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Shubh Mangal Savdhan Movie Review: Get It Up With Ayushmann!



Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar

Directed by:  R S Prasanna

Rating: *** ½(3 and a half stars)

It’s okay if you can’t get it up.

There. I  said it.It’s taken Hindi cinema years  and years to be liberated from the shackles  of libidinous machismo. An actor called Ayushmann Khurrana  has done.  He  plays  an ordinary guy with a routine problem with such conviction .

Ayushmann’s Mudit in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan suffers from performance anxiety whenever he tries to make out with his bride-to-be,  played with spunk and spontaneity by Bhumi Pednekar who is rapidly emerging as the  voice of the mofussil woman.

In many ways Bhumi is the hero of this remarkable film that’s eventually bogged down by too many stereotypical  characters  associated with the small-town joint families.You know them, quirky, cantankerous,  eccentric  whimsical bit cute and honest.

Bhumi’s Sugandha is one of the most sharply-written female heroes in recent films. Sugandha is deeply middleclass and proud of it. She resolves to marry  the sexually dysfunctional(albeit temporarily so, but who knows!) Mudit not out of any false sense of bravado but because…well, this  is the  best she can get.And he is so goddamned devoted.

Once she  makes up her mind to go with Mudit she will see her resolve to its logical(?) conclusion.

Screenwriter Hitesh Kewalya finds space  in the cluttered canvas to give the couple breathing, if not breeding, space. Their first (aborted) sexual encounter in  a cramped MIG flat in Delhi with sounds of songs and everyday conversation seeping subtly into their activity is done in a lengthy fluryy of furious foreplay signifying nothing.It’s  sequence  filled with clumsy  groping and slurply smooching  played  out with endearing honesty.

Another brilliantly written sequence of foiled passion has Sugandha trying to seduce Mudit at a picnic with a plunging neckline and  groaning tips from an orgiastic song that goes. “Come to me , Danny Boy.”

‘Danny Boy’s reactions of smothered frustration are priceless.  Though the script constructs a case for the girl’s bourgeois  heroism(if you  can’t have cake  have the crumbs) for me the real hero of the film is Ayushmann Khurana’s Mudit. A man who loses his ‘manhood’ but holds on to his dignity even as the entire family scoffs at his condition, and emerges a hero in the most unforeseen ways.

Ayushmann expresses Mudit’s erectile disenchantment with just a whisper of a look, a hint of despair….subtle sly and chic, this is an Everyman played with reined-in vigour and unostentatious  valour.Though his character suffers from performance  anxiety this is performance supremely devoid of any anxiety. Lamentably the script crowds Mudit’s dignified anxieties with sniggering friends and scoffing relatives.

I wish the couple had been left alone by the screenplay to sort out their mutual problem. By bringing the entire family from both the sides into the picture to thresh out the problem on hand, the film ironically mocks the very malady that it so sensitively puts forward.  Some of  Ayushmann’s  scenes with his  father and his future father-in-law with both the patriarchs trying to bully him out of his temporary  dysfunction, are  way too high-pitched and  clamorous.It’s like shooting down an injured  birth with a  canon.

The  Big Indian wedding and the activities surrounding it ,have for some time now  been a source of great colour vibrancy and irony in our cinema. But the wedding festivities  have now become a cliché . We need to move on now.

Shubha Mangal Saavdhan serves a dish that’s provocative and tongue-in-cheek. Director R  S Prasanna steers  the situations away from cheesiness even when a doctor tells  Mudit, “You are making a  big thing out of  a small thing”  and  Mudit replies,  “That’s exactly what I  am not able to do.”

Ayushmann says such loaded lines and dips glucose biscuits into hot tea to explain his poignant plight to his wife-to be, with heartbreaking earnestness.

This is an brave and  bright film with its heart in the right place and its gaze refreshingly free of a gender bias fixed firmly at  the crotch level.

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