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'Kho Gaye Hum Kahan' Review: This Gen Z Tale Is Smart & Full of Heart

Arjun Varain Singh’s Kho Gaye Hum Kahan stars Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Adarsh Gourav.

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'Kho Gaye Hum Kahan' Review: This Gen Z Tale Is Smart & Full of Heart

Ever since social media became a part of our lives, we’ve spent an unnatural amount of time dissecting each other’s lives (and even dissecting social media itself). Director Arjun Varain Singh’s Kho Gaye Hum Kahan somehow manages to capture both these phenomena and might be one of the more mature explorations into the world of the ‘digital generation’. 

Arjun Varain Singh’s Kho Gaye Hum Kahan stars Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Adarsh Gourav.

Ananya Panday in a still from Kho Gaye Hum Kahan.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Stand-up comic Imaad Ali (Siddhant Chaturvedi) introduces the rest of the film’s cast during a set – he lives with Ahana Singh (Ananya Panday) who is in a long-term relationship with Rohan and his ‘gang’ is completed by a gym trainer Neil Pereira (Adarsh Gourav) who is in a ‘secret’ situationship with an influencer. 

A lot of the film can seem artificial and glossy – it isn’t relatable on a surface level, even for someone who belongs to the same city. Not a single local train makes its presence known but this is one of those rare films set in Mumbai that doesn't make the city a character. Instead, we see the lives of our main characters unfurl through social media posts and booze-filled evenings. 

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It makes it easier, in a way, to become more invested in these people’s lives. It also fits well into the film’s identity – all the main characters are often glued into their phones, they rarely look at the city they inhabit and neither do we. And in this economy, trying to build a better life for themselves, they rarely even have the energy to romanticise Marine Drive. We see Maldives more often in the film than we do Mumbai. 

Arjun Varain Singh’s Kho Gaye Hum Kahan stars Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Adarsh Gourav.

Ananya Panday in a still from Kho Gaye Hum Kahan.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Sure, we’ve all cracked jokes about the way Gen-Z is dealing with relationships and that would’ve been the easy way out here too but Kho Gaye Hum Kahaan feels less like a movie that wants to question and more like one that wants to understand. Imaad is called a ‘Tinder addict’ but why does he act the way he does? Aspiration is a tale as old as time and has been the basis of ‘advertising’ for decades; it’s no surprise that despite changing technology, a better life is still what a lot of people are selling. 

Even as Imaad’s manager asks him to make ‘viral content’ to get noticed, Neil and Ahana painstakingly construct their online personas. 
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Through both Ahana and Neil’s story, the film explores this idea of ‘aspiration’ – when does aspiring for something turn into negative self-talk? It is an interesting choice, too, to include how their socio-economic backgrounds affect them as people. The rage that he almost permanently carries locked in his jaw comes from constantly being undermined by a system that runs on social and economic capital. In the digital age, this rage also finds itself reflected in strangers’ comment sections – one of the film’s main characters also becomes a nameless troll. 

Arjun Varain Singh’s Kho Gaye Hum Kahan stars Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Adarsh Gourav.

Siddhant Chaturvedi in a still from Kho Gaye Hum Kahan.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The same social media where he wants to be ‘seen’ also provides him with anonymity to bring someone else down. If this film was entered into one of those ‘Social Media: Boon or Bane’ essay competitions, it’d bring home the first prize. 

Gourav, who is easily one of my favourite actors, plays Neil perfectly. It feels like every single emotion has been meticulously thought-out – like the slight question in his seemingly innocuous nod when he finds his ‘girlfriend’ at a club with someone else or the way his smile drops at his friend’s comedy routine. Gourav understands even how a character like Neil would ‘walk’. 

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Chaturvedi and Panday too dish out commendable performances even though it feels like something we’ve seen them before; this might be one of Ananya Panday’s best acts. The vulnerability in her eyes makes you almost want to step in and protect her – even if it by shouting ‘No, don’t pick up his call!’ In contrast, Imaad’s insistence on denying himself the space to be vulnerable feels both relatable (or maybe this is something to discuss in therapy) and pitiful but in a version closer to empathy. 

