Produced by: Aanand L. Rai, Krishika Lulla
Directed by: R.S. Prasanna
Written by: R.S. Prasanna & Hitesh Kewalya
Music & lyrics: Tanishk-Vayu
Starring: Ayushmaan Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Seema Pahwa, Brijendra Kala, Gopal Datt, Supriya Shukla, Anshul Chauhan, Shubhankar Tripathi, Manuj Sharma, Anmol Bajaj, Sp. App.: Jimmy Sheirgill
Is it a sex comedy? A family drama? A rom-com? A satire?
To various extents, “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” is all of these, cocking a snook as a mild satire at the middle-class that shirks from real uncomfortable issues or, on a rebound, goes ballistics about them. As a family drama, it is fairly endearing; as a rom-com, quite amusing throughout in its situations; and as a sex comedy, it is incredibly and thankfully antiseptic and devoid of crassness.
Small-town romances and comedies have become the ‘in’ thing now in Hindi cinema, and here, South director and story writer R.S. Prasanna remakes his Tamil comedy by setting it in a North Indian milieu and modifying the plot to a good extent. Prasanna (although with guidance from co-writer Hitesh Kewalya, who gets the idiom word-perfect, and Aanand L. Rai,), goes completely correct in understanding and integrating the U.P. culture. In that sense, the writing and direction deserve bouquets.
But where do they deserve brickbats as well? Let us first elaborate on the plot. Mudit (what a natural, un-hero like name!) is smitten by Sugandha (Bhumi Pednekar) and vice-versa, but neither wants to make the first move. Finally, Mudit goes the online way, she responds, and they get engaged for a love-arranged-love marriage!
In that romantic phase between engagement and wedding comes a foray into intense love making that backfires, as Mudit, who had no such issues earlier with girlfriend Neha, gets anxious and cannot perform. This simple anxiety-generated issue becomes the crux of the matter, snowballing into a major contretemps at the destination (!!) wedding in Hardwar.
Where the film scores high is in depicting the classic middle-class touches: the decision to have the wedding in Hardwar also means cutting out budgets by curtailing relatively less important guests, the small tidbit that seemingly conservative and middle-class small-town people also watch porn and have premarital sex, whether engaged to be married or not.
When Mudit’s father-in-law, like so many such parents, surreptitiously reads his daughter’s WhatsApp messages and comes to know the problem, in his anxiety, he makes anonymous calls to his future son-in-law as a well-wisher who can help him! It is Digital India, see?
But what brings the film down several notches are the plethora of flaws: Why Mudit remains with his problem even after the wedding despite knowing his history and being told that it is due to stress, makes little sense. If Mudit is leaving for Hardwar hours after Sugandha’s family does, why is his family so hyper (and already on the bus!) about being late when the couple has met for a crucial discussion and Sugandha, and her clan (who were to go early) are relaxed?
Is Sugandha’s father so ignorant (or desperate) that he takes Mudit to a completely wrong doctor for his problem? Above all, knowing everything about what has happened, why does he express indignation when Mudit tells the doctor what happened between Sugandha and him the night he discovered his problem?
Above all, what was all that about Sugandha and Mudit disappearing into a room at the wedding venue? The free-flowing discussion and wagers on what is happening inside do rank more than a shade tasteless. There are a few more minor hiccups, but we will not go into them here.
Somewhere, therefore, despite the hilarious sequences between Sugandha and her mother about Alibaba and the 40 thieves and the cave of treasure, and the depiction of Sugandha’s uncle (Brijendra Kala)’s idiosyncrasies, the second half of this film goes awry in a major way. At 105 minutes total run-time, this is an avoidable error, as a bigger chunk of the movie seems needlessly convoluted and stretched vis-à-vis 20 minutes in a 140 or 150-minute film.
And so the climax (pun intended) of a subject like this falls flat when that should have been the ultimate in hilarity. Of course, we liked the subtle message that still comes across – that a substantial chunk of impotence is anxiety-related and that it is important to get help, but having said that, emotional bonds and not sexual compatibility make relationships last.
The music and lyrics (Tanishk-Vayu) are extraordinary, but the songs are not filmed well at all. The scourge of background rather than lip-synched songs is not only killing the music scene and nullifying the charm of movies but also severely affecting the business of cinema. In terms of lyrics and music, for example, “Kanha” is a classic. But within the film, it could well be a part of the ongoing background music for all the effect it has! The same goes for “Rocket Saiyyan” and “Laddoo,” while Khurrana’s version of “Kanha” goes missing.
The performances by the leads are good but not extraordinary. Ayushmann Khurrana had come off second best among the two heroes of “Bareilly Ki Barfi” but was still better in that film than here. Ditto Bhumi Pednekar vis-à-vis “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha,” though she gets the Northern nuances of this film spot on. From the supporting cast, Seema Pahwa is superb as her mother. Gopal Datt as the ‘doctor’ stands out in his brief show. The other parents and friends do a decent job.
A word about the trend of small-town films that has flowered off late: stop before there is an excess, a qualitative descent and it becomes one more formulaic genre that goes down the drain. In other words, stop the overdose before they flop. Vis-à-vis the promise in the trailer (where 90 percent of the best scenes were shown), we see the beginning of the slide here. The worst thing about this film is that you cannot call it a bad or below-par film. But in terms of expectations from the vibe and promo, we are not fully gratified.
Rating: *** (almost)