Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan – A Review

Image result for shubh mangal zyada saavdhanAyushmann Khurrana stars in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, probably India’s first Rom-Com with Same-sex Lead Couple.  Hitesh Kewalya a former dialogue writer makes his feature film debit as a director with this movie. Does Ayuhsmann continue pushing the envelope with his risk-taking choices as a leading man, does the movie successfully move beyond the often caricatured LGBTQ+ character portrayals that seemingly stem out of self-loathing in Bollywood? Or does this end up being the same flaccid dissatisfaction that was Shubh Mangal Savdhan?

In a baffling opening sequence Kartik played by Ayushmann and Aman played by Jitendra Kumar are on a bike dressed as bargain basement super heroes off to helping Bhumi Pednekar elope. As it turns out Aman and Kartik are in love and Kartik convinces Aman to go to his cousin’s wedding to get away from the mess of having helped Bhumi elope. Once on the wedding express – literally a train ferrying the wedding party all hell breaks loose once Aman’s father catches Kartik and Aman kissing.

Image result for shubh mangal zyada saavdhan

 

First things first – Jitendra Kumar is an absolute revelation. He isn’t the conventional Bollywood leading man as far as his looks are concerned but when it comes to screen presence and acting chops, he more than holds his own against Ayushmann, often showing him up. While Ayushmann’s overtly flamboyant portrayal seems jarring and forced in places Jitendra’s struggle to reconcile his identity with the pressures of his family is writ large on his face but he doesn’t need exaggerated body movements to communicate. Ayushmann is charm personified when he is with Jitendra but when it comes to interacting with an ensemble cast of Aman’s Father played by Gajraj Rao, Aman’s mother played by the incomparable Neena Gupta and others he goes overboard. The cast of characters are almost given too much of a back story which they try to ram into the story to try and add layers to the dysfunctional setup. Gajraj Rao is a scientist who has invented a maggot infested Black Cauliflower that threatens the peace in Allahabad, he is also apparently pining for his lost love Rani Asthana, Neena Gupta is still hung up on her former lover Rakesh, Gajraj’s brother is a failed law student who perpetually lives in the shadow of his older brother, his daughter is called Goggles because she lost one eye and now no one will marry her so she is marrying a man who has a son her age, Ayushmann’s father beat him up when he came out of the closet, there is a Kusum character who is meant to be comic relief but is just annoying after the first time.

The dialogue are overwrought and schizophrenically switch between the Love is Love enlightened liberal talking points to absurdities about comparisons about peeing and the chemical deconstruction of what the body goes through when you love someone. Character development is seriously lacking and because of which you do not engage with the plight of any of them. Take Goggles for instance. She is this loud mouth bratty child who seems intent on getting married but her angry portrayal makes very little sense. There are many a lost opportunities to give the characters some depth even within the confines of the story for instance, instead of Goggles being angry at everyone for not getting married she could just as easily be mad at everyone for always wanting her to get married to an unsuitable match due to what her parents see as a defect in her. Instead of both Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao actively pining for lost love and living half a life, one of them could be allowed to have gotten over their lost love and see the light in letting their only son chose a life of love in its fullest. But alas it is not to be. Instead we must endure a Priyadarshini like slapstick comedy that is not worthy of Ayushmann’s choices in movies, Jitendra’s talents and Neena Gupta’s effervescence. Also what is the point of the movie title? What does Zyada mean in this context? Also are we not done with directors who think DDLJ is the gold standard in RomComs! enough of the running to catch the train sequences!

Image result for shubh mangal zyada saavdhan train kissing scene

 

This movie does however get some things right. The kiss between its two leading men 20 minutes into the movie that is not made to feel salacious or scandalous, Aman’s struggle and his compliance to his parents in spite of everything. Being sat in a theatre with little kids around me laughing at the right moments and not cringing or groaning tells me that maybe there will come a time when this movie for all its shortcomings will be looked at having made this the new normal. Hopefully Neena Gupta is still around  then to light up the screen with her mere presence still. Ayushmann Thank You for your courage you were however under-served by the script and the direction!

