TL;DR – A fascinating if a little blunt film about love in India
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
In my endeavour to watch more non-English language films, I had been spending a lot of time with those coming out of Europe, but this week I want to shift things by focusing on India. With that in mind, today we look at the first of two Indian films out this week that really intrigued me and this is a film is all about finding love even in the face of your family.
So to set the scene, we open in on two guys making a last-minute rush to get to a train that is about to depart as we hear about just how much weddings cost in India. We then go back a bit in time to meet Kartik (Ayushmann Khurrana) and his partner Aman (Jitendra Kumar) who hide who they are from their families by living away in Delhi. One day as they are helping a good friend elope they get caught by her family and need to get out of town for a bit. Well, that’s good timing because Aman’s cousin Goggle (Maanvi Gagroo) is about to be married back in Ahmedabad. The only problem is that Aman’s family does not know he is gay and it goes about as well as you imagine it does.
If there is one word I would use to sum up this film it would be ‘chaotic’ and I don’t mean that as a negative. It is at times like a narrative equivalent of a freight train hurtling down the road and at other times like the Tasmanian Devil is whirling through the narrative. This helps the film become electric and downright hilarious. I think many of us can think back to a large family gathering like weddings and see glimpses of that chaos reflected in reality.
While this chaotic family gathering is very funny at times, and the audience I watched the film with were there for all the jokes. One thing it did lead to is some real tonal whiplash as it bounced around the place and as the film tried to fit traditional archetype roles in this very non-traditional film. This led to some really inconsistent tone throughout the film, especially in the final act where it did feel like they had not quite nailed down how they were going to get from the big conflict to the ending.
This is also a film that is not afraid to put on blast what its message is, so if you are looking for nuisance, this is not a film for you. That was not a big issue for me, because this is a ground-breaking film in many respects so you understand the need to be blunt and straightforward in the narrative. But there were times when even the “Have you tried not being a Mutant” line from X-2 would be go “maybe dial it back there a bit”. This is a film that was yes trying to tell a message, but also trying to be entertaining and sometimes you need to pick one and focus on it.
At its heart, it is also a film about families, well at least dysfunctional families, and the Tripathi family is very much that. Shankar (Gajraj Rao) is the domineering patriarch who is causing riots in the streets but is super chill about it as black cauliflowers rain down on his house. His position as head of the house is constantly called into question by snide remarks from everyone else and as we find out he is not the nicest person in the world. There is this point in the film, where it revealed that the reason that Charman (Manu Rishi) has had such a hard time finding Goggle a husband is because of her damaged eye. Well later in the film, it mentioned in an off-hand comment that the reason she has her bad eye is that Shankar accidentally shot it with an air rifle, and then the film blows past it as if it was not this massive revelation. There is a lot of humour directed at the family because at its heart this is a film that wants to entertain first and to educate second and sometimes those two goals don’t work together.
All of this brings us to the two main leads Kartik and Aman. I think they do a good job of shining a light on their relationship and the love they have for each other. It was also nice that they have very different personalities but that is not a hindrance but a benefit. As they are both the core and the heart of the film, it is important that it is believable, and on the whole, I would say it was. As this is a film about and featuring marriage it meant that we got to see some exquisite costumes and some song montages which are always full of fun.
In the end, do we recommend Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan? Well yes, we would. Does the whole film work, no and your mileage on how nicely things land in the end will differ. My only real major gripe was maybe dial back a bit on the slow-mo pigeons. If you liked this film we would also recommend Call Me By Your Name (Chiamami Col Tuo Nome).
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan
Directed by – Hitesh Kewalya
Written by – Hitesh Kewalya
Music/Lyrics by – Tanishk Bagchi, Vayu, Tony Kakkar & Karan Kulkarni
Cinematography by – Chirantan Das
Edited by – Ninad Khanolkar
Production/Distribution Companies – T-Series, Colour Yellow Productions & AA Films
Starring – Ayushmann Khurrana, Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Manu Rishi, Sunita Rajwar, Maanvi Gagroo, Pankhuri Awasthy, Neeraj Singh, Bhumi Pednekar, Hardik Gabbi, Mahesh Seth, Brij Kumar Pandey & Sayed Javed
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: not rated; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: na