Valentine’s Week of Sex: Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Making Love

Woo-hoo! A new Humpty Sharma review! For those of you who really really love this movie. Or at least tolerate those of us who really really love this movie.

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania came out in The Past of 6 years ago, 2014. Back then Alia and Varun were hot new promising actors, and Shashank Khaitan was the hot new promising director. And Karan Johar was the king of the industry who could do no wrong. Humpty Sharma seemed like the start of a grand career for the two leads and the director, and a continuation of a perfect career for the producer. A wonderful film, but clearly just the start of a whole series of wonderfulness.

Image result for humpty sharma ki dulhania poster"

And now it is 6 years later. Turns out, Humpty Sharma was more special than we thought. Karan has made plenty of mistakes since then, Alia and Varun have both put in bad performances, and Shashank struggled to perfect his next few scripts. Humpty Sharma wasn’t just the coming together of multiple great talents, it was something a little extra and beyond those talents, something they wouldn’t quite accomplish again.

It all starts with the script. Karan in his memoir talks about finding it. That alone is important, Karan doesn’t discuss ever film he produced in his memoir. The fact that he remembers so clearly the moment he first read it, and feels that moment worthy of inclusion in the memoir, says that this was something special. Karan has a team at Dharma to read through scripts and decide what to pass on to him. And then he reads through what they passed up. He picked up Shashank’s script because the title was so odd, and immediately was captured with the way it updated rom-coms, specifically the DDLJ format, for a new era.

Humpty Sharma is a truly brilliant script. In the structure, the way it takes the time it takes to introduce each character and situation before slowly building on more and more conflict and complications on the way to the final obstacle and conclusion. But also in the little things, the decision to make the heroine’s parents a love match across caste and religion, the decision to have the hero’s friends come with him on his love quest, the touch of the hero and the heroine’s father sharing secret cigarettes. I didn’t fully appreciate Humpty until I saw Badrinath, Shashank’s follow up film. Badrinath rushed things, forget characters, had a plot that mostly worked but was missing in the little details (I needed more on the hero’s older brother and sister-in-law, clarity on why the heroine wanted to be an air hostess, and so on and so forth). Most of all it didn’t have those unforgettable touches that Humpty Sharma was filled with, it was all almost perfect but not quite. Having the hero stay with the heroine and do her housework was nice, but there wasn’t quite enough of it, and it never had a moment quite as perfect as the hero and father sharing cigarettes in Humpty Sharma.

In the same way, the performances at the center of Humpty Sharma are something special. The way Alia manages to layer on a girl who doesn’t care on top of a girl who does care without going over the top in either direction, the way Varun layers the childish guy who cares too much on top of the guy who is a little afraid of how deeply he cares, I thought they were the kind of brilliant performances that would start brilliant careers. But then in Badrinath, it wasn’t quite as perfect and seamless and invisible into the characters. And in Kalank, these same young actors were given far deeper and juicier roles and couldn’t manage to pull them off. I’m not saying Varun and Alia got worse, or lazier, or anything. Just that something magical happened on the set of Humpty that brought their acting up to a level they may not reach again.

I go back to Humpty now and it feels like this magical little bubble that somehow created something beyond the sum of its parts. Oh and also, it really is the kind of title that just leaps out at you. That’s still true.

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Humpty Sharma is structured around DDLJ, but also not. Our heroine is a young engaged woman with a protective father who takes one month off for an adventure before her marriage. During her adventure, she meets a boy and fights with him and makes up and makes friends and realizes just before she has to go home that she is in love. She returns home anyway, because she is dutiful to her family, but he follows. He inserts himself into her wedding preparations and slowly wins over her family to his side, culminating in her father as the last hold out. It looks like her father won’t give in, and she won’t rebel, but at the last second the father changes his mind and gives his blessing and the two are united.

The challenge is to take that structure, and make it fit for a totally new group of characters, ones who have the same plot function as in the original but new backstories, motivations, personalities, habits, hobbies, EVERYTHING! It’s like being given a house that is fully filled with bedrooms and kitchen and living room and being told that you have to do it over with the same number of bedrooms and so on, but you have to put them all in different places. It is so much easier to just start fresh with a new bedroom.

Shashank started by moving the story entirely to India. DDLJ is about NRIs, that is what made it different right from the start. This time it is firmly within India, the adventure is in Delhi and the wedding is in small town India. And then he had to figure out why a modern young Indian girl would want an arranged marriage. He came up with a whole new backstory for the heroine, an older sister with a failed marriage which has strained the family and made her determined to give them the perfect happy wedding. For the hero, instead of an overly mean and overly smart modern young man, he created a flirt who was easy going and a soft mark. Because that is who could get under the defenses of his new modern tough heroine determined not to feel.

