Shuddh Desi Romance

Directed by: Maneesh Sharma

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

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Marriage is one of those subjects that effortlessly encompasses a universe of its own, with diverse topics like economics and cultural practice jostling for supremacy as discussion fodder whilst in the background somewhere two people commit their lives to one another. Shuddh Desi Romance (SDR) does a rather good job of capturing a slice of this world; on a local level with a nice little rom com between two spirited but likeable characters whilst on a larger scale looking at the unique challenges a supposedly conventional relationship faces and whether the next generation are setting themselves up for a fall in how they are dealing with an inherited mentality that propagates marriage as the be all and end all of life itself.

The only real problem I had with SDR comes in the second half where the screenplay meanders after the break and in the build up to the denouement (a worryingly common trait in all of Sharma’s work so far) so that the viewer feels a little lost. I also felt at times SDR tries to please everyone, playing to the gallery at times, then doubting itself with some hit and miss soul searching (specifically when the characters talk to the audience which mostly works but sometimes flounders). When SDR believes in itself, we have a wonderful and entertaining film on hand that feels fresh, current and fun.

Performance wise, Rajput and Chopra are very good as Raghu and Gayatri, exuding a newness and sense of ease that makes their characters feel real and most importantly likeable. I liked how Rajput managed to play all aspects of Raghu sympathetically whilst Chopra is uninhibited and really does work hard to make Gayatri stand out as the lynchpin of the film. Rishi Kapoor naturally steals every scene he is in – though his character doesn’t have as much purpose as I liked, Rishi’s turn more than overshadows this shortcoming. Vaani is perfunctory in her debut role but doesn’t have much to do.

SDR reminded me a lot of Band Baaja Baaraat which has a lot of similarities with this film (same director, similar subject, same production house) but this is no bad thing – both films feel fresh, relevant and provide a subtle reflection on modern relationships in India. I liked how SDR  provided balanced commentary by taking potshots at hypocrisy and challenging cultural norms but at the same time, suggests that the old school of thought is not to be dismissed entirely. I enjoyed SDR and look forward to a repeat viewing as this looks certain to enter the canon of new films that act as a milestone for a certain generation. Recommended, if only to see where you stand on the debate of what makes a good shuddh desi romance!

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