Director: Sudip Bandhyopadhay
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Sonali Kulkarni, Naveen Kasturia, Aamir Bashir, Kabir Sajid
In ad filmmaker Sudip Bandhyopadhay’s Hope Aur Hum, three parallel narratives flow side by side. Seeped in nostalgia, the film has many moments- some striking, some memorable and some fleeting- in a story told through three generations of the Srivastava family.
At the centre of this story is an old man Nagesh Srivastava (Naseeruddin Shah), who is attached with his old school photocopy machine. He has named it Mr. Soennecken after Friedrich Soennecken, the famous German office products supplier. And at a time when everyone is technology obsessed, Nagesh finds solace and refers to the work of Mr. Soennecken as art. He is still stuck in the era when he first brought the machine home and all his neighbours had lined up outside to get just one glimpse of it. His son Neeraj (Aamir Bashir), who is under constant pressure to get that due promotion at work, understands his father’s attachment but to his wife Aditi (Sonali Kulkarni), the room where the machine is kept can be used to provide their kids a more comfortable living and separate rooms. She keeps practicality over both emotions and nostalgia.
The two grandkids – a teenage Tanu (Vidhi Vaghani) and a cricket lover and enthusiastic commentator Anu (Kabir Sajid)- are perhaps the only members of the family who understand what Mr. Soennecken means to their grandfather. They feel for him and feel with him. Nagesh’s younger son Nitin (Naveen Kasturia) arrives from Dubai for a surprise visit and brings home a play station for Anu, mobile for Tanu, watch for Aditi and the latest model of a photocopy machine. He loses his phone upon arrival but “destiny” has something else in store for him. Meanwhile, Anu visits his maternal grandmother’s home with his father.
Three important events- Nagesh’s dying Mr. Soennecken and arrival of a new model, Nitin’s phone getting lost and Anu’s visit to his maternal grandmother- change the course of the story and brings forth several facts of human emotions.
Nagesh comes from a time when even machines, gadgets and appliances, had a place of their own in people’s life. When his grandson retorts saying the machine is old and needs to retire now, Nagesh tells him, “ye machine bekaar nahi hai, yaadgaar hai.” Whether it was someone’s first car, first watch, first television or even the first photocopy machine - it meant more than just an electronic device. To them, letting it go means to let go a part of oneself. But, in his mind, Nagesh knows that whether it’s a human or a machine - it has to work because there’s always someone younger or advanced waiting to take its position. Shah is in his top form and delivers a wistful performance throughout. He speaks lines that have depth and delivers them with an impact that not many can boast of.
Nitin, from the second generation, has his life revolving around his phone which he loses upon his arrival in India. But who knew a lost phone can help find him love! His story relies more on chance encounters and destiny, but you wish to see more of it and more of Kasturia too. He is a talent to reckon with but doesn’t get enough screen time and enough shades to portray.
The third narrative, also the most prominent one, is that of the youngest generation - Anu. To let go of irrational fear and free oneself from the guilt of what would have happened or what could have happened is as tough for him as it is for his grandfather to let go off that old machine. Despite being a child actor, Sajid hooks you. His innocent yet enthusiastic commentary makes you smile and his fear and guilt make you worry.
While actors do their part well, the film in its entirety doesn’t seem well enough. The obvious connections between humans and machines is a strong base but that doesn’t come out the way it should have. The film tries to be a poem but the lines are not strong enough and the plot doesn’t convert to prose in totality. The metaphors relating to life and transition are in plenty but only some leave an impact. It also feels that the film is not worthy of the ending we are served with, but of something better.
Hope Aur Hum is a well-intentioned film. It has its heart in the right place and manages to seep you in its own nostalgia and think of things beyond the film. But there’s something that doesn’t quite make it through. The message of this family drama stays with you but the film, unfortunately, might not.