Shubh Mangal Saavadhan – A Review

Image result for shubh mangal saavdhan posterS. Prasanna directs Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. For a first time director R. S. Prasanna sure is ambitious to take on a subject like Erectile Dysfunction. Read on to find out if Prasanna manages to deliver a “hard” hitting and entertaining caper or turns in a “limp” biscuit of a movie.

 

Mudit played by Ayushmann Khurrana has been besotted by Sugandha played by Bhumi Pednekar. Unable to muster courage to ask her out he sends her an online marriage proposal. Sugandha who has been dreaming of the romanticised notion of a Bollywood love story reluctantly agrees to allow Mudit to court her. The first time they get frisky while Sugandha’s parents are out of town, Mudit ends up having performance anxiety and shares his “problem” with Sugandha and forever ruins biscuits for everyone everywhere.

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Bhumi Pedneker who I have been mightily impressed in her previous two outings is surprisingly one note here. I blame it on the writing and direction more than her abilities. Because in the one scene where she tries to entice Mudit by reciting cheesy lines from a porno is testament to her talent. She is hilarious and vulnerable at the same time. Ayushmann who first burst onto the screen in Vicky Donor a movie based on similarly taboo subject (although diametrically opposite in terms of the subject itself) delivers a very confused performance. It isn’t clear if he is a shy romantic type or the Casanova who didn’t have this “problem” with his ex.

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The supporting cast is what really brings the whole enterprise to a crashing halt. Both fathers are contemptible, Sughanda’s uncle a leftover from the 80’s doordarshan era acting, the mothers simpering messes. Seema Pahwa still manages to shine despite the laborious proceedings. The friends of Mudit unwatchable in the extreme. The movie seems to want to be many things at the same time.

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One moment it is a budding romance movie, the next it is trying to take on a taboo subject, the very next it turns into a priyadarshan farce and the next it is a dysfunctional family dynamics dramedy The first half plods along with some carefully placed puns which elicit genuine laughs but the second half was just pure cringe fest. There seems to be no sense of continuity or any attempt at coherence. Take for instance the scene where Mudit – the groom ends up cooking the food for the wedding party, another scene is where Mudit’s father tells him if he pursues sughandha he cannot come back home or expect any money from him – Mudit all proud and indignant throws his wallet at his father and the final scene is of Mudit and Sugandha performing puja at his father’s house which they live in. the scene when Mudit and Sugandha are getting “busy” while the entire wedding contingent is waiting outside the bedroom and taking bets made me want to walk out of the theatre. The dialogues especially with a subject as sensitive as ED can quickly devolve into school yard heckling in the hands of incompetent writers and they range from juvenile to abhorrent.

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Also seriously lacking is the female perspective towards sexuality. Sugandha never once seems to take into consideration her “needs”. sobbing she declares “Sex hi sab kuch nahi hota hai na” in a crowded market of all places and Mudit sends her packing in an Autorickshaw. At under 2 hours this movie isnt long by any stretch of imagination so there was sufficient reel time available to flesh out Sugandha’s character to something a little more than just a doormat.

Unresolved direction and underwhelming performances cannot save the movie from the grave its story and screenplay writers have dug for it. Stay far away from this and rewatch Vicky Donor instead.

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Bareily Ki Barfi – A Review

Image result for bareilly ki barfi posterAshwiny Iyer Tiwari directs Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkummar Rao in Bareily Ki Barfi. Set in the small town of Bareily in northern India this is the story of Bitti played by Kriti who isn’t like other domesticated Indian girls. As the narrator says “She’s her mother’s daughter and her father’s son”.

 

Seema Pahwa plays Bitti’s mother Shushila Mishra and is woe-begotten with worry about getting Bitti married. Pankaj Tripathi plays Narottam Mishra Bitti’s father who is torn between his desire to let his daughter live her life by her standards and the society’s expectations of what constitutes a good girl. If that sounds dreary and drab – don’t let that fool you – this movie is a hoot and a half! When Bitti tries to run away from home she picks up a novel about a free-spirited girl from Bareily and she is convinced this is her story. She wants to meet the writer. Enter Chirag Dubey played by Ayushmann Khurana who owns the printing press where the book was published. Bitti convinces Chirag to get her to meet with Pritam Vidrohi played by Rajkummar Rao who wrote the book, and thus hilarity ensues. This much is clear from the trailer – and saying anymore would be a great disservice to the movie.

