Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele Movie Review: Queer road movie loses its way
The film is pleasantly shot, in sync with its chilled-out score, but its need to verbalise everything ruins all intimacy
The first half-hour of Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele is the most grating. Harish Vyas’s film begins in the mould of a conventional Bollywood queer explainer. “What’s right, what’s wrong? There’s just me and you,” muses Mansi (Zareen Khan), in voiceover. Her parents tell of their daughter’s fondness for ‘wearing pants’. A couple of scenes later, Mansi reveals herself to be a lesbian. This feels like standard practice, hammering the audience before the story can start. It never helps. In fact, it’s only when the film moves past this section that it acquires a measure of personality.
Mansi and Veer (Anshuman Jha) are runaways in Delhi; they meet at a club and Mansi crashes at his place that night. Mansi’s girlfriend, Nikki, is in McLeod Ganj with her parents. With Veer as her adopted chauffeur, she decides to head off there. Veer, who’s also gay, is in desperate need of a breather. He plans on dropping Mansi off and heading back to Chandigarh, his hometown. But, as you might guess, a set of happy diversions prolongs their trip.
As the film progresses, it examines the growing platonic attraction between Mansi and Veer. Over dinner, he confronts his feelings for her — which he finds both confusing and pleasant. Again, the screenplay lapses into Lecture Mode. “Love na… is actually beyond gender,” Veer says, summing up the film’s thesis in a speech. He goes on long enough for Mansi to cut him short. “Stop, just stop,” she pleads, asking why he’s being so scientific.
This need to verbalise ruins all intimacy. The film is pleasantly shot, in sync with its chilled-out score. But the dialogue is a drag. Both Mansi and Veer come across as stock characters. Though they get a backstory each, these hardly feel organic. The leads are presented as free birds, in rude contrast to their partners. This lends the film some conflict but also makes it unidimensional. There’s a coldness to how Veer calls up Mitali (Prabhleen Sandhu), whose husband he’s been seeing, and tells her everything. Equally, Mansi’s reconciliation with her parents feels sudden and unearned.
Early on, Veer is shown as a cleanliness freak, while Mansi likes the mess. Anshuman and Zareen don’t play up any other character traits, which is a relief. They start off awkwardly but find a rhythm to their act. Anushman’s straightforward playing fleshes out Veer. And though Zareen is characteristically bubbly, this still is one of her better parts. There’s a lighter, funnier film in the scenes where they are driving around in the hills. Unfortunately, it fades away too soon.