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Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan - love needs no caution

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, which released in theaters in February, is now available on Amazon Prime. SMZS brings together a fine ensemble of actors who have become household names in the past couple of years, in a movie that is a pioneer in the post-decriminalization of Article 377 world. But let's not kid ourselves. This movie would never have been possible without Ayushmann Khurrana, who has seen tremendous success by consistently pushing the envelope, doing roles that no other mainstream Bollywood leading man would even consider for a fleeting moment. Since his first film, where he played a sperm donor in Vicky Donor (2012), or a man suffering from ED in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017), or impersonating a woman on a sex hotline in Dream Girl (2019), or a prematurely balding man in Bala (2019), he has tackled head-on the insecurities of the cis, straight male.

With SMZS, he now takes on sexual orientation, playing a flamboyant openly gay man from Delhi, Kartik Singh, pushing his partner Aman Tripathi, to reveal himself to his conservative joint family in Allahabad. Aman is played wonderfully nuanced by Jitendra Kumar, whom I spoke about in my review of Panchayat. Aman's parents are played by the new middle-age SRK-Kajol, the Badhaai Ho (2018) duo of Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta, once again bringing their A-game and chemistry to the roles of parents struggling to come to terms with what they see, but cannot bring themselves to acknowledge. Manu Rishi Chadha, as Aman's uncle, gets some of the best lines, playing the perennially put down younger brother of the patriarch of the family. Maanvi Gagroo, TVF's web series regular, as Aman's feisty cousin, Goggle Tripathi, a name that I get a chuckle out of every time, is a hoot.

With such a stalwart star cast, the expectations were high, but they are somewhat let down by a script that even at just under 2 hours, sometimes feels repetitive. The target audience for this movie, is not the urban liberal folks who are accepting of same sex relationships, but the vast majority of people who still aren't. Given that the subject matter had to be made palatable to the Indian masses, comedy was probably the only viable route, and there are genuinely funny moments (the scene where the two brothers verbally go after each other while peeing out in the countryside is great) but there are times when it is too broad, bordering on the slapstick. The good part is that it doesn't belittle the characters or show them to be ignorant rubes, but instead shows the genuine conflict between love for their child and fear of what society will think and hence the implications for that child. What it could have done better at, is showing other facets of the main characters instead of just their sexuality. Where last year's Ek Ladki ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, which tackled the same subject from a womanly standpoint took tentative baby steps, SMZS goes further and puts the subject front and center from the outset, showing that true love, straight or gay, needs no saavdhani.

April 26, 2020

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