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Written by the writing team behind Dangal, Nitish Tiwari and Shreyas Jain this movie exceeds the 1500-crore earner by a clear mile when it comes to pure writing. Given the realtively smaller stars the movie is un-encumbered with trying to satiate star-egos and as a result the audience is the real winner. I honestly cannot remember the last time I heard the audience guffaw so loudly and at times that warranted laughter. Of the actors Kriti Sanon is a revelation – I have not seen any of her previous work and really wasn’t too keen on her either – but I am a convert now. Ayushmann is solid as ever. But the real hero of the film is Rajkummar Rao – his transitions between the two Pritam Vidrohis is so seamless it’s a real treat to watch. The supporting cast is brilliant as well. Seema Pahwa, Pankaj Tripathi, Swati Semwal as Bitti’s friend Rama and Rohit Chaudhary as Chirag’s Man-Friday Munna are all brilliantly nuanced in the small but crucial roles.

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The music doesn’t let you down, Sweety tera drama and Twist Kamariya will have you tapping your feet to its beat and Nazm Nazm will stay with you long after the screen credits as well. The screenplay is precise and very cleverly written, the editing very sharp and together they don’t let the pace slacken even slightly.

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Very cleverly written, ably acted and genuinely funny this one has definitely repeat watchability in the vein of Band Baaja Baraat. There really is absolutely nothing I can fault this movie for. Go watch it for Kriti who is not only easy on the eyes but has acting chops to back as well. Watch it for Ayushmann who really should be doing more movies than he is already. But more than anything else watch it for Rajkummar Rao – this guy is a national treasure!

 

Nautanki Saala! – A Review

Nautanki Saala directed by Rohan Sippy holds a lot of promises with the current next-big-thing Ayushmann Khurana taking on the titular role of the theater actor/director. The movie has all the elements that made Ayushmann’s last movie such a massive success, him in a leading role (that of a Delhi dude), a relative unknown but very pretty co-star (times 3 this time around well) , him lending his vocals to some very good songs.  What could go wrong? Nothing but just a tiny almost insignificant component that set Vicky Donor apart – this movie suffers because there isn’t Juhi Chaturvedi doing the script/screenplay or someone just as competent.

The story starts off with Ayushmann coming across Kunal Roy Kapoor (Mandar Lele) while the latter is trying to commit suicide, being the Good Samaritan that he is Ram Parmar a.k.a RP (Ayushmann) brings Mandar home. This reminded me distinctly of that Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. Starrer Due Date. And that comparison does not bode well for any movie.

The cast includes Shulbha Arya as the Grandmother to Mandar and she does her best to ham out the 1 minute that she is on the screen, it includes new comer Pooja Salvi as Mandar’s object of affection and one of the angles of the pentagon ( Chitra-Ram-Nandini-Mandar-Loli) and is the definition of the bimbo. She supposedly is this modern woman who owns her own business and lives in a posh society by herself but goes from loving the looser Mandar to getting ready to get married to the cheat Loli to falling for the ruffian charms of a stray customer who walks in to make a purchase. Gaelyne Mendonca is passable and does not irritate too much. Evelyn Sharma as the Seetha in the Stage show RPis acting and directing is the prettiest of the lots and a part which has barely couple of spoken words does that job effectively. The only character of any merit was Sanjeev Bhatt as Chandra the producer – sure he is ham but then atleast he doesn’t pretend to be anything else and the way he commits to his character enables some genuine funny moments.

Kunal Roy Kapoor is the biggest reason why I found the movie to be almost unbearable. I disliked him in delhi belly and here he does nothing to change my mind. His lethargic loser portrayal of Mandar also suffers because the only glimpse into his psyche or the reason why he is who is a is via Shulbha Arya mouthing “jo kuch nahi kar sakta vo actor hi ban sakta hai”. That one line is supposed to make up for all the strange behavior being displayed by him. He is quickly becoming the Zach Galifianakis for me .

The music is good with Ayushmann delivering another hit. But overall the music is a distraction and hinders the story progression it does make for a good listen on a long drive.

What bothered me the most was the obvious disconnect between the different characters, their motivations for whatever actions they took and the reliance of the script on coincidences.  There was a Ramayan play to be used as subtext and if it was then it was lost on me.  What I did like was the way the movie was shot, the high production values and the elaborate set decoration.

My advice? Skip it – pop in Vicky Donor one more time as it is way more entertaining than this insipid fare. Ayushmann I had higher expectations.