And then the dynamic he had to keep, that our heroine who was so sure her father knew best for her would discover there was another man she could come to rely on, and a potential different future for her from what her father had chosen. That is the reality DDLJ was getting at, and that is what Shashank wanted to show too. In Indian society, who a woman marries is a choice for what her whole life will be like, not just who she marries. The journey of the heroine in the two films is not simply a “who does she love” question, it is a “what life does she want” question. She needs to experience life under the protection and guidance of the hero before she is able to fearlessly break free of her father and know she will be safe. So Shashank came up with a situation where a modern Indian girl would be a little bit scared and unsure and need help, but not so scared and unsure that she was desperate. Alia’s friend is being blackmailed by an old boyfriend, she goes to Varun for help figuring out how to stop it. She wants to be part of the solution and she fully understands the situation, it’s not all terrifying and foreign to her, but it is just scary enough that she needs to rely on Varun.

And the second dynamic he had to keep, that our hero would follow the heroine and win over her family. The heroine considered the hero’s whole life before deciding she was in love, because it’s a choice for her whole life. But the hero is showing that he wants all of the heroine, not just her but her background and her family. He respects all of it and he has no pride, no ego, he is willing to do whatever they want. In the original, Shahrukh showed that by embedding himself within the female spaces, talking in the kitchen, in the children’s games, in the sari shopping. In this film, Varun shows it by joining the servant spaces. He is not an honored guest, he sleeps on the terrace and works in the kitchen. He is willing to be humiliated, injured, worked to death, if it will win over Alia’s family. In the first half, the heroine reluctantly gives over her power to the hero because she has no other choice and then learns to trust and love him. In the second half, the hero voluntarily gives up all his power to the heroine’s family to show how much he loves her and trusts that their love will win out.

Now, let’s talk about sex! The interval is where everything flips, the heroine gives up her final resistance to the hero, which leads him to follow her and sacrifice himself before her and her family. In DDLJ, Kajol just left behind a bell. Her character was so repressed that that small gesture was enough to tell Shahrukh everything. But Shashank created a different heroine, one who was fearless and confident, and who would grab love where she found it. So Alia “gives” Varun sex to show how much she loves him.

Blech, sounds horrible like that, doesn’t it? For the plot, that is how it works, sex tells Varun “I love you” and so he follows her and gives up all his power to her just as she gave it to him. But for the characters, there is more to it. Alia loves Varun, and trusts Varun, and that is why she wants to have sex with him. By this point in the film, we know her so well that we don’t need to have that said explicitly. We see how she tries to pretend she is stronger and less feeling than she is, how she has decided to hide her own feelings in order to please her family, and we understand that she was surprised to feel so much for Varun, and to feel so safe with him. That Varun was the person she wanted to be her first, for herself, someone she knew and who knew her and she could feel safe with. And we understand the other half, that Alia is someone who is honorable and believes in her duty to her family. For her to make the selfish choice and have sex with Varun instead of the dutiful choice and remain faithful to her fiance says that she really really wanted sex with him. Which means she really really wanted him, all of him. And that is what Varun understood. He had sex with her because it was what she wanted, and she wanted it because she loved him very very much.

Image result for humpty sharma ki dulhania sex"

That’s what sex should be, always. Okay, scratch that, what it should be in a love story. Something a couple does because they love each other very very much. They desire each other, because they love each other, not the other way around. Other movies use sex as a plot device, a misunderstanding, even a punchline. But the best love stories use it as a sign of real true deep love. Jab Harry Met Sejal, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, all the way back to Aradhana, the couples weren’t attracted to each other and then fell in love, they fell in love and because of that became attracted to each other. Humpty Sharma starts out with a boy and girl role-playing what they think sex should be like, him flirting and her retreating, but it is empty and meaningless. When they get to know each other, when they stop pretending, that is when they fall in love with the real person. And falling in love with the real person makes them want to be together, fully together, in a way as unlike that early flirtation as an electric light is unlike the sun.

So, watch Humpty Sharma! To see a love story that puts all other recent romances in the shade.

17 thoughts on “Valentine’s Week of Sex: Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Making Love

  1. “I needed more on the hero’s older brother and sister-in-law”
    Me too! I especially wanted to know the sister-in-law’s back story.
    I wouldn’t say that the problem with Kalank was that Varun and Alia’s characters seemed juicier but they didn’t seem to get enough material to really dig deep into the characters. But you are right that something magical happened on the set of Humpty.
    That’s a really good point about Humpty being in the servant spaces instead of female spaces like Shahrukh. I never realized that before but now that you mentioned it, it makes sense.
    I think my favorite part is that there isn’t any expectation from Humpty saying that “now that we had sex, you have leave your engagement and be with me”.

