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Sab Kushal Mangal, A Wacky Love Triangle In The Cow Belt

Sab Kushal Mangal

Starring Akshaye Khanna, Pariyank Sharma, Riva Kishan

Directed  by  Karan  Vishwanath Kashyap

Rating: ***(3 stars)

Smalltown romances have flooded our movie-viewing bandwidth , so much so that it becomes  difficult to tell Tanu Weds Manu apart from Bareilly Ki Barfi.

 The  feisty, outspoken  , unapologetic  leading lady  Mandira(newcomer Riva Kishan)  in  debutant  director Karan Vishwanath  Kashyap’s  stab at  kidnapped grooms, forced marriages, crime  and goondaism , and ground-level tv reportage  in  mofussil towns, echoes Kangana Ranaut’s free-falling act  as a  marriageable  daughter who goes to outrageous  lengths to get rid  of unwanted  suitors and  grooms-to-be.

This  is  an uneven but intermittently engaging nugget on non-metropolitan  mores, thanks in no  small measure to Akshaye Khanna’s   uninhibited  performance as Baba Bhandari,  a glorified local goon who  sees himself as a some sort  of  Robin Hood in his locality when in fact he is  too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Khanna is  simply brilliant in this  unconventional  role. He will remind you of Jimmy Sheirgil  in Tanu Weds Manu.

 The  problem here is  one  of familiarity. The Bihar-Jharkhand setting  and the romance that blossoms between Mandira and  the  selfimportant tv anchor Pappu(Priyank Sharma) secretes a  droll humour, never quite culminating into a  high-rise  hilarity that I am sure the script must have intended  in the  ‘farce’ place.

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Nonetheless some  of the courtship featuring the redoubtable Khanna and his object of adoration Mandira are well-written and performed with a tongue-in-cheek  directness. I specially liked one  sequence in  a  movie theatre  where Khanna’s Baba Bhandari while watching a  Sanjay Dutt starrer  with her,acts fresh with Mandira, and she  puts him in his  place.

Yup, for  the women in  this film sab kushal and mangal. They can take care  of themselves. Even Mandira’s Bhabhi in a smallish role ,  though outwardly oppressed  comes across as  a woman in-control of her marriage. Then  there  is Preeti Khare returning after  ages as Mandira’s bua. Who is she?Where  does she come from?

  Surpiya Pathak and Satish Kaushik playing the  leading man’s  parents, make a cute couple.Their lengthy sequence  where they impersonate a stereotypical  Muslim couple is a priceless  display of  improvised  inspiration.I’d like a  film about their  life as a  young couple(with Satish and  Supriya being played by Shahid Kapoor and  Alia Bhatt).  

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And then there  is Baba Bhandari’s mistress. A  firebrand who has  him by his balls. These are  women characters who come across as much stronger than  the men who like to play tough with guns but are just overgrown brats under the veneer  of  violent  bravado.

It’s a ballsy film and fun to watch as long as  the  makers don’t take themselves too seriously.Sadly it’s  the  marginal characters  who  light  up the  screenplay while the central romance remains  dimlit and dimwitted.

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