Aditya Chopra. Executive producer, Yash Chopra. Directed by Kunal Kohli. Screenplay, Kohli, Siddharth Raj Anand.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Sunil Patel; editor, Ritesh Soni; song music, Jatin-Lalit; lyrics, Prasoon Joshi; art director, Sharmishta Roy; choreographer, Saroj Khan. Reviewed at Cineworld Feltham 4, London, June 3, 2004. Running time: 143 MIN. (I: 62 MIN.; II: 81 MIN.).

With

Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Rishi Kapoor, Rati Agnihotri, Kiron Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Abhishek Bachchan, Ishaa Koppikar, Shenaz Treasurywala. (Hindi dialogue)

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