 

Veere Di Wedding – A Review

Image result for veere di weddingShashanka Ghosh directs Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania in “not a chic-flick” Veere di Wedding. After the career ending critique from “The Aunty”, I was going in with abysmal expectation and maybe that or maybe the fact that I saw it with Kareena’s biggest fan in the world – I found the movie to be mildly entertaining and brimming with potential.

Kalindi played by Kareena is friends with Avni played by Sonam Kapoor, Sakshi played by Swara Bhaskar and Meera played by Shikha Talsania. Kalindi lives in Australia with her boyfriend Rishab played by Sumeet Vyaas who proposes to her and Kalindi accepts reluctantly. She returns to India and the 4 BFFs get together for their Veere’s wedding. Avni is a ball-busting family lawyer permanently harassed by her well-meaning mother played by the fantastic Neena Gupta to get married. Sakshi is a rich party girl who got married to a NRI in a rush and is now back to staying with her parents who do not really know what transpired for the marriage to break down. Meera married an American and lives in America raising her young child and probably the most “normal” of the bunch.  The four friends get back together and each of their respective storyline unravels.

Image result for veere di wedding

Kareena is for most parts hilarious as she goes about the Big Fat Indian (Delhi) wedding charade nervously scratching as she is made to dress up in ridiculous outfits and paraded in front of relatives who are of no consequence. Sonam Kapoor continues her trademark vapid and vacuous portrayal of any character she lays her hands on. Her dialogue delivery couldn’t be more stunted. Swara Bhaskar – as the aunty said – is playing a rich girl for the first time and it is a poor man’s idea of what a rich person does all day. Her dishevelled look with a cigarette permanently stuck in her mouth with sunglasses that serve no purpose as she peers from above is just an abhorrent performance. Nothing about her feels believable. Meera lives in America with her Caucasian husband John after having been disowned by her family for marrying “outside” the religion. She is the most believable and the most likeable. They try to give her a flaw too – excessive drinking but it feels half-baked and an after-thought. Shikha is the best thing about this movie and I cannot wait for her to headline a project all on her own where she is unencumbered by the lesser talented actresses. She has a Ugly Betty/ Jane the Virgin vibe about her that I cannot shake and I want the nouveau brave Bollywood to take a chance with her!

Image result for veere di wedding shikha talsania

The biggest problem is that director Shashanka Ghosh and writers Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri try to make this feature film in the vein of producer Ekta Kapoor’s multiple story arc TV-shows. There is simply too much going on and at 2 hours there is not nearly enough time to resolve even one story arc to successful completion. Take this for instance, Kalindi is reticent to get married because her parents used to fight a lot, her mother passed away and her father remarried to a socialite, she is estranged from her father, who is estranged from his gay-brother who is the only family Kalindi knows of. Then there is the whole insane plot about Kalindi’s Fiancé’s family being fraudsters. Sonam and Kareena went around town lamenting about how difficult it was to get a female-led film financed and it shows – there are awkward product placements after awkward product placements and they are not even trying to be subtle. Bikaji snacks get more screen-time than the amazing Neena Gupta and that is a crime against cinema. Also at the very end of the film some random local furniture company’s product placement literally made me lose it.

Veere Di Wedding Brand Promotions Advertisements Bikaji

With Sonam being the driving force behind this movie getting made it was always going to be fashion centric and for most parts the fashion is exceptional and forward looking except for that one ridiculous outfit that Kareena wears for her wedding. A 25-year old vintage Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla outfit deserved to be better treated than that.

Image result for veere di wedding kareena wedding outfit

The dialogues are mostly fun but when they go for crass they really go for it and the payoff is limited. The songs are mostly forgettable except Tareefan which only really plays when the credits roll.

Image result for veere di wedding tareefan

Lastly I am reminded of the Instagram post that Neena Gupta shared on Instagram where she simply stated “I live in Mumbai and working am a good actor looking fr good parts to play” and I couldn’t be more thrilled to finally seeing her on the big stage. She is a treasure and I do hope she gets more roles and meatier characters to play because even in the limited screen time she is allotted here she really shines through.

Image result for veere di wedding neena gupta

It might be the Kool-aid talking but I did not hate Veere di Wedding. There was incredible potential had the writers and director taken one of the girl’s tracks and resolved that story arc and made this into an anthology the result would have been a lot more successful.