Saturday, April 26, 2014

Watched: 2 States

from yentha.com
Is there anything else as commonplace in India as the old 'I love her/him but our families object' scenario? Certainly we would all be wealthy if we had a rupee for every time we've heard it. And clever author Chetan Bhagat has certainly made a pretty penny out of this same old scenario first in his book and then here. To be fair, it is somewhat based on his own love story, so no intention to dismiss that out of hand here. It's just that for me, the film simply felt like a bottle of flat soda. 

The main characters are a Punjabi boy and a Tamilian girl- Krish and Ananya-  played by star kids Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, who fall in love while in college and then come up against the opposition of both their families when they start planning to get married. And that's it. (The narrative is inexplicably told by Krish in what appears to be a psychiatrist's office, which device absolutely no one could explain.)

The Punjabi family consists of Amrita Singh and a (again inexplicable) bad-tempered Ronit Roy. The Tamilian family is Revathy and one unknown gent who was probably the most subtle and effective character, and a younger brother. But what were the great objections to the young couple getting hitched? It was simply the fear of the 'other' that prevails in 'traditional' families all over the world, I suppose. What would have got my attention would have been a somewhat in-depth exploration of these prejudices and judgments, rather than simply using them as cute plot devices and situations. 

In any event, Ananya breaks up with Krish when the two families go on the warpath once too often. Krish gets morose, then the bad-tempered father has a change of heart and smooths things over (literally, overnight) and all ends well. 

Sigh. The Punjabi mother is funny, I suppose. The snide comments in Tamil are also amusing. But really, what unsettled me was the superficiality of it all. The couple didn't even have great chemistry for me and even though their physical intimacy was rather frankly and un-apologetically shown, there was no sense of real intimacy between them. 

Arjun Kapoor did not impress me. Alia Bhatt however is blessed with a certain elfin charm and breezes through her scenes with sweetness (nice dimples!) and radiance. Since her character, like the others, wasn't particularly fleshed out, these qualities made hers somewhat effective like that of her father's. Even in the ludicrous Punjabi wedding scene where she gives the groom a dressing down in public (like I said, ludicrous) she manages to escape the inanity of her surroundings. 

And so I have it. No great expectations were set, and consequently no one was disappointed. I'll just carry on waiting for someone else to tell a better-crafted story of what can be a deeply touching and nuanced exploration of something that is universal yet also uniquely "Indian."
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