A ‘standing’ ovation

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 02 Sep 2017 08:21:05

By Aasawari Shenolikar,

Bollywood sure is going places and treading territories where no man, or for that matter a woman, has ever gone. For this very reason, Director RS Prasanna deserves a standing ovation. In Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, he has tackled a taboo subject with much sensitivity and maturity. So what could have turned into a ribald, crass comedy, doesn't cross the line of decency under Prasanna's able direction. His subtle treatment ensures that the fare that he has dished out in tackling a ‘gents problem’ (Delhi lingo) doesn't venture into the vulgarity zone. The breezy film oscillates between love and the desire to express that love. The problem surfaces when the protagonist realises that he is not able to fulfill his own yearning and lacks the ability to satisfy his soon-to-be better-half.

Mudit (Ayushmaan Khurana) falls in love with the charming damsel Sugandha (Bhumi Pednekar). Shy to the core, he hesitates to approach her. The route to get into her life is via an online proposal. Sugandha’s notions of a ‘love marriage’ in true Bollywood style - the wooing, the song and dance routine, the eloping, all go for a toss when both the families agree to get the duo hitched. She, however is not averse to Mudit and so takes the first step in introducing romance in their relationship. Just when life seems hunky dory, the grave problem surfaces. Mudit wants to call the relationship off, but Sugandha, a spunky girl, wants to go the full length. How they deal with the challenge is what the rest of the journey is about.

Prasanna needs to be applauded for bringing into focus a subject that is strictly a taboo in our patriarchal society, a society that believes that in a relationship between a man and woman, the fault invariably always lies with the woman. God has made man supreme and there can never ever be anything wrong with him. Prasanna brings the realities of the ‘gents problem’ without so much as uttering, even once, the words ‘erectile dysfunction’ or ‘impotency’ (these are visible only in the penultimate frames - words written on books kept on a Doctor's table). That he has an able actor Ayushmann Khurana to help in his vision is the icing on the cake. This actor, who not long ago, won the audiences’ heart with his Vicky Donor stud act, shines in the role where his masculinity is in question. The infirmity leads to a lot of frustration. He starts questioning himself and whether the step he is taking - of getting married - is right. But the woman in his life is confident and helps him deal with the problem. The duo do not bother about the warring parents - one set who wants to lay the blame on the girl (kundali mein dosh hai) and the other set who wants their daughter to say ‘no’ to Mudit. Mudit is brave enough to own up his deficiency in public and stand by the woman who has supported him all along.

Bhumi, as the girl next door, but with a mind of her own, dazzles in a role tailor made for her. The supporting cast rises to the occasion and the thread of reality that runs throughout SMS makes it a fun watch.  The interaction between Bhumi and her mother (Seema Pahwa) are worth mentioning. Pahwa brings the house down when she tries to explain the birds and bees to her daughter - the allegory she uses is ‘Gufa and Ali Baba and Chalis Chor’. Both Bhumi and Seema are first rate and natural to the core. That goes for the other actors too, who put in their own bits and lend a touch of light heartedness to this otherwise serious subject.

Prasanna has hit Bull’s Eye not only with his subject, the actors and the character actors, but his team of writers, the cinematographers - all have pitched in and helped him make a movie that should be a ‘must watch’ on movie aficionados’ list. Of course, this is not to say that the movie doesn't have its flaws. The fun filled ride loses steam a bit in the second half and the climax is not only abrupt, but absurd too. It's hard to imagine a somewhat timid boy suddenly donning the Superman's cape and jumping across cable cars to manao his roothi dulhan. It loses credibility here, as it loses credibility when the very personal problem is discussed openly by all and sundry, with everyone coming up with explanations and nuskas to cure it.

What completely floored me was that Prasanna was spot on the Dilliwalas, their lingo, their attitude and the social milieu. And when Mudit utters, ‘Meri toh death hi ho gayi’, that was the ultimate Delhi jargon - which only someone who’s stayed in Delhi will understand. However, on the whole, SMS is entertaining and Prasanna deserves a pat on the back for having the guts to deal with an awkward subject, but ensuring that there is nary an ill-at-ease moment in the film. Replete with many tender and light hearted moments, SMS is an engaging watch, a reason to rejoice and Prasanna and his team definitely merit a standing ovation.

The Hitavada Rating: O O O