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Shuddh Desi Romance - Movie Review

Updated September 12, 2013

In reference to “Shuddh Desi Romance”, let’s get the obligatory findings out of the way: Directed by Maneesh Sharma we have an aimless, emotionally simple and romantically befuddled youngster by the name of Raghu (Sushant Singh Rajput), who gets cold feet at the day of his wedding and scoots via a trip to the lavatory. In contrast, there’s Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra), the girl he’s fallen for who shares his commitment issues on an instinctive level, and who soon becomes her live-in girlfriend. Much later, Raghu bumps into Taraa (Vaani Kapoor) – the girl he left at the wedding – and they become romantically entangled.

“Shuddh Desi Romance” has an innovative twist on the love triangle, spiffy songs, a mix of adequate to engaging performances (Mr. Rajput is adequate, Ms. Chopra is engaging, Ms. Kapoor is somewhere in between) and just about apt technical intelligence that doesn’t overpower the story Mr. Sharma has in mind. So at the very least, it has a few aces up its sleeve.

Now that the statutory analysis is out of the way, let’s talk a little about what’s really bugging me:

Making motion pictures, as any art-form, is about invoking a response – be it applause, anger or apathy. The measures of these reactions depend largely on the technicality, aesthetic and the underlying shrewdness (or the inherent pompousness) of the filmmaker. A motion picture is perhaps the most vocal means of communication – and with that come’s the question of morality. In the short run, endorsing indiscretion on wide-released ‘mainstream’ movies gives young, uncultured minds the wrong food for thought.

“Shuddh Desi Romance” is Mr. Sharma’s third venture after the near-brilliant “Band Baaja Baaraat” and the so-so “Ladies Love Ricky Behl”, and it builds on the strengths – and the misplaced tag of ‘boldness’ – of this new-age. The so-called ‘bold’ here translates into: comfort of unbinding live-in relationships, abandonment of adult advice, and the inherent naiveté of 2o-somethings.

“Romance” is metropolitan-city, multiplex fodder, and it is very much intentionally made on these skewered ground realties so openly endorsed by new-Bollywood. There is a new advertisement of a car on the idiot box, where a granny is shocked when the recently moved-in young woman answers that she is in a live-in relationship; the advert tells us that the car is for ‘bold’ people. While I cannot vouch for the intelligence of the people in the advertisement (their boldness being a different argument), the young leads running the show in “Romance” are both juvenile and imprudent.

Raghu is a tourist guide-cum-part-time baraati (wedding guest) for hire for Goyal (Rishi Kapoor, passable) a low-cost wedding planner; I doubt Raghu makes a decent living from either of his professions. Gayatri, as far as I guessed, also doubles as a part-time baraati, though her level of confidence – and Ms. Chopra’s performance of her budding internal conflict – is slightly more mature than Raghu’s.

So it comes as mildly confusing when both Raghu and Gayatri rely on outdoor lavatories as escape routes for pre-marital jitters (this also becomes a mildly amusing running joke). The reason of them getting cold-feet moments before tying the knot isn’t ever justified. There is a small, one-dimensional weightless argument by the climax on their reasoning but it doesn’t really help them, or the movie’s own sense of fulfillment.

At one point early in the picture, the two blatantly lie to the neighborhood people that they are brothers and sisters – which no one buys. This brings my argument about morality and the sacredness of relationships back full circle. Personally speaking, I would be more accepting to the screwed-up-youth-in-love angle if these characters had either the grit or farsightedness on the implications of adult life – which according to the characters on the screen, is almost laidback and without consequence.

Young love, I can understand (and endorse) easy. Debasement of relationships to avoid public disgrace, amongst other puerilities, is a drastic measure for yours truly.

The first world may disagree (the review in the NYTimes sees the movie’s values from early 1970’s America), but here in South Asia, it’s the orthodox bond of family that count, not the drastic need to escape its ideals.

Directed by Maneesh Sharma; Written by Jaideep Sahni; Produced by Aditya Chopra; Executive Producer Aashish Singh; Cinematography by Manu Anand; Edited by Namrata Rao; Music by Sachin-Jigar; Lyrics by Jaideep Sahni.

Starring: Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra, Vaani Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor.

Released by Yash Raj Films, “Shuddh Desi Romance” is rated ‘U/A’ (Universal/Adults) for drama and mild sexual situations – taking children to the movie isn’t recommended, no matter how broadminded. They might end up taking things too literally.