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  2. “I needed more on the hero’s older brother and sister-in-law”
    Me too! I especially wanted to know the sister-in-law’s back story.

    I wouldn’t say that the problem with Kalank was that Varun and Alia’s characters seemed juicier but they didn’t seem to get enough material to really dig deep into the characters. But you are right that something magical happened on the set of Humpty.

    That’s a really good point about Humpty being in the servant spaces instead of female spaces like Shahrukh. I never realized that before but now that you mentioned it, it makes sense.

    I think my favorite part is that there isn’t any expectation from Humpty saying that “now that we had sex, you have leave your engagement and be with me”.

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    • Yes! He doesn’t show up and say “you belong to me now”. Or, “I could ruin you by telling everyone so you have to do what I say”. But on the other hand, he doesn’t take the experience lightly. He says “I know you love me and want to marry me because you had sex with me”. Like, that is the starting point of their conversations from then on. He listens when she argues for why she can’t just elope, and he respects her family and her own ability to make decisions, but the sex did really “mean” something and they both know it.

      Come to think of it, that’s part of including the whole blackmail storyline in Delhi, right? Alia knows exactly what the consequences of sex could be, her friend’s engagement almost ended over it, and she is still willing to give that trust to Varun which tells him how important he is to her. And Varun knows just how scuzzy and dominating men can be in sexual relationships, and isn’t that way, he never even comes close to holding sex over Alia’s head, it wasn’t like that for them at all.

      On Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 11:39 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. What are your expectations of Mr Lele? I didn’t really like Dadhak but I didn’t see Sairat so I figured Shashank was kind of restricted due to the movie being a remake. But it looks like Mr Lele is moving away from the romance genre that Shashank is comfortable with so I don’t know what to expect.

    I am excited about Bhumi working with Varun though! Jhanvi Kapoor also has a role but I don’t really like her much. Apparently she dropped out of the upcoming Vijay Deverakonda-Puri Jagannadh movie that Karan Johar is co-producing because it was clashing with Mr Lele. That must mean something right, because that was a much more hyped project than Mr Lele.

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    • I’m a little worried about Bhumi and Varun. I’m happy because I think they are both great at comedy, but I’m nervous because Bhumi just “feels” older than him and I don’t want it to be like Sui Dhaaga where he felt miss-matched a bit.

      On the other hand, I think this is a great movie for Shashank! Humpty and Badrinath both had all those light comic touches to the story, and his scripts are so intricate (this has to happen so this can happen so this can happen), if he turns that from writing situations that throw a couple together until they fall in love into writing situations about heists and mysteries, I think it could be really good.

      Maybe Jhanvi moving just means she is being smart about her career. I think of her and Ananya as kind of the same in that they are interesting on camera, but still pretty young and untried. Doing Pati Patni Aur Woh was a great move for Ananya, she could do a small light comic part and have some fun without really going beyond her abilities. A Puri Jagannadh movie with Vijay Deverankonda is going to mean an odd difficult action heroine part, opposite a really strong hero, she could easily get out of her depth. But a comic movie with Varun seems like a nice easy safe choice for her at this point.

      On Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 11:48 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think the reason they seemed mis-matched in Sui Dhaaga was more because they didn’t really have any romantic moments even after they supposedly fell in love in the second half. I think Bhumi and Varun can work but I do get your concern.

        Yeah, I’m excited to see what Shashank has come up with. By the way, did you know he’s been credited as a producer for Good Newwz? I knew he was producing that Vicky Kaushal horror movie but I didn’t realize he was a part of Good News as well.

        The interesting thing is that the Puri Jagannadh-Vijay Deverakonda heroine part looks like it’s going to Ananya now that Jhanvi said no. I get that maybe Karan wants the part to go to Ananya but I don’t get why they would want Ananya rather than going with someone who already has experience in Telugu. Getting Jhanvi would have built up the hype since she’s Sridevi’s daughter but I don’t think Ananya has the pull to cast her just for the Hindi audience. If they wanted a Hindi familiar face, I would gone for someone like Niddhi Agerwal who surprisingly found a place for herself in Telugu.

