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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Shuddh Desi Romance  


You Go Girl!


Strictly speaking Maneesh Sharma’s Shuddh Desi Romance, is not really shuddh desi by Bollywood standards.  A world in women are not devastated by break-ups, don’t pine for lost love, have live-in relationships and initiate pre-marital sex, is not something Bollywood is still comfortable with; India is just about starting to shed its prudishness, but is not unapologetically promiscuous yet.

Shudh Desi Romance is a lot like the director’s earlier film, Band Baaja Baraat; like so many other Yash Raj productions, this one too has weddings as its backdrop. In BBB, the lead pair were wedding planners, in SDR they are rented baraatis, the girl getting a good fee because she is smart and English speaking.  The catering and fake baraati supplying business in Jaipur is run by the wise and avuncular Goelsaab (Rishi Kapoor, terrific!).  Raghuram (Sushant Singh Rajput) and Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) do ‘assignments’ with him.


On the way to his own wedding, with Gayatri posing as his sister, Raghu falls for her. She is sharp, plain-speaking, smoking, drinking, unapologetically independent (her family is in distant Guwahati). He feels instant attraction and runs away from his wedding to Tara (Vaani Kapoor). Soon he has moved in with Gayatri, pretending to the neighbours that he is her brother, though nobody is fooled by the charade.  Indian double standards have already been deplored before—all characters speak to the camera when voicing of opinion is required (a bit of lazy writing here).

No matter how sassy Gayatri may appear, she is damaged in some way by past relationships—which is a bit of a downer, as if saying that women have to pay for past ‘sins.’ 

After a happy period of togetherness, when they decide to get married, Gayatri runs away.  And then, Taara reappears, not looking in the least traumatised by the humiliation of being abandoned, yet she has been wounded too. She may stop her uncle from beating up the runaway groom, but she is also seeking closure.

Even if the pangs of love in contemporary India (where traditions are being upheld as well as being broken), are a bit flippantly dealt with, there are some small town truths in Jaideep Sahni’s screenplay and Maneesh Sharma’s direction that constantly escapes being heavy-handed. (The many kisses look forced though, and the actors go about it with a marked absence of passion.)

The two lead actresses are wonderful, performing with a ease that makes Rajput’s toothy cuteness a bit laboured. In the end, it seems the perpetually confused boy-man gets the best of it—two women vying for him, even though a tourist hustler is not exactly Prince Charming. The film has a loo as one of he chief catalysts-- funny! Don’t think too much, and Shuddh Desi Romance has its moments of charm and some well-written lines. Could make for an enjoyable date movie.


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