To best enjoy Sanam Teri Kasam, watch it while pretending to be a studious Indian teenage girl who has lots of ideas about love but little experience. Sanam Teri Kasam is essentially Twilight without the vampires, and I mean that as a compliment.
Our doomed young lovers first spy each other in the hallway of their apartment building. Tattooed, shirtless Inder (Harshvardhan Rane) makes out with a woman in a skimpy dress. Bespectacled Saru (Mawra Hocane) timidly follows behind her outraged father, who berates the beefcake for his PDA.
Stuff gets crazy real quick. Saru’s younger sister throws a fit because Dad won’t let her get married until Saru does, but no one will marry Saru because she looks like a “frumpy aunty.” Saru goes to Inder for help, but there’s a mix up and he gets injured, and her dad catches her sitting on Inder’s bed in a compromising position.
In this position, Saru should have gone with a better opening line than, “Dad, you were supposed to return tomorrow.” Something like, “I’m helping him change his bandage. Chill.” The primary cause of problems in Sanam Teri Kasam is characters’ reluctance to offer perfectly reasonable explanations for misunderstandings, and this case is no different. Dad declares Saru dead and holds a funeral for her.
Saru’s expulsion from the family ignites Inder the ex-con’s tender side. He goes out of his way to look after Saru, falling in love even as he helps her search for a suitable groom that will get her back in her father’s good graces.
It also triggers the greatest makeover montage of all time. Inder introduces Saru to Mustakeen Bhai, The Makeover King, played by…Vijay Raaz in a lace shirt?! Vijay and his assistants sing and dance to the song “Ek Number,” transforming Saru from nerd to bombshell. The scene is bizarre and magical and worth the price of admission.
All of the song numbers in Sanam Teri Kasam are odd in a good way. When Saru accidentally gets high and dances around the farmer’s market, everyone ignores her and continues shopping — a more realistic approach than the typical Bollywood treatment where bystanders join in, somehow knowing all the lyrics and choreography in advance.
When Inder confesses his love in the title song, stage lights suddenly illuminate the lovers’ faces, an effect that is both hilarious and moving. Teenage me would have loved it.
Despite being insanely dramatic and occasionally hysterical, everything in Sanam Teri Kasam is done with complete sincerity, and that’s why it works. When teenage girls react to even minor problems with the phrase, “My parents are going to kill me,” it’s because they believe it, rational or not. Sanam Teri Kasam is made for those girls, and for those of us who remember what it was like to be one of those girls.