Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shuddh Desi Romance: Not radical, not interesting, quite silly, quite tedious

Director Maneesh Sharma (Band Baaja Baaraat) and writer Jaideep Sahni (Chakde India!) have come together to pitch Shuddh Desi Romance what they thought would be a soul-stirring, iconoclastic statement against the institution of marriage -- Sahni provides some good one-liners like the one about marriage being a lie that the whole nation lives up to -- and making a case for true "marriage of minds"sort of thing which has its own emotional commitment with its own fare of commotion in the lives of protagonists. But the film with the bold idea just seems to fall flat despite the efforts of director and writer and actress Parineeta Chopra to infuse it with sincerity which the film so totally lacks. The problem with the film is not that it is fantastic or that it is improbable in small India. As a matter of fact, the film does not depend in any way on the locale though the film is set in Jaipur so that some nice, colourful costumes can be thrown in. The film willingly takes the risk of positioning the protagonists in a no-man's land where they play out their individual desires and inclinations, create their own morality. The three main characters played by Parineeti, Sushant Singh Rajput and Vaani Kapoor are nomads of sort, without family ties of any kind. So there is no emotional conflict between their romantic instincts and their socio-emotional obligations arising out of family loyalty. Parineeti's Gayatri is a compelling romantic with pure emotions which are in turmoil most of the time, sheer happiness alternating with depressing doubt. Tara played by Vaani is the rational one walking firmly through the emotional muddle with a clear head. Raghu played by Sushant looks more like a playboy, whom the two women love, Gayatri helplessly and Tara in a bemused way.
What makes the romantic trio such inane characters is the awkward plot of centring it around marriage and the baaaraatis (the bridegroom's entourage). The background of the marriage ceremony is used to critique the institution of marriage but it turns out to be an unconvincing attempt because the film just focuses on the vagrant acts of the protagonists, the runaway bridegroom (Sushant), the bride who asks for a Coke when she learns the bridegroom has disappeared, the runaway bride (Parineeta). It is a childish merry-go-round and the brilliant performance of Parineeti Chopra becomes a wasted effort. Maneesh Sharma and Jaideep Sahni like many of their peers in the so-called new cinema are really half-baked in the cinematic tales they want to narrate and the cinematic narrative they choose to tell their tales. Going to small town India and imitating the earthy banter of the place becomes a mock exercise because there is no genuine interest in the small town ethos and pathos. That is why, the Vishal Bharadajes, the Anurag Kashyaps, the Rakeysh Omprakash Mehtas and now Maneesh Sharma and Jaideep Sahni turn out to artistically insincere and false.

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