What if it had been titled differently?Naseeruddin Shah, in contrast to that other acting phenomenon of his generation 1, chose to make a much more understated directorial debut in Yun Hota To Kya Hota (subtitled What If...). The separate stories intersecting at various points is now no longer a novel screenplay technique in Indian cinema. That said, I have personally not seen a plot composed of four stories with a similar underlying theme, and so, there was enough interest to watch what the director made of the proceedings.
By choosing to be watchful rather than extravagant and by surrounding himself with members proficient in the one aspect of filmcraft that he would best relate to, Naseer dips the toes into the manic streams of filmmaking without being swept away by the currents. He doesn't get too wet either (and so we do not completely know if he can swim magic strokes), but we know and he must too, that he will be back for a deeper dive.
"Yun Hota..." introduces us to our protagonists and their situations in quick time. By the end of introductions, we are assured that the actors will not let Naseer d(r)own. Konkona Sen Sharma returns to continue her expert portrayal of the urban Indian woman with Jimmy Shergill for company; Paresh Rawal (in a timely reminder that his talents have survived his exile to Priyan-land) ponders over daaNDiyaa and lost love by an office-cum-bed; Ankur Khanna oscillates between an M.S. in BioTech, personal distress and an unspoken affection for Ayesha Takia; while Irrfan and his brother have to leave the country leaving "Salim" all messed up.
Perhaps the depth in the batting order will be made clearer by this little listing of those in the wings who sparkled too: Ravi Baswani (the seemingly senile but ultimately sane father; unrecognisable at first), Suhasini Mulay (even more unrecognisable as the startlingly glamourous dancer), Konkona's harridan of a mother-in-law and the schizophrenic sister-in-law, Imaduddin Shah (a modern day patriot with a long scatalogical monologue that will have you both cringe and squeal with laughter), Saroj Khan (making her debut in another inspired bit of casting, and of course Ratna Pathak Shah (more literally unrecognisable at one point in the film, and the victim of domestic turmoil), ). There are so many more (watch the film carefully), that clearly this is an ensemble of some of India's finest 2.
Instead of discussing more of the inside plot, I shall instead point you to Zero's review (watch out for the spoilers). He also makes mention of what was, on reflection, my main grouse with the film. The title was fairly inaccurate in setting expectations. The tale is told well and the "reality" is believable, but exactly "What If" what?
1 Will go as far as saying "unarguably". You want to argue? :-)
2 And I have not even mentioned a morbidly neurotic Boman Irani