When life gives you an erectile dysfunction, suck on an orange toffee. That’s about as succinct an exegesis of director R. S. Prasanna’s Shubh Mangal Savdhan (a verse recited in Indian weddings as a couple comes together for better and verse) as I can think of. Based on his Tamil movie, Kalyana Samayal Saadham – full disclosure, I haven’t seen the original – the director wraps the story using this simplistic approach, with a touch that’s part-satire, part-gags; and for the most part guffaw-aloud dialogues (penned by Hitesh Kewalya) that are dipped in double entendre, if not alluding to this most mortifying and demoralizing problem in a way that’d have made the father of Indian cinematic innuendo, Dada Kondke, beam with pride.
Which is not to say the movie doesn’t work – it does, especially in the first part, when you’re introduced to Mudit Sharma (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Sugandha (Bhumi Pednekar), and their love story that somehow entangles itself in the web of the bane of modern relationships – the arranged marriage model. He’s besotted with her, she wants to be wooed a la the 80s and 90s Hindi movie elope-dramas. Imagine her frustration when the duh-ude uses the online approach to propose. In a hilarious scene, the families meet each other on Skype, the initial hemming-hawing made even better fun by the inherent impersonal filter that technology inserts.
And then one passionate evening, days away from the wedding, when the couple tries to make out, it all fails miserably. Using a soggy Parle-G biscuit, the director does an uproarious take on Mudit’s problem. Understandably, he’s angry and tries to be the man all of us have been taught to be – face a situation head on and solve it, or at least pretend to, for that’s what a strong man does, correct? While she’s being all supportive, wanting to help, consulting her best friend, Ginny (Anshul Chauhan, superbly mixing worldly advice with a pinch of madness) – in the process putting off the latter of biscuits for a long time to come – and giving him a much needed emotional re-up.
And then there are the families, each member jumping into the fray with their distinct idiosyncrasy and wackiness. Even as the wedding prep shifts into full gear, away from Delhi in Hardwar, the groom’s compromised abilities become fodder for talk, advice, and even betting. (The scene where both of them are locked away in a room while the rest of the marriage party awaits without, to me, is one of the weakest scenes. I’m not sure what it achieved, but it did evoke laughs in the cinema hall.) There’s only so much that you can stretch out your jokes on a given topic, mix it with a big fat wedding menu, and yet keep the crunchiness alive until the end. Shubh Mangal Savdhaan does get a little chewy toward the end, but fortunately crispens up again and ends on time.
Keeping the proceedings alive and kicking is the cast. As Mudit’s parents, Supriya Shukla and Chittaranjan Tripathy are superb. The latter, especially, is brilliant in a scene where he evokes a Pan Parag ad, just because he wanted to, for the longest time; or, when Mudit fails to show up in the bus to Hardwar, his alcohol-laced aggression is classic, more so when it’s followed by the inevitable open-mouthed slumber. On the other side, Seema Bhargava and Neeraj Sood are equally good as the girl’s parents; note again, the latter, as he gets tetchier by the moment and gives some terse advice to the hapless Mudit on the phone. There’s also a crackling scene involving Sugandha’s family, as she has an outburst, her brother, watching TV, stands up to applaud her, and their parents vent their anger on him. And of course, there’s the supremely good Brijendra Kala as Sugandha’s uncle. Easily one of the movie’s highlights, his act when he’s welcoming the groom’s family as they alight from the bus, or his deadpan one-liners delivered with a timing that’s lost amidst your laughter, light up the screen.
The music score by Tanishk-Vayu is one of 2017’s best thus far – note the melodic, finger-snapping Kanha, sung with stunning devotion by Shashaa Tirupati; or the catchy Laddoo; and the gusto-filled Rocket Saiyyan, reminiscent of Sajanji Vaari Vaari from Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. The background score is also very effective, using sitars, tabla, and flute with a lilt that’s rarely discernible in movies nowadays.
And finally, the lead pair ensure that even the gimcrack scenes don’t make you cringe. Bhumi Pednekar lends an air of strength and laces it with just the right amount of middle-class aspirations that make Sugandha such a credible character, even as her cutesy “Okay bye”s are an unexpected shot of pleasure. But it is Ayushmann Khurrana who makes his hard role (no pun here) look simple. Very likeable, very vulnerable, and very, very good, the actor, with his act, overcomes the movie’s premise that brings in all the laughs and yet, is also its semi-undoing – audience schadenfreude at what can be a traumatic, relationship-altering problem.
Shubh Mangal Savdhan is rated U/A ((parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years). There’s references to sex, an attempt at an intimate scene, and the adult theme.
Shubh Mangal Savdhan
Director R.S. Prasanna Running Time 1h 59 min
Writers R.S. Prasanna, Hitesh Kewalya
Stars Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Brijendra Kala, Chittaranjan Tripathy, Neeraj Sood
Genres Comedy, Romance
Watch the trailer of Shubh Mangal Savdhan here: