When was the last time a Hindi film featured a protagonist by the name of Mudit? Or dealt with a condition like erectile dysfunction?
There’s a lot that’s both fresh and refreshing in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, starting with its remarkably astute portrait of middle-class ‘Dilli’. Overcrowded DDA flats with walls as thin as paper, middle-aged siblings unable to suppress their egos who break into arguments anytime and anyplace, and characters that throw around words and phrases like ‘loyaltyness’ and ‘gents problem’, and others that understand exactly what they mean.
The film, directed by RS Prasanna is a remake of his own Tamil comedy, but screenplay and dialogue writer Hitesh Kewalia brings texture through language and characters that are distinctly and unmistakably true to their North Indian roots.
After a charming ‘love-cum-arranged-cum-love’ arrangement results in them getting engaged, Pitampura boy Mudit Sharma (Ayushmann Khurrana) and his feisty bride-to-be Sugandha (Bhumi Pednekar) encounter an unforeseen hardship in the bedroom – Oh dear, no, that’s the wrong expression! Matters quickly escalate to the point where entire extended families become aware of the ‘problem’, and just days away from their marriage the tense couple is still struggling to make things work.
It’s an unusual premise and the makers mine it for unending laughs. We get an wide selection of oddball characters that nevertheless feel entirely real, and the dialogue is peppered with laugh-out-loud lines. An exchange between Sugandha and her mother (a terrific Seema Pahwa) in which the older lady uses an Arabian Nights analogy to discuss the birds and the bees is hilarious, as is a visit to an animal doctor in Haridwar seeking a cure for Mudit’s condition.
Admirably, the makers navigate this tricky material without it coming across as crass or making you squirm in your seat. There’s also genuine warmth and heart in the relationship between Mudit and Sugandha, and the script gives them enough room to explore ideas of commitment and adjustment while going through the messiness of love and marriage. Bhumi Pednekar is excellent as a young woman whose response to her partner’s shortcoming is both surprising and mature. She’s on a roll, following up her confident, fiery performance in last month’s Toilet: Ek Prem Katha with another winning turn. In one of the film’s best scenes, which goes seamlessly from comic to affecting, Sugandha reveals her desperation to fix their falling-apart relationship by organizing a picnic with Mudit. Ayushmann Khurrana, himself in solid form since Bareilly Ki Barfi, makes your heart go out to Mudit, investing the fellow with genuine likeability and an understated charm. Ayushmann does some of his best work here.
Too bad the film hits some clumsy roadblocks in its third act, where the writing comes undone. A misguided decision to raise the stakes threatens to derail the film completely, and an entirely pointless cameo offers nothing by way of value addition. Thankfully it’s the film’s excellent ensemble of actors – playing an assortment of parents, uncles and aunts, siblings and best friends – that rescues it from slipping into tedium, and the jokes continue to come fast and furious.
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan rises above its minor problems to deliver plenty laughs. It’s one of the year’s most enjoyable films. I recommend that you make the time for it. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five.
Rating: 3.5 / 5