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        • Huh. If they traded Jhanvi for Ananya, now I am really curious about this movie! Puri can do such amazing heroines, and such boring ones too. When he lets the heroine be as amoral and strange as everyone else in his universe, it’s great. But sometimes she is just a goal for the hero like in anyone else’s action movie. I think Ananya might actually do something really interesting with a role like Ileana’s in Pokiri, innocent on paper but with a strange edge to her. But I somehow I think Janvhi couldn’t do that.

          On Fri, Feb 7, 2020 at 1:16 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • To be honest, it’s been years since Puri’s made a solid movie and the heroine character was terrible in the last movie of his that I liked (Temper). His last movie iSmart Shankar was a surprise hit (I haven’t seen it) mainly due to the songs which became pretty popular and Ram’s performance with the telangana dialect. I was actually surprised that Vijay Deverakonda was working with him next because I thought Puri’s career was ending before iSmart Shankar’s success. But the fact that Vijay and Karan are working with him on this makes me think that there’s still hope for his movies.

            I actually saw pati patni aur woh last night and I totally get what you mean about Ananya seeming innocent.

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          • Maybe it’s going to be one of those south to Hindi leaps where they take all the best bits of every south movie from the director and combine them into one Hindi movie? Puri’s had such a long interesting career, you could patchwork together a good 3-4 decent films from all his best bits!

            And so glad you saw Pati Patni Aur Woh! It’s better than expected, right? Especially the Ananya casting, just right way to use her.

            On Sat, Feb 8, 2020 at 8:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I could see them doing that but there’s probably something unique about the script since I think they’re gonna release the movie in multiple languages.

            I think I sort of expected even more because of your review but it was a fine one time watch. Karthik and Ananya were okay but I thought Bhumi and Aparshakti were the best parts of the movie.

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  4. I firmly believe that HSKD is a massive improvement on DDLJ in addition to being an excellent love story all around. Not just because it’s modern. Alia has more agency than Kajol, which she should in 2014 vs. 1995, but Varun was such a better person and a better partner than Shahrukh was. That’s why I didn’t like BKD as much. Partly because I watched it mere days after I watched HSKD, but also because I didn’t like Varun as a person as much as I liked his character in HSKD. He didn’t redeem himself, he didn’t prove himself worthy of Alia as much as he did in HSKD (the whole sleeping on the roof thing you mentioned, jogging with her fiance, etc.). And as it relates to sex, okay there wasn’t as much of it in BKD, but I feel like Varun in BKD would have a much more selfish and shallow view of sex than he does in BKD. I remember him saying he wants to get married rather than date, which leads me to believe he has a much more possessive view of women, which leads him to have a similar view of sex that it’s the woman’s job to please him. And sure, he had a change of heart by the end, “I will be Alia’s groom,” but his character in HSKD was NEVER LIKE THAT not even for one second which might have a hand in that magic. You have a hero who, while he flirts, never really seriously has it in his head that women are his to possess. He really sees Alia as a full person with desires and agency and choice, and this is something he gives her too. I own HSKD on YouTube movies, and I watched their sex scene back to refresh myself. 1) It’s uncomfortable to call it a sex scene, because that’s not what it feels like, it feels like love, connection, romance, choice. But why I decided to watch it back was because throughout the film, I think Varun fell for Alia first. You can argue with me on that, but when they’re talking in the car before they kiss about Alia leaving, you can clearly see how neither wants to separate and how much Varun wants her to stay, or wants to follow her to Ambala, I didn’t watch that bit. I only watched the bit where Varun tries to get out of the car and Alia grabs his arm and pulls him back in. Because I wanted to see if she was the one who initiated the kiss. And she was. This is why, in my head, HSKD worked so much better than BKD, not just because of the newness of the pair and the director, but because BKD was trying way too hard to be feminist, while HSKD did it so smoothly and seamlessly to the point where I had to make sure it did what it did. It let Varun be a good person and a good romantic interest by letting Alia make the first move, letting Alia have that choice of taking Varun for herself, and letting Varun get swept up in finally having Alia and yet still not staking a claim to her in the scene itself. It’s such a perfect balance of letting the woman have agency and choice and desire and yet also be a completely consensual act and relationship between BOTH PARTIES. Varun clearly wanted Alia, but he waited until she expressed how much she wanted him too before he acted. Really, truly, a perfect scene.
    (I can tell from your responses to my other comments that you were waiting for me to read this. Sorry it’s so long and rambly, but I hope I contributed something worthy.)

