Gujju patakas, dandiya scenes, a subtle admission that no one can beat Falguni Pathak when it comes to garba soundtracks, and public service announcements about how no means no — there’s a lot going on in Satyaprem ki Katha. It seems like director Sameer Vidwans and writer Karan Shrikant Sharma want to use the Bollywood star vehicle to teach audiences how to be good allies to survivors of sexual abuse.
While making stupid jokes and relying on tired clichés, their film wants to nudge people towards being more open-minded. It hopes to earn brownie points for having packaged its moral lectures in Kartik Aaryan’s toothy grins and plunging-V necklines.
Satyaprem Ki Katha’s fatal flaw isn