MUMBAI — Homosexuality in Hindi cinema has been dealt with sparingly and in different, generally serious ways. The only film that did modestly well was the one in which a lighter treatment was given way back in 2008—“Dostana.”
On the other hand, “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” released in 2017, did modestly well with its earthy flavor, discussing impotence. This time, homosexuality is the topic as Kartik (Ayushmann Khuurrana) and Aman (Jitendra Kumar, a superb actor) have always loved each other. But Aman’s family wants him to get hitched to comely (and giggly!) damsel Kusum (Pankhury Awasthi).
And while Aman’s parents Shankar and Sunaina Tripathi (Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta in another bravura team-up after the far superior “Badhaai Ho,” though Rao is better here) are obviously conservative and conventional, everyone has their “morally dubious” pasts—complete with reading and watching porn, affairs and what-have-you.
And all this comes to the fore after Shankar suddenly sees his son kissing Kartik. Meanwhile Shankar’s younger brother Chaman (Manurishi Chadha) is a lawyer but a failure professionally and also has been unable to marry off his fiery daughter, nicknamed Goggle (Maanvi Gagroo). This is because one eye was totally damaged in an accident for which Shankar had been unwittingly responsible.
Finally, Goggle’s marriage is arranged to a much older man, but is called off when Aman and Kartik kiss during the ceremonies. Goggle runs away to end her life and encounters Kartik at the railway station. They decide to motivate each other and she tells him that she always knew of Aman’s sexual preferences. The two return to Aman’s home.
But Shankar, despite his education (he is a scientist who has discovered black cabbage!) and awareness is pig-headedly stubborn about his son. Then we also find that Kusum her own secret and agenda.
Finally, matters come to a head on the day previous to the Supreme Court’s decision on Article 377 on the legality of homosexuality.
The praiseworthy part is that at face level, the film is fun and yet makes pertinent comments when needed. The length is a crisp 119 minutes and the flavor of small-town India is beautifully brought out. The minus point is that a lot of things shown in the film are absurd. Kartik’s behavior is almost whimsical and even we cannot fathom some odd things that Aman does. The family politics also takes up too much attention, though it is worked in realistically.
The sequence featuring Bhumi Pednekar in a cameo is needless and cannot be really justified. But the sequence wherein hormones are discussed is funny. On the other hand, the intimate pre-climax discussion between Shankar and Sunaina is well-executed but has a tame and very ‘filmi’ end.
Still, I enjoyed this film much more than the prequel, and to the credit of writer-director Hitesh Kewalya, he walks the thin line between conservative and informed audiences with elan, and we do not think that this is a multiplex movie. Just like its predecessor (which he had only written) and other “bold” commercial films of recent times, it is quite palatable even to those who suffer from homophobia and think that being gay is a disease. In fact, it might be of service here, socially, especially in small towns.
Within the film, the music is smooth, though obviously there is no effort or intention to spin out anything memorable. The technical side is okay but I found the camerawork needlessly dark. The performances are all impressive. Jitendra Kumar is a great find, even if not conventional hero material, He mostly succeeds in bettering Ayushmann Khurrana, who seems after a long while, to be Ayushmann rather than his character, Pankhury Awasthi and Maanvi Gagroo are excellent, but the show is still stolen by, apart from Kumar, the seniors.
Gajraj is plain magnificent, his mercurial expressions to die for. Neena Gupta is in full command, and Manurishi and Sunita Rajwar as his wife are also outstanding.
The film is worth a watch as a fun story with a vital message told in light manner. Perhaps this ‘filmi’ way of giving out such an important message will work better than in all cases of the past. The effort deserves an “A” but we wish we could give it, as a film, a higher rating.
Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Aanand L. Rai & Himanshu Sharma
Written & Directed by: Hitesh Kewalia
Music: Bappi Lahiri and Yo Yo Honey Singh with Tanishk Bagchi, Vayu & Tony Kakkar
Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Jitendra Kumar, Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta, Manurishi Chadha, Maanvi Gagroo, Pankhury Awasthy, Sunita Rajwar, Neeraj Singh. Special Appearance: Bhumi Pednekar