Saturday, March 01, 2014

Shaadi Ke Side Effects  

Unhappily Married

At least Saket Chaudhary’s film Shaadi Ke Side Effects recognises the existence and the problems of an urban nuclear family. The couple Sid (Farhan Akhtar) and Trisha (Vidya Balan) enjoy their kid-free state and are actually unhappy when she gets pregnant—“we are pregnant,” she says, assuming that the modern man will share parenting chores. (In a regular Bollywood film or TV serial, the declaration of a pregnancy usually results in hysterical joy!)

Once they decide to have the baby, the film loses its sense of fun. Trisha turns into a bore, a nag and an “emotional nutcase,” who decides to give up her job and become a full-time mom. Even with help from her mother (Rati Agnihotri) and the perfect nanny (Ila Arun) she can’t cope.

Unfortunately, the film inspired from dozens of very puerile Hollywood Dad movies, is totally from the man’s point of view, and seems to think it cute that a father gets so involved in a football game on TV that he leaves his infant outside a cafe in the care of a stranger.

Of course, a child changes economic and social priorities, and a funny but mature film about it would be very welcome.  This one tries to sell a version of a happy marriage in which the man has to sacrifice his freedom, give up his friends, lie, cheat and justify it as being all for the cause of a“kaamyaab shaadi.” Nowhere does it sympathise with the woman who also diminishes herself to a household drudge and goes through an experience that calls for support from the husband.

Sid gets the “me time” advise from his brother-in-law (Ram Kapoor), who has affairs because home life is boring. He gets bachelor lifestyle tips from a dissolute singleton (Vir Das), who calls everyone “bro.”  The most compelling case Chaudhary can make for marriage, after building it up as a suffocating nightmare, is that you need someone to look after you in hospital. Really?

A film that flew in the face of all the happy family stories that popular culture forces on viewers, stuck its neck out and said that singledom and childlessness is a valid choice in today’s world, would be more deserving of respect. But SKSE has the most cop-out ending imaginable.

As is happens so often, it is left to the actors to salvage something from the mess of juvenile ideas and they do—Vidya Balan makes the one-note whiner likeable, while Farhan Akhtar gives the character a kind of dignity, even when he is being a selfish jerk.  Surely there are better stories about the 21st century urban marriage waiting to be told, and hopefully Akhtar a New Age Dad in real life (from all reports), will tell a better one than this some day.


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