Imaad, 25, is a Tinder devotee, so imagine his surprise when his date shows up with a camera in her purse and no twinkle in her eyes. The girl, Simran, played by Kalki Koechlin, is there to shoot Imaad as he vegetates in his libidinous loneliness. “It’s for a personal project of mine,” she explains. “It’s called The People of Tinder” . Scenes like this capture the vacuous core of Kho Gaye Hum Kahan – trying to be cool while focusing on uninteresting individuals.
Imaad (Siddhant Chaturvedi) is a struggling Mumbai standup comic. ‘Struggle’ is a tough word, given his huge inheritance and Bandra pad. He shares it with his best buddy, business consultant Ahana (Ananya Panday); a third friend, Neil (Adarsh Gourav), went to the same boarding school as them. After life throws these three impossible curveballs, such as Ahana’s partner demanding a break and Neil understanding he needs to advance in life, they decide to’start up,’ launching a fitness studio in which Imaad will gladly invest.
Social media connects the various threads. Ahana starts stalking her ex on Instagram, while Neil gains a lot of followers after taking a selfie with Malaika Arora at the gym. Imaad ruminates sadly on the emptiness and pretence of the digital era in his tremendously unfunny comedy acts. Arjun Varain Singh, the film’s first director, and co-writers Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti offer a half-baked satire of influencer culture, with everyone obsessed with ‘likes’ and ‘following’ and disdainful of their actual, honest self. It’s a skewed view of a complex societal problem, and the writing occasionally becomes judgmental (online trolls, according to the film, are just resentful of second-generation Bollywood stars).
The fact that Kho Gaye Hum Kahan has all the aesthetic markings of a content video does not help its cause. Tanay Satam’s cinematography has a sterile, soft-focus beauty to it. There’s a cameo from ‘comedy consultant’ Sapan Verma, and two of the songs are by viral sensations OAFF-Savera. None of these internet-age musicians appear to live the empty, undeserving life Kho Gaye Hum Kahan suggests; if anything, Bollywood appears keen to capitalise on their popularity.
Chaturvedi is cast in a similar role in Gehraiyaan (2022), as a moony investor with a tragic history. Panday also appears to be reenacting her Tia from Shakun Batra’s flick. Only Gourav stands out as a ‘outsider’ in this film. There is a scene near the end where Neil apologises to his father for his impertinence. ‘Roots’ is the name of the middle-class building he grew up in and has just recently learned to appreciate.