Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Jitendra Kumar, Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta
Director: Hitesh Kewalya
When we first meet Aman (Jeetendra Kumar) and Kartik (Ayushmann Khurrana), they are running around in superhero suits, fighting people dressed as ‘Bad Keetanus’, and quizzing perplexed bystanders on consequential matters like, “Kya aapke toothpaste mein pyaar hai?
After that intriguing and zany introduction, I was on board and ready for a madcap rollercoaster of a ride. And the film did not disappoint.
Laughter, as a section in Reader’s Digest that old family manual informed us, is the best medicine and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is a good example. Employing the small town milieu that has gained much prominence and popularity over the last decade, Kewalya takes forward the conversation around same sex relationships to the heartland, where members of the LGBTQIA community face their biggest acceptance challenge.
Kewalya, when I met him at the trailer launch, mentioned that he had addressed the biases to homosexual relationships head-on, starting with those that he himself had once held on to. One knows that he has indeed, and that the film is likely to strike home when Aman’s uncle (Manu Rishi), who is constantly refusing to even utter the ‘G’ word, asks Kartik, “Beta yeh kab decide kiya ki ye banoge?” Anyone familiar with the North Indian diktats on masculinity would know that it’s a humorous, but astute chronicling of a patriarchal society’s deep-rooted homophobia.
If one were to rewind a bit, we have had Dostana, which introduced the idea of two brawny men as a pretend gay couple and the hilarity it would induce. But that was a story set on foreign shores aimed at a far more liberated set that despite their modern ideas struggled to break free of established norms. Then there were far more poignant sensitive films like I Am and Aligarh, which explored the complexities of being gay in India followed by the sensitive Kapoor & Sons about family secrets. And now SMZS takes it to the next level by making LGBTQIA relationships a lot more accessible, and even family-friendly, if you will. Given that most love stories tragic or comic are about overcoming the impossible obstacles in their way, the premise is perfect.
And with the courts having done away with Article 377 that made homosexuality a crime, the timing is perfect too. Parents struggling to accept children who choose relationships outside the widely accepted heterosexual construct is a worldwide phenomenon and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan does well in making it the central point of conflict. Kewalya, who makes his debut as a director, passes with flying colours given the odds of pulling off a film like this one.
The ensemble cast comprising of accomplished actors like Ayushmann Khurrana, Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Sunita Rajwar and Manu Rishi in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, impresses. They bring to their characters the bumbling simplicity that is essential to making the story credible and the humour effective. Besides the seasoned actors, there is a bunch of fresh talent in there that impresses too. Jitendra Kumar, best known for his web-series outings is impressive as are Maanvi Gagroo and Pankhuri Awasthy in smaller roles.
A film’s cast is instrumental in making the film watchable and the abovementioned do a fine job keeping the audience glued to the screen with their antics. Khurrana, as usual, plays to his strengths and works the more flamboyant part, wearing his heart on his sleeves with Kumar as the bashful Aman and together, along with the aforementioned, they tide over the bits that don’t exactly stand out.
That Aman and Kartik get their ‘Ja jee le apni zindagi’ nod from Bauji bodes well for the film and if it notches up a good number at the box-office, it could well be the happily ever after that Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan and the LGBTQIA community in India needs.