“Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan” Movie Review

“They say that matches are made in heaven, but the timing is decided here on earth.”

This is the kind of dialogue and screenplay you will get from the beginning to the end of this astonishing and remarkable film. Loosely and roughly translated, the title means “Be extra careful of marriage” in Hindi. Nothing could be more à propos to this movie than its title.

Although this very funny, romantic comedy is of course from India, its humor is universal. Everyone can relate to something funny in this movie – from its dialogue to its quirky characters, to its overall theme. It had me laughing from the beginning to the end with the conclusion, which had me weeping with joy. It is one of the most solid, captivating, consistent comedies I have seen in a long time and should be recognized as one of the best – whether you relate to its gay message or not.

It is a love story between Kartik Singh, played by Ayushmann Khurrana and Aman Tripathi, played by Jitendra Kumar. These two very handsome men have a strong and natural connection and chemistry between themselves as well as for their roles and characters. It is a joy to watch them together. They are in large part Bohemians but love each other deeply. It is obvious. You can sense and feel their connection throughout this movie. It never ever waivers. Through some hysterical set ups, the two are forced to go back to Aman’s hometown to celebrate his cousin’s wedding. And thus begins one romp after another to some very funny situations with family that we can all relate to. It is also Aman’s ‘coming out’ story to his family as they try to ‘arrange’ a marriage for him. The coming out experience with the entire family at the wedding is one of the funniest unveilings of a gay relationship I have ever seen in any movie. It is full of references to Indian traditions, but it is universally relatable. This movie could easily have been centered in Italy, the Philippines, the United States, or other country since the individuals present are all interchangeable with someone in our family we know either closely or distantly. Amar’s family is quirky, eccentric, and capricious. They conform to the standards of acceptability but do so in an unorthodox fashion, with unique individual characterizations. While the emphasis is placed on being witty and entertaining, the story is so real and natural that we can all understand its depiction despite language barriers or cultural differences.

Aman’s mother and father represent “Universal Parents”. Their fears, anxieties, their entrenchments to cultural norms and traditions, while different in presentation, are universally understood. Somehow, they cannot see, or more adeptly, they do not want to see that Amar is different and always has been. His happiness is not first; familial fidelity is. One particularly noteworthy and funny exchange between the son and parents is when Aman tries to explain his relationship with Kartik in terms of both of their previous relationships that were based on love, not arrangement (as is currently) but he does so using scientific terminology and analysis. It is simply hysterical and one of the most creative moments in this movie. Impressive screenwriting.

Aman’s mother, Sunaina, played by Neena Gupta, has sheer, perfect comedic timing. She delivers her lines with vim and emotional intensity, representing ‘Mothers’ all over the world, who are just like her. Her character is astute, analytical, and controls the family but allows the husband to think he does. She begins to realize what is going on and astutely analyzes her son’s relationship. But it is the father, Shankar, played by Gajraj Rao, that steals the scenes. As with Neena, his comic timing is perfect. He has to play the ‘straight man’ in these scenarios, and he does so with perfection. Mostly looking wounded and trying to figure out why does everyone seems to be against him. Yet, you can see on his face that he is struggling to try to understand what is going on. He senses he is the last of the generation that accepts the ‘old ways’ as truth and continually tries to impose them on his son and other family members. Slowly, however, he begins to see and realize the world, as trite as it sounds, has changed. In the end, he would rather give up his beliefs than lose his son. His exchanges at the end with his son and his boyfriend are some of the most poignant and tender moments in this movie and indeed are soul-crushingly beautiful. When Aman hugs his father to say goodbye, with tears streaming down both faces, I reflected deeply upon my own relationship with my father. Before leaving, Kartik runs to Aman’s father and hugs him with such a sense of acceptance. The father crackles and tells him that he can call him ‘papa’. I cried loudly, not because of despondency, but with joy since both father and son are reunited with acceptance; even though dad does not fully understand or completely comprehend. (I also cried for myself, wishing I had had this same moment with my own father. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to do so. One of my most regrettable and painful life moments).

The screenplay in this movie is spectacular. As mentioned, the quips come fast and furious. The analogous situations to real life are all over the place. The father’s fixation on black cauliflower is hysterical but represents so much more than humor. It is a metaphor for life. It might look like cauliflower, but its color is all wrong, and the inside is rotting – much like Aman without Kartik. As Aman begins to crack under the weight of familial pressure to marry a female, Kartik tells Aman,

“Do you want to be a hero or a bystander in this story?”

These astute life’s comments are peppered throughout this movie that makes this story so much more engaging and introspective. Central to this story is the notion that Aman’s parents know that they are not married to the loves in their lives but to individuals arranged by their families. Each carried a whisper and some flicker of love for their real affections. In one of those rare moments between the parents when they exchange truths, they realize they are ruining Aman’s life,

“We are forcing him to lead a life he doesn’t want to – just like us.”

The screenplay is such an incredible reflection of life in all its complexities, from beauty to pain. There are certainly a lot of twists and turns in this movie. Too numerous to mention and must be seen to be believed. There are also some ‘Bollywood’ interludes in this movie that are well placed; are very good and add to the story’s charm. I know to our Western eyes, this may seem to be a bit odd, but I love them as it gives this movie the allure, uniqueness, and pizazz it deserves. Get used to it. It is fun!

Here is where I might claim some embodiment of a disclaimer- this movie might not be appealing to everyone. But I cannot. The message that this film delivers is universally understood. It is acceptance, love, relationships, and family. Nothing is more essential to a story than these elements. The production overall is first rate. The acting is superb, even from its tertiary characters. And the story is oh so funny. It is engrossing, cute, and fabulously entertaining. What a wonderful way to spend a few hours. I loved this film, and it deserves a wider audience! Ka aanand len!

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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