Imagine Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge being all about Raj trying to convince 'Bauji' Amrish Puri that he's the best choice for Simran. No meet cute between Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol on a train to Europe, or romantic songs sung in yellow sarson ke khet. Will the film be half the great Bollywood romance it is considered to be, without its first half?
That's pretty much what Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is like. The film straight away dives into the family acceptance fight, without any Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana moment between Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar's roles.
The reason why I compare this homosexual love story with a heterosexual Bollywood romance, is because there are a number of references to DDLJ in this Hitesh Kewalya directorial. Shubh Mangal constantly harks back to the Yash Raj classic to emphasize that a homosexual love story is as normal as a heterosexual one. But alas, in their struggle to normalize the relationship, the love story has been left out of the script.
Jitendra's father Gajraj Rao is often called Amrish Puri, who beats up Ayushmann with a stick to drive him away from his son. There is a Parmeet Sethi angle in the form of Pankhuri Awasthi, as well as a 'Ja Simran Ja' moment at the train station when Gajraj sees off his son with the man he loves. Not to mention two recreations of the iconic scene of Simran running to catch the train as Raj extends his hand for her. But all that's from the second half of DDLJ.
Apart from two kissing scenes and a bike ride, we hardly see any romantic moments between the lead pair. There's a whole dramatic track about scientifically grown black cauliflowers (I'm yet to understand that metaphor), and another track about a one-eyed Maanvi Gagroo struggling to find a husband. There's talk of property distribution, a sidekick uncle with his own insecurities, bittersweet sister-in-law relationship between Neena Gupta and Sunita Rajwar. The screen is crowded with characters, but where are the lead actors?
The focus on interpersonal relationships in a big fat Indian family does add humor to the script, and give character actors ample screen time. So much so that Gajraj Rao seems to have a bigger role than Ayushmann, and his relationship with wife Neena Gupta becomes more relatable than the one between the lead pair. I understand the temptation to exploit the chemistry between them after Badhaai Ho, but Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan was supposed to focus on Ayushmann and Jitendra's love story, not the latter's parents'.
In that, the film fails to shine the spotlight on the very relationship that it is trying to normalize. The scene where Ayushmann and Jitendra decide to get married at the mandap in an act of revolt does not have a profound impact because you do not feel the love and the yearning they supposedly have for each other. The script skimps on the very emotions it seeks to normalize, and Shubh Mangal becomes zyada family drama and very kam gay love story.
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