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A sweet, refreshing story that isn’t unconventional for the sake of it, Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele is eminently watchable, until just the before the end.
Shortly after the film opens, Mansi (Zareen Khan) in a role reminiscent of Geet’s in Jab We Met, has upped sticks and run away from home to surprise her lover in Delhi and live happily ever after. Except, that unlike Geet, Mansi’s lover is a woman. And, according to her mother, it’s the childhood trouser-donning behavior that is responsible for it.
Meanwhile, in Chandigarh, we have Veer (Anshuman Jha), backing out of his engagement on the day of, by telling his fiancé the relationship would never work. Next thing we know, he’s turned up in Delhi too, at the home of his best friend—and, as we soon find out, (married) lover. Yes, Veer is gay too.
The way our two protagonists meet is a bit trite, and clearly not much script space nor screen time is wasted on making that part plausible. Their instant closeness seems contrived, but the story progresses quickly, and they make plans to drive to McLeod Ganj in Himachal Pradesh, where Mansi’s partner of four years is parked at her parents’ home.
Innumerable movies have been made about a guy and girl taking off to the hills, and the adventure that ensues on the journey. But here’s one where both protagonists are gay and not in a romantic relationship with each other.
Also quite refreshing is the significant lack of stereotypes that make it an easy breezy watch. While some tropes still pop up, like a woman not being a good driver, and the usual dismissal of women as ’emotional’, for the most part, the film effortlessly shows the characters as their whole selves, unburdened by gender roles. He cooks for her because he loves it. She smokes and tells him off for being sentimental. A far cry from the macho male carrying the delicate damsel, the roles reverse and we have Mansi lugging Veer around like a sack of potatoes for the fun of it.
Without giving away the rest of the plot, I can share that the two fall into a deep and unhemmed-in companionship, arriving part-way into the movie at the unusual decision to live together as soulmates without sex. They are not romantic partners, but who says soulmates have to be? “Half your love for me, and half for someone else,” they declare, and proceed to share a home and life and the daily joys of two humans with polarized personalities occupying a physical space. (That last bit definitely sounds like heteronormative marriage to me!)
Somewhere along the ride, we are gently offered gems like ‘love knows no gender’ and ‘sexuality is genderless’. It is to the actors’ credit that, as the characters park so many of their expected gender norms at the door and enter a space relatively devoid of such constructs, they make the narrative believable and invite us to join them in the faith that an alternative way of living is possible.
Zareen Khan and Anshuman Jha bring their characters to life, and make them authentic, interesting and likeable. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the supporting cast, that mercifully gets very little screen time.
Where the film falters is the last seven minutes, when a twist in the tale attempts to seek redemption, but leaves us incredulous and unwilling to suspend belief. There were many ways to give this movie a satisfying ending, but in choosing the one they did, the writer and director nudged a hitherto entirely plausible story into absurd territory.
Would I still recommend watching it? Yes. It is an honest and brave film without being preachy. By offering an alternative perspective of relationships, unfettered by gender and sex, Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele makes us feel less alone and more hopeful of creating a life and world entirely of our choosing.
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