Starring: Ayushmann Khurana, Jitendra Kumar, Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta and Pankhuri Awasthy
Director: Hitesh Kewalya
The immensely versatile Ayushmann Khurana has made it his mainstay to challenge stereotypes in Indian cinema and his proficiency in achieving that goal is amply on display in this romantic comedy, with a twist.
Kartik (Khurana) and Aman (Kumar) are introduced to the audience as a much in love gay couple, who have been living and working together in relative bliss. The only missing link in this harmonious match is that their families are either unaware or, in Kartik’s case, have formally distanced themselves from their sexual preference.
As they decide to head together for a big fat family wedding to Allahabad, a conservative northern Indian city which is home to Aman’s family, their hope is to fix this missing link in the relationship and get Aman’s folks on board with their love story. What ensues is a series of hilarious episodes, from the couple’s forbidden love being discovered by Aman’s father Shankar (Rao) in a rather shock setting to Aman being forced to wed a dubiously smitten young girl Kusum (Awasthy).
While Kartik is steadfast in his mission to win Aman’s family over, his hapless lover fails to share his conviction that their love stands a chance. Aman’s mother Sunaina (Gupta) vacillates between emotional blackmail and some level of acceptance as she is forced to confront her own less-than-fulfilling marital life. But she proves to be the least of the couple’s worries.
Will these rebellious young lovers succeed in their ultimate goal – to live life on their terms – or eventually be forced to succumb to societal pressures and outdated norms?
This film holds up a mirror to some of Indian society’s deep-seated biases, unconscious as they may be, while raising a chuckle along the way. The plot is set against the backdrop of the landmark Indian Supreme Court judgment of September 2018 that decriminalised homosexuality in the country. The real-world implications of this verdict are played out with great sensitivity here, largely down to some power-packed performances. The comedy is well-balanced, cleverly harking back to many boy-meets-girl clichés of Hindi cinema.
Khurana plays the gay lover to perfection, balancing an element of camp with a large measure of endearing. He is ably backed up by Kumar, drawing empathy for his dilemma of having to choose between his lover and family. Neena Gupta, as the impassioned mother, and Gajraj Rao as her eccentric scientist husband revive the tried and tested husband-wife banter of their 2018 box-office hit ‘Badhai Ho’ and Pankhuri Awasthy plays the innocent-looking conniving suitor quite convincingly.
In a pandemic-struck year when comedies are all the more in demand, ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ strikes the right note with its very simple message: love knows no bounds.
*iGlobal Review Series