A mainstream Bollywood “hero” kissing another man on screen, in an out-and-out commercial film – the fact that this movie even exists, and those kissing scenes made to the final cut, is a huge deal in itself. For one, it’s a huge leap for Indian cinema. Secondly, this is the first mainstream commercial Indian film to show a full-length same-sex love story (Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga cannot really be called an LGBT “love-story”; Regina Cassandra was in it for all of what…five minutes?). Third, the sexuality aspect of the story itself is not sanitized although the package in which its delivered is shaped by the trappings of being a commercial film. The effect of this is, however, two-fold.
If you’re looking for a Brokeback Mountain, go look elsewhere. If you’re expecting layered characters and character arcs like Moonlight, this is not the film for you. SMZS also does not have a thing for nuances and subtlety – for this, I’d recommend the superbly-acted (props to Saqib Saleem & Randeep Hooda) Karan Johar’s short from the anthology Bombay Talkies, or my favourite Kapoor and Sons. SMZS wants to tell the story of acceptance, but also wants to make it palatable to the “masses”. Perhaps this is the right move – but next time, I only wish the writers/directors choose not to have 2-3 problematic dialogues in a film that’s reaching out to so many people. But since the positives far outweigh the negatives, AND this film is instrumental in bringing the sexuality discussion to our dining table conversations, I think I’ll take it with a smile.
Ayushmann Khurrana plays Kartik with a sexy nose-ring and zero inhibitions. His charm and effortlessness work their magic, but cannot overpower a one-note character whose brief would have been: out and proud, and flamboyant. Jitendra Kumar (Jeetu), on the other hand, is given more to work with. Jeetu plays Aman with utmost conviction. He’s just instantly relatable. Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao nail their parts, as usual.
Also – films like this tend to be preachy, and this one is, too, to some extent, but so are films on heterosexual couples facing other challenges in their love lives, like “parents nahi maanenge” and all of that. So craft-wise, it suffers just like most other films, from the same problems, but plot-wise, this is path-breaking and A LOOOONG TIME COMING.
I’ll end this review with an idea for Shubh Mangal Bahut Zyaada Saavdhaan: Widow re-marriages to be normalized. Thanks in advance!
Sorry if the review wasn’t coherent or fell short of your expectations. I’m writing after 1 year 2 months, so I’m sure you’d understand (I’ll get there) 😛
PS: All the images used in this review are screengrabs from the film’s official trailer on YouTube.