Arjun Varain Singh’s Kho Gaye Hum Kahan stars Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Adarsh Gourav.

Adarsh Gourav in a still from Kho Gaye Hum Kahan.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Kalki Koechlin makes an appearance in something similar to what the Zoya Akhtar cinematic universe has given her before. Her performance is arresting as always but she ends up becoming a type more than a character. Camera in hand, she is working on a piece on ‘Humans of Tinder’, and says things like, ‘We might be more connected now but we are lonelier than ever’.

At the same time, the dialogue writing in Kho Gaye Hum Kahan doesn’t always disappoint (it actually works 80% of the time). Often when screenwriters try to write Gen Z conversations, the characters are treated like their entire lexicon consists of ‘slay’ and ‘yaas’. But the conversations between Imaad, Ahana, and Neil feel eerily authentic; I actually had one of the conversations they did right before I put the movie on. 

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Even as the larger plot about social media and how it affects the lives of the ‘digital generation’, the film fits in commentary about class, gender, and consent. Even though most of Imaad’s stand up routines were painfully unfunny (Ahana is a real friend for laughing the entire time), the last one in the film is difficult to ignore. Not only is it nuanced messaging about consent and sexual assault, it also addresses the age-old question, “We can’t joke about anything anymore or what?” It’s sensitive without being exploitative; like a lot of this film is.

Arjun Varain Singh’s Kho Gaye Hum Kahan stars Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Adarsh Gourav.

Siddhant Chaturvedi and Kalki Koechlin in a still from Kho Gaye Hum Kahan.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Admittedly, better comic writing would’ve made his character more believable. He is presented as the ‘copes with trauma through comedy’ archetype – a tag that Gen Z carries almost with pride. Maybe he hasn’t perfected the art because nobody actually tried to create a stand up act that isn’t just one-liners after another or maybe because he can afford therapy. But the fact that he isn’t funny throughout the film also takes away some of the effect of the last scenes. 

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I was reminded of how well comics like Hannah Gadsby have perfected the art of mixing trauma with humour. For instance, Gadsby’s Nanette is self-reflective, haunting, honest, and funny. Here, we don’t get a lot of it. 

Arjun Varain Singh’s Kho Gaye Hum Kahan stars Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Adarsh Gourav.

Adarsh Gourav in a still from Kho Gaye Hum Kahan.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Before I sign off, I’d also like to appreciate the film’s visual language. The cool, hazy tint over every frame might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it definitely is mine. I found myself pausing on several frames to marvel at the composition and the colours; kudos to DOP Tanay Sitam. Even every song feels like an instant hit (I found myself frequently wondering if I’d heard them before). OAFF & Savera have outdone the magic of Doobey with the mesmerising tracks in Kho Gaye Hum Kahan.

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Ankur Tewari and Sachin-Jigar also created a heady mix of Bollywood nostalgia and social media ‘viral pop (is that a thing yet?) tracks. 

If there is a problem with Kho Gaye Hum Kahan, it’s in the overall treatment – it often feels like everything can be tied up in a neat little package. Conflicts are too easily solved. When a man posts a woman’s pictures without her consent, another man goes and threatens the first. The implications of the former being aware of where the woman lives and how often violence against women escalates in situations like this falls into the cracks. Even Ahana’s righteous anger at Neil’s actions later in the film gets resolved in a teary sequence. 

Arjun Varain Singh’s Kho Gaye Hum Kahan stars Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Adarsh Gourav.

Adarsh Gourav in a still from Kho Gaye Hum Kahan.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Even the new year resolutions spoken out at the end feel more hollow than what the film actually looks into and often hints at. Of all the things Kho Gaye Hum Kahan is about, the ending summary is not it. But the film as a whole is effective and timely. There is something about how deeply rooted in realism it is that overshadows its flaws; at least for me. 

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