The year was 1998, I about 14, that age when often people get infatuated with girls. Shah Rukh Khan had just proclaimed on the silver screen – ‘Pyaar Dosti Hai’. Like many others in the country, I was also busy trying my luck wooing girls, using the same line when the newspapers and TV news showed a group of people trying to vandalise a cinema hall, over a film called ‘Fire’. The film was about a lesbian relationship and the people vandalising the theatre were against it as it was something alien to our culture. Of course, for me, the idea of a woman having a sexual relationship with another woman was titillating. So I did what many of my age also did – Laughed about it!
Many years later, I saw another film called ‘Milk’ starring Sean Penn. As Harvey Milk and his lover got naked and made love on screen, a cringe ran all over my body. I kept thinking about it, as it really felt odd to me. See, I am really not against anything but then why it gave me the creeps? I kept having this peculiar feeling within my head until I saw Hansal Mehta’s ‘Aligarh’. It was like somebody had slapped me with all his might! Eventually, it dawned upon me that it was not me rather, it was the deeply rooted patriarchy within me that was getting affected by those scenes. It was my mindset that wasn’t allowing me to accept homosexuality. So I started reading about this, eventually stumbling upon the draconian section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The more I read about it, the more clarity came in. I realised that it wasn’t going against the law or the so-called immoral activity that bothered most people. It was going against the so-called societal norms that made people really angry.
Director Hitesh Kewalya’s ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ is about this societal norm that forces or stops people from accepting who they really are. It speaks about the mindset that either ridicules or despises homosexuality. Within a run time of 120 minutes, using humour as a medium, he effectively explains that when it comes to love, anyone can fall for anyone, irrespective of the gender. After all, love is love!
The movie doesn’t waste time to set the agenda. Kartik and Aman stay together in Delhi and are in a relationship. In a family wedding ceremony, Aman’s father Shankar Tripathy catches them kissing each other in a train. Horrified as well as shamed, Shankar Tripathy, an agricultural scientist himself sets out to cure his son of this ‘disease’. Rest of the film is about how Kartik and Aman attempt to change their family’s opinion about their relationship.
The film works largely due to humour and its unique treatment of the story. Mind you, the story is not unique. If you take out the boy loves boy part and put a girl in place of the boy, it becomes a straight throwback to Shah Rukh Khan’s DDLJ. The fact that Hindi films have finally realised that there’s a whole universe outside the usual Boy meets girl story in a metro, has done themselves a world of good. Stories from the rural, small-town India have the ability to connect to the masses. The director Hitesh Kewalya who’s also the story and dialogue writer tickles the funny bone with his epic dialogues. Some of the scenes are so hilarious that I couldn’t hear the rest of the dialogues as the whole of movie theatre kept bursting with laughter. Music by Tanishq Bagchi is nicely done, especially the remixes of the chartbusters ‘Gabru’, ‘Arey Pyaar Kar Le’ and surprise of them all, ‘Kya Karte They Saajna’ from the yesteryear’s hit ‘Lal Dupatta Malmal Ka’.
The stars of the film are undoubtedly the ensemble cast that is led by a superb Gajraj Rao and a spunky Neena Gupta. As the heads of the Tripathy family, they both bring in their A-game. Being great actors themselves, a script like this gives them enough space to improvise. The inter-personal dynamics between the two actors are so great that each of them remains secure in their respective characters while allowing others to flourish. Manu Rishi Chaddha, Maanvi Ghagroo, Sunita Rajwar these are actors par excellence. So whenever the script offers them a little bit of space, they create magic. As part of the dysfunctional Tripathy family, they are a hoot. Pankhuri Awasthy as Kusum and Neeraj Singh as Keshav are fantastic in their respective characters. Jitendra Kumar aka TVF’s favourite Jitu Bhaiya makes a crackling debut as Aman Tripathy. Here’s an actor who seldom puts a wrong note. And finally, the man who can do nothing wrong, King Midas himself – Ayushmaan Khurrana. As a nose ring yielding, a little effeminate young man, he’s a revelation. To be honest, the presence of such a talented ensemble cast does throw him a challenge to do better. The champion of the social causes, he does what he does best – perform his heart out!
‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ will be an important film when we talk about the issues faced by LGBT folks. Unlike other films, which highlight the plight of the homosexual people, it talks about the prevalent homophobia that refuses to leave our headspace, even if the honourable Supreme Court Of India has decriminalised consensual sexual relationship between adults of the same gender. The film offers hope that even if it’s futile to expect people to change their mindsets overnight, eventually it will happen.
Jeetega Pyar, Seh Parivaar!
The Cinemawala Rating: 4/5