I am writing a review on a movie that has me super stoked. I saw Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan yesterday night. It lived up to its hype in my head. Of course, I have seen better movies dealing with gay issues and gay lives. But most of these movies come from abroad. We have had brilliant movies like My Brother, Nikhil and Aligarh that touch upon LGBTQIA lives sensitively, but an all and out romantic comedy that deals with a very proud, out-of-the-closet gay man – never! Very recently, we have had Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, with such a brilliant script and supporting cast. But let’s admit it, though I have the greatest respect and admiration for Sonam Kapoor who takes on the role of a lesbian, and makes her the lead in a movie dealing with queer love and coming out, I just don’t like her acting.
So, that brings me back to this no-holds-barred out, gay love story! The movie deals with two boys, Kartik and Aman, who fall in love in Delhi and have to make a journey to Aman’s hometown to attend his cousin sister’s wedding. Aman’s dad finds out about his son’s sexuality and the resulting dynamic between intolerance and acceptance forms the crux of the movie. I won’t lie and state that the movie didn’t see things through the utterly rosy lens of a romantic comedy. It does however deal with a lot of issues, that become the winning formula of any Ayushmann Khurrana movie.
It is very important that an A-lister like Ayushmann has taken up a role that almost no one in Bollywood would touch. Homosexuals were to be made fun of, to be derided. How can I forget John and Abhishek in Dostana? But there was not a moment in this movie that was cringe worthy. Kartik, played by Ayushmann, is a bold, vibrant, out homosexual man, who leads the movie out through the messy mind of homophobia.
Most people find the first half of the movie appealing, but for me, it was the second half that held weight. It has a brilliant dialogue between Kartik and Aman, when Kartik asks Aman to stand up for himself and not get married to a girl. This is the most important conversation for me, because what one must always realise, or make very healthy attempts to, is the truth of who one is. One must always be true to who he or she happen to be. That is what Kartik tries telling Aman. To love yourself before you can ever possibly love anyone else.
Ayushmann had my heart when he wore the rainbow flag and gave a speech on the dangers of homophobia. The whole scene is over the top, but which self-respecting gay man hasn’t had to say these words to someone in their lives? Well, maybe not shirtless, but hey, who can say that hasn’t happened either? Ayushmann’s Kartik is where LGBTQIA people reach after a while: being sure of who they are and what they want from society. It is Jitendra Kumar’s Aman Tripathi’s shoulders that the movie stands upon. The small town boy who knows he is different, is in love, but cannot face up to parental pressures. This is his story. His journey.
Ayushmann and Jitendra have done lovely work. Many situations in their lives corresponded to either my life, or varied stories I have heard from the lives of my queer friends. Everything that Kartik says in regards to sexuality I have said at some point or the other. It was like hearing myself speak at times. The most important thing is when he tells Aman, twice, in the course of the movie, to completely and deliberately disregard what his father is telling him to do, because he must listen to his own heart. This is not Romeo telling Juliet to disregard convention, this is a Romeo telling a Romeo to understand biology. It’s a very important factor, that most of us do not notice.
Jitendra Kumar took on a role no one really wanted. But he has done lovely work with it. He has beautiful eyes and the vulnerability in them speaks volumes. He is the everyday, desi homosexual who is caught between his biology, his love and his family. And what a family! The supporting cast has done such a fantastic job! Gajraj Rao who plays Aman’s father, Shankar, and Neena Gupta who plays Aman’s mother, Sunaina, have outdone themselves. Their back story has such a layered sensitivity that again is briefly touched upon – having made choices ruled by convention instead of their own hearts. Some people may find Bhumi Pednekar’s cameo confusing, but being gay, one realizes how many of these incidences happen with straight girls and gay boys. (And it’s a nod to Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, their earlier movie together.)
The time given to this movie was too short. It moved too fast for me, especially whilst bringing in so many valid, heavyweight issues and dealing with them quickly. Most of the situations that needed a serious tone were made to seem totally flippant, like the scene where Shankar beats up Kartik. Homosexuals have been killed due to homophobia, and in this case, it was comic fare. I will also very grudgingly give this leeway, because to make something so serious occur would change the entire tone of the movie. Laughter is always easier to digest than tragedy – well, at least for me. I want a happy ending.
I left the theatre feeling good. I know the script had flaws. I know it isn’t a brilliant movie. But it worked for me, because of the very fact that the issues the LGBTQIA community faces were not made into a trope. They were given due importance, without sounding too preachy. And even if it did sound too preachy, it’s necessary, concerning certain audiences are seeing soemthing like this for the first time, in this kind of light! The movie even gave power to the girl who Aman is to marry. Strong women abound in the movie: women with voices, be it Sunaina or Goggle, Kusum or Champa. Everything fell neatly into place – nothing like real life – but if Raj can have Simran, then Kartik should so definitely have his happily ever after with Aman, too.