Tum Mile (Kunal Deshmukh, 2009)
I remember, vaguely, the lead up to Tum Mile’s release. There was a lot of excitement based on promos indicating that this was going to be a proper Hindi disaster film, and the first film to be based around the devastating Mumbai floods of 26 July, 2005, an event still fresh in the memories of thousands of people in India and around the world.
And then it released. And it flopped. The masses, it seemed, felt entirely misled by the marketing. They were expecting - not unfairly - a blockbuster, a special effects extravaganza disaster film, based on true events they were all too familiar with.
What they got, instead, was a contemplative love story. A love story told in choppy parallel narratives, contrasting the past and the present; exploring how two people lose each other in one narrative while showing us how they find each other again in the other. The Mumbai floods do make an appearance, but not really until the second half of the film, and honestly, if the floods were given a credit, it would be as a special appearance – their function is really to add a new twist to the familiar “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again” story.
If I’d seen Tum Mile on its release, back when the marketing hype was at its peak and expectations were equally high – then I’d probably have felt a bit ripped off. As it is – it turns out nearly everyone who has written about this film on the ‘net seems to think it sucks, that it’s boring, that the flashback structure is stupid, that the whole film is a pointless disaster.
WELL SCREW THEM.
Because I loved it. I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT.
Tum Mile is the story of the relationship between two people: former artist Akshay (Emraan Hashmi) and journalist Sanjana (Soha Ali Khan).
Akshay and Sanjana meet each other on a plane flying into Mumbai. It’s been 6 years since they last saw each other.
At the airport, they part civilly but coolly. By the end of the day, they will have found each other again, literally, and figuratively.
Their story: how they initially met and fell in love, how they fell out of love and grew apart forms the major part of Tum Mile – and is told through various flashbacks and through occasional “memory flashes” – brief, fragmentary rapid-fire cycling through several seemingly unrelated shots, indicating they are like memories. These flashbacks are contrasted against the present day situation the two face dealing with the storm.
1. It might be uncool to admit this – I really don’t know – but I really liked Emraan Hashmi in this film. I always get the impression he exists in a separate stratum than other actors (maybe due to his serial kisser reputation?) so while he’s not in the league of the Salmans, Hrithiks, Shahrukhs and Akshays; I don’t think of him as being, I dunno…a Dino Morea or a Zayed Khan either (actually I don’t mind Dino at all, but Zayed. Ugh. Zayed…).
Anyway. My point is – I thought he was really convincing (and I love that, playing an artist, he always subtly had paint on his clothes and fingers). His character does verge on unlikeable and unsympathetic at points in the film – but he never pushed it too far and became cartoonish or unrealistic. I actually thought he and Soha Ali Khan played well off each other. And I just want to pinch his chipmunk cheeks.
Those cheeks are BEGGING to be pinched.
2. I really like that Soha Ali Khan’s character is a normal, grounded woman with ambition, who, when it comes down to it, stands up for what she believes in, even though it’s a really painful choice for her. SPOILER ALERT.
I think that this might be partly what a bunch of old-school reviewers are referring to when they describe Tum Mile as “firmly targeted at a youth audience” because not only do Akshay and Sanjana live together quite happily without being married (with her father’s knowledge), Sanjana, though she cares about Akshay and does everything in her power to help him, has goals and her own future in mind too. When Akshay jeopardizes that, and refuses to compromise, or even consider her viewpoint, then she chooses her career over him. (At which point I was cheering – having seen so many other Hindi films where women make last minute decisions like “even though you killed my sister and kidnapped my son and made him into a bandit, and are a supercriminal wanted around the world, you are my HUSBAND so I love you and will do whatever you say”. Which…makes me go WTF? But I acknowledge, it may be something I will never quite understand).
3. The thing I liked the most is how much like a real relationship the relationship between Akshay and Sanjana seemed – I believed why they were together, but more pertinently, I totally understood why they broke up. I loved little touches like years after their first drunken party night out on the town, the thing that both of them remembered the most was that Akshay confessed he had never seen Sholay (and Sanjana replied “What kind of a person hasn’t seen Sholay?!”).
There's industry wisdom that an Emraan Hashmi song video will be a hit. And it certainly held true for Tum Mile's title song, a super hit (even if the film wasn't).
But then come the fights, the recriminations, the held back tears. And the fascinating juxtaposition: a metaphorical storm in the past relationship tearing the lovers apart, a literal storm in the present helping them to find each other again.
There’s this one scene that was just devastating: Akshay has had “painter’s block” for months. Sanjana wants to talk to him about their relationship, how things are going, about their options while he’s not painting. Just as she starts talking, he gets inspired to paint her, commanding her to sit where she is. So she does, because she has always been supportive of his art, though now, you can see, she is reluctant. He’s not listening to her, more obsessed with finally being inspired to paint than talking to his girlfriend.
And though he is looking at her, capturing her image on canvas, he never once notices that she is crying.
I totally get why people wouldn’t want to see this onscreen, though. Most people – especially those expecting a special effects blockbuster - go to the movies for entertainment, not an examination of the breakdown of a relationship under a microscope. Hence a lot of other reviews labeling it “boring”. I love that stuff though, so I loved Tum Mile.