Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana: Charming Romcom On Cruelties Of Small town Alliances!

Shaadi Mein Zarooor Aana… 

Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aaana

Starring: Rajkummar Rao,Kriti Kharbanda

Directed by Ratnaa Sinha

Rating: ***(3 stars)

Kanpur joins the growing  league of North Indian towns that have lately been used to locate and  pin down charming  smalltown romances  about men and women with  large families and loud voices who eat and belch and fart and  insult one another without fear of being judged as crass.
You see, chote shehar ke log aise hi hote hain.

Well, whatever.

Before you holler about cultural  and regional stereotyping, let’s  quickly move on to meetSatyendra, alias Sattu and Aarti, alias…well, Aarti.They are aspirational 20-somethingsmalltowners with stars  in their eyes, a jaunt in their  a gait and a song  on their lips. He thinks she looks like Juhi Chawla. She  thinks he is her Shah Rukh Khan.

The thing about Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Kharbanda is  that that they can play their aspirational characters with  endearing assuredness. For Rao this is child’s play. ButKharbanda comes into  her own imbuing  her smalltown character with a sense  of mounting exuberance and  plummeting disappointments.

If only  the screenplay matched the lead pair’s sang froid.  Lamentably debutant directorRatnaa Sinha(she has done commendable work on television) often loses the plot in the flurry to catch the sweaty revelery  of  the Indian middleclass as  it cruises from its tradition-bound attitude towards  social issues such as arranged marriage and  dowry, into a  new virtual world of smart phones and not-so-smart life’s decisions.

Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aaana is a very ambitious film. It wants to  keep its protagonists Sattuand Aarti in the ‘cute’ area. But it also dares to take them into the grey zone. Aarti runs away from the mandap like  Amrita Singh in Aaina and Vani Kapoor in Shudh Desi Romancebecause…well ,she wants to compete  in the  civil services. Not caring a damn about making her prospective  bridegroom  and his family look like stood-up idiots she does her own selfish thing(prodded, I might add, by an intellectually challenged  sister who should really have  minded her own business).

Then it’s Sattu/Rajkummar Rao’s turn to turn mean  and vengeful. The moral makeover and the  dramatic leaps  of  mood are achieved abruptly and with little concern for narrative smoothness. Many dramatic  portions are done  in the spirit of desi soap opera, and the “happy” finale seems more  a  hasty  send-off than a real solution to  a relationship which rapidly swerves into a messy tangle  of  irreversible wrong-doings.

Many of the smalltown-romcom stereotypes are way too obviously flashed into the frames  to be convincing.  The heroine Aarti’s sister awkwardly holding a  cigarette in her hand in the  nighttime and giggling about Aarti’s prospective sex life is that token “frumpy-mofussil-woman-talking-sex” scene that we have seen in  all the recent smalltown rom-coms.

All the habitually competent actors including Manoj Pahwa and  K K Raina(I kept looking for Seema Bhargava and Brajendra Kala) do their bit efficiently. But the narrative doesn’t allow them to  soar higher than  the  glass ceiling that the film’s strenuous pro-feminism tone imposes on the characters.

All said and done, though, the  film is worth a try for  its unquestionable sincerity  of  purpose and its  winking familiarity with smalltown mores and quirks.

If only these were not used with such placard-flashing righteousness.

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