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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Film review: Shubh Mangal Saavdhan is sensitive, witty, and inoffensive

Despite the adult nature of its theme, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan cleverly manages to be a movie for all the family.

Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar
Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar

Bollywood loves big fat weddings and a good percentage of the biggest Hindi-language blockbusters have featured over-the-top ceremonies, bashful brides dripping in gold jewellery, and enough singing and dancing to cause a migraine.

But R S Prasanna’s Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, the Hindi remake of his 2013 Tamil film Kalyana Samayal Saadham, takes a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the issues such lavish affairs tend to hide – such as a groom suffering from erectile dysfunction. It’s not easy to present conservative audiences with a topic that is considered taboo and shameful. But set it against the background of a middle-class Indian family – a demographic that sees themselves as the custodians of old customs – and suddenly the situation has the potential to disseminate a social message through gentle comedy.

Ayushmann Khurrana portrays Mudit, a shy sales manager who falls in love with Sugandha, played by Bhumi Pednekar. But the anxiety the stress of planning an outsize party give Mudit what he terms his “gent’s problem”, and things come undone. Prasanna accurately represents the trials of living among extended family – young adults in India are expected to live with their parents in the same house even after they are married. With the couple’s relationship under scrutiny, Mudit’s anxiety levels are sky-high. Too embarrassed to tell his parents, he decides to call off the wedding, but Sugandha has other ideas.

Pednekar is splendid as a troubled young woman on the threshold of a new life gone awry, and shines in most of her scenes with Khurrana. The two have crackling chemistry, especially the episode where Mudit reacts to Sugandha’s lame-duck attempts at seduction with sheer horror.

Supporting Khurrana and Pednekar is a band of excellent actors, each of whom brings life and colour to the proceedings. Of particular note is Seema Bhargava. As the mother of the bride she conducts a birds-and-bees talk with her aghast daughter which involves a rather succinct analogy about Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. The premise of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan works beautifully because Prasanna has his finger on the pulse of the conventional Indian family.

Everything is etched out in fine detail: the relationship between Sugandha’s mild-mannered father and his hectoring older brother; the bustling, nervous mothers who still see their grown-up children as, well, children; and the skewed balance of power between the two parties – patriarchy demands that the groom’s side is given greater importance.

The film is helped along by the folksy soundtrack (by Tanishk and Vayu) – sometimes celebratory, sometimes forlorn. Screenwriter Hitesh Kewalya makes sure the dialogue is sensitive, witty, and inoffensive. Despite the adult nature of its theme, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan cleverly manages to be a movie for all the family.

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Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
Directed by: RS Prasanna
Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar