Kho Gaye Hum Kahan Review: Moderately Entertaining And Occasionally Perceptive

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Kho Gaye Hum Kahan Review: Moderately Entertaining And Occasionally Perceptive

A still from Kho Gaye Hum Kahan. (courtesy: YouTube)

The protagonists of Kho Gaye Hum Kahan, directed by debutant Arjun Varain Singh from a script he wrote with Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, are digital natives struggling to stay abreast of, and cope with, the real world.

Their impulses and actions, both private and public, are mediated, or directly impacted, by social media. On the face of it, their life, as reflected through the tints and filters of their reels and posts, brims with fun and games.

Imaad Ali (Siddhant Chaturvedi), Ahana Singh (Ananya Panday) and Neil Pereira (Adarsh Gourav), in their 20s and thick as thieves – are ensconced in a bubble that is only a punch away from being punctured. The three appear to have lots of friends and exciting escapades.

Scratch the surface and they are lonely souls with no dearth of problems. Severely limited attention spans make them vulnerable to hasty moves, topsy-turvy relationships and delusional surmises.

Kho Gaye Hum Kahan, a moderately entertaining and occasionally perceptive Netflix film produced by Excel Entertainment and Tiger Baby, covers familiar ground but succeeds to a significant degree in giving the coming-of-age genre a fresh and coherent spin.

The story pans out over a year in the life of Imaad, Ahana and Neil. It opens on one New Year’s Eve and ends on the next, encompassing a period of 12 tumultuous months that stir things up alarmingly for the trouble-prone triumvirate.

Would Dil Chahta Hai (which heralded the birth of Excel Entertainment at the turn of the millennium) have looked like this had it seen the light of day 20 years later and played out among the centennials? Or would The Archies (Tiger Baby’s other Netflix film of 2023) have resembled Kho Gaye Hum Kahan (at least in parts) had it been set closer to our times and its characters been a decade older? Difficult to tell.

In essence, Kho Gaye Hum Kahan ploughs its own furrow on its breezy course through the well-worn trope of twenty-somethings grappling with those bits of their lives and loves that they want to either completely erase or tide over in a hurry and in one piece. Either way, loads of problems stare them in the face.

The three friends learn the hard way that social media is a capricipous plaything. It takes no time to go from being a secure sinecure to becoming a slippery slope. It is a sharp double-edged sword that can cut deep and cause festering wounds.

Imaad is a stand-up comic with an apparently comfortable life marred by a past that rankles. He shares a flat in South Bombay with Ahana Singh (Ananya Panday), a B-school grad stuck in a dead-end sales job.

Neil Pereira (Adarsh Gourav), a gym trainer who lives with his parents (Vijay Maurya and Divya Jagdale) in a middle-class housing society in suburban Mumbai, is Imaad and Ahana’s best friend.

Neil aspires to open his own fitness studio but does not have the bank balance to be in with a genuine chance of realising his dream anytime soon. I don’t know what I am doing with my life, he says. He could well be speaking for his two friends too.

They are almost always on their phones, rarely casting a glance at the world that is passing them by. Their homes and workplaces are boxes that do not open out on the larger environs and reveal life and people on the ground.

Director of photography Tanay Satam sets up shots and sequences that view the buildings the three friends inhabit from the outside and the four walls of the rooms that they occupy from within.

The camera catches them in their lairs – the two rooms that Ahana and Imaad occupy in one flat, the open mic performance space where Imaad peddles his comic wares, the gym where Neil works and his parents’ modest apartment – but seldom offers views of the city beyond their curtained windows.

The occasional aerial shots of the cityscape evoke a sense of distance. The only time that Mumbai makes its ‘presence’ felt in somewhat concrete terms is when Ahana’s visiting mom, flustered by the city’s sultry weather, asks her to turn on the AC no sooner than she enters her apartment.

Kho Gaye Hum Kahan is focused squarely on the turmoil unfolding in Imaad, Ahana and Neil’s individual cocoons. Secrets, inadequacies, heartbreak and disasters stalk the three.

Imaad deals with a difficult past. Hints are provided of the exact nature of his trauma during sessions with a therapist (Suchitra Pillai), conversations with his dad (Rahul Vohra) and intimate moments with an older, wiser woman (Kalki Koechlin) he finds on Tinder who is more than a handful for the emotionally fragile young man.

Ahana nurses a broken heart. Her boyfriend of three years (Rohan Gurbaxani) has left her, sending her into a spiral of injudicious moves (most of them social media-induced, of course). She cannot get Rohan out of her mind.

Neil’s equations with a client and influencer (Anya Singh) are at best unsteady. The middle-class lad has showdowns and reverses aplenty as he looks to break free from the inhibitions and doubts that his social milieu has filled him with.

The three often plead for privacy. Imaad in particular hides his innermost thoughts behind his comic sets and light-hearted banter. Ironically, they, Ahana more than the other two, think nothing of putting their feelings out in the open for everyone to see and judge.

Windows play a key role in the film. Through them the audience can see minuscule fractions of the Mumbai skyline and never the city at the street level. Simran Kohli, the photographer who makes her way into the commitment-phobic Imaad’s life, is a world apart.

She is in the midst of a project to probe “the people of Tinder”, to find out the real faces behind the dating app masks. One stray shot of a wall painting of Satyajit Ray’s Charulata peering standing at a green louvered window and peering through her binoculars sums up who Simran is.

She is the converse of Imaad and his ilk. She focuses on faces to map the realities they conceal. Places and experiences matter to her just as much. “The easiest way to change one’s perspective is to move to a new city,” Simran says. Not for her the enticement and entrapment of the virtual world where blinders and filters dictate what we see and in what light we see it.

Hers is a tactile art in a world obsessed with misleading images. She works with analogue film rolls. She develops her photos chemically in a dark room where she is total control. And that is in sharp contrast Gen Z’s approach to life, which lets their social media facades take precedence over all else.

Siddhant Chaturvedi has the meatiest role in Kho Gaye Hum Kahan but it is Adarsh Gourav who makes the biggest impact. Ananya Panday does a fair enough job of a character stuck in a single-note loop.

It may be centred on the superficiality of cocooned lives, but Kho Gaye Hum Kahan finds depths and layers that stand it in good stead and make it a film to watch and mull over.

Cast:

Siddhant Chaturvedi, Ananya Panday, Adarsh Gourav and Kalki Koechlin

Director:

Arjun Varain Singh



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