Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan movie review: Hitesh Kewalya's excellent cast makes it all go down easily.
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan movie cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta, Gajaraj Rao, Manu Rishi, Sunita Rajwar, Maanvi Gagroo
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan movie director: Hitesh Kewalya
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan movie rating: 3.5 stars
How far will you go for love? Since time immemorial, stories have flirted with that question. With two men as its lovers, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan now asks the same. It couches its blows in humour, it takes the shield of a large, boisterous, slightly irritating and often unnecessary family. But, its achievement lies not just in going where Bollywood has not gone before. It is in consistently portraying Kartik (Khurrana) and Aman (a superb Kumar, in his debut film role) as just a couple, not 'homo' or 'hetero'.
The two are already in a relationship when we meet, a disappointingly uncomplicated one in the anonymity of big-city Delhi. Closer home, Kartik's father has snapped ties with him after a sound thrashing. Aman's Allahabad family stumbles upon the nature of their relationship soon after when his father catches him kissing Kartik, and can't stop throwing up.
How do the Tripathis, one of the highlights of whose life is boarding the Vivah Special Express train en famille to a wedding, cope with this discovery?
Director Kewalya, who wrote Shubh Mangal Saavdhan featuring Khurrana memorably in the role of a groom battling erectile dysfunction, throws a lot at Kartik and Aman. The Tripathis use science, blackmail, suicide, shame, even rituals where Aman is "killed off" and "reborn" and, some violence, to separate the two. What Kewalya is trying at all times though is to keep it light and frothy, with the usual bickerings, disagreements, discontents that brew in a large family, spilling out at regular intervals. It all gets a bit much at times, with Aman and Kartik's own story that required more fleshing out lost in the process. For one, they are very contrasting personalities (Kartik a bundle of extra energy, Aman slight and subdued), and it would have been nice to see them away from Aman's overbearing family, which fits the same small-UP town template that is lately a Bollywood favourite.
Kewalya's excellent cast though makes it all go down easily. Neena Gupta has another winner as Aman's mother, while Gajaraj Rao plays his father who, in what could have been a nice touch, is a small-time scientist behind a black, "germ-free" cauliflower variety. The film ends up stretching this theme of nature-vs-science a bit too far, but Gupta and Rao who gelled so well in Badhai Ho remain a hoot. The years of companionship are visible in their frequent arguments, as is how she is his rock.
It's through the two of them that the film also explores what is its strongest theme: that of unrequited love. Like others before them, and others sure to come after, they carry regrets about a special someone, and "what could have been". Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan doesn't evoke these memories with bitterness or anger but as one of those moments that make up a life.
It raises other pertinent questions, about husbands and wives, fathers and sons, mothers and children. At one point, Aman asks, "Why is that only sons are required to be heroes? Why can't a father be for once?"
It's particularly glaring then how blind Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is to its women who are not mothers or wives. The three other women characters here are all pining for love or marriage in different degrees, with a physical disability played for cruel laughs (it's to Gagroo's credit that her 'Goggle' manages to rise above this simple outline of her character).
At the same time, the chase of love is what Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is all about. Love that could spring between two men who look as everyday as Kartik and Aman (Khurrana is good, but Kumar is almost heartbreakingly fragile; full marks to the former for allowing the film to be so much about the latter). Love that ultimately binds families together, and shows up in unexpected ways. Love that goes beyond Romeo & Juliet, Shirin & Farhad, Jack & Jill, even Simran & Raj. Love that sees no colour/class, or the gender of the hand reaching out to help you into a running train.
And love for which you will go the distance, because "Zindagi baar-baar Amitabh Bachchan bana-ne ka mauka nahin deti".