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    • Yes to Varun being a better person in HSKD than in BKD!!!! Badrinath was all about his “journey” to appreciating Alia, blah blah, but HSKD is about him understanding from the start that she is a person with agency and choices and he has no claim to her. I think he consciously fell for her first, but she fell unconsciously. Basically, I think she was putting out signals that he was picking up, he wasn’t just stalking her with no hope. Right? She looked him up on Facebook, she came to the party. She was at least interested, even if she wasn’t committed. But what made Varun so great as a character and as a feminist is that he was right there and clear with his feelings. Like, he understood that patriarchal society meant Alia couldn’t just come out and say how she felt, it was up to him to say “this is me, this is where I am at, take it or leave it” and then just wait however long it took for her to feel safe responding.

      Also, I legitimately think that Varun would have done everything he did even if he wasn’t in love with Alia. Like, if she had just been a young woman from a village who asked advice on how to buy a sari in Delhi, and then told him a terrible story about the trouble her friend was in, he still would have helped out just because he was a nice guy. Maybe that’s the meaning of the money scene? For any other young woman in trouble, he would have done the blackmail scheme. But only because he really loved her did he go the extra mile and get her the money.

      Agree completely with your take on the love scene. Varun says he is leaving, and he doesn’t even say “I will miss you” or “it’s too hard to see you again at the wedding”, he just says it and leaves it there for her to acknowledge or ignore. And then she makes the first move. And it’s the after-love scene that is equally important, Varun asks how she feels, she gives her long story, and he sings to her to comfort her. There’s no discussion of his needs, at all. And that feels appropriate because this is a bigger deal for her than for him (because it is her first time, because she is engaged, all of that). Varun is just there for her as she works through what she wants on her own.

      What I didn’t talk about in this post I think is the gift of the car, which is so important. Sex said “I love you and wish I could be with you and don’t want to leave”. But the car said “I am thinking about your needs too and want to be part of your household but I can’t so I am sending a car instead”

      On Sun, Feb 9, 2020 at 4:55 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • BKD felt more like a coming of age story, while HSKD felt more like a romance, which is why it worked better because it was promoted as such. BKD was promoted as a romcom too, but because it was hard to root for the pair, it lacked.

        I definitely agree that Varun wasn’t stalking her in HSKD. She basically flirted with him when he asked her to come to the party, and the fact that she came anyway was a signal that she at least wasn’t rejecting him, even if she wasn’t really accepting him yet. Varun picked up on that, and continued to pursue her, and she continued to accept his advances without directly accepting his affection. You see the difference? Idk if it’s making any sense.

        I definitely agree with you on him helping anyone out. I also think him giving Alia the money was also him letting her go. He chose to be respectful of her situation and her father’s wishes, and accepted that he couldn’t have her. And gave her what she came to Delhi for anyway. I think that’s also part of why he initially chose not to come to Alia’s wedding, because it might be too hard for him to see her get married, it might be too hard for him to resist her in that case. But it also goes into what you said about needs. I think in this whole section of the movie, there’s a distinction between physical and emotional needs. The money for the lehnga was a physical need for Alia, which Varun provided for her. This said “I love you and am willing to support you and provide for you even if I can’t be with you completely.” Sex was an emotional need for the both of them. And it felt like a complex way of Alia both accepting Varun’s love and simultaneously turning him down. But the trip back to Ambala must have changed her mind, so she uses the money to give Varun a car, a physical need for him and his family. And because this was the interval point, I think this was also her way of saying “I love you and I accept your love. I want you. Come and get me.”

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        • Yes, that accepting his advances with accepting him is it exactly. Varun was watching for a strong signal either way, and just sort of treading water when he didn’t get anything. He’d be there, and make her know he was interested, but not make an overt move.

          Love your description of physical versus emotional needs. I would only change slightly because I think the car wasn’t a conscious message from Alia. I think it was, like the sex, a moment of her indulging in a fantasy that she really was the daughter-in-law of that family and had a right to contribute. The two together are what made Varun decide to follow her, the sex said that she wanted him because she loved him, and the car said that she wanted the whole life he could offer her. She wasn’t asking him to come, but Varun knew she definitely wanted him to come. That was the signal to stop just treading water and actually do something.

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          • The car was still a conscious choice though. Rather than spending the money on herself, she did something for him. Regardless of what specific message she was trying to send, Varun sought her out, which I think was Alia’s goal with giving him the car in the first place.

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          • But then she was surprised to see him! And immediately said they still couldn’t be married. I just can’t see a conscious “I will leave this behind and hope he gets the message and comes to save me”. Versus DDLJ where Kajol was absolutely doing that and her immediate reaction was “let’s get the heck out of here right now”. It’s part of what I love about her character, she is torn between wanting Varun and his whole life, and not wanting to hurt her family again.

            On Sat, Feb 15, 2020 at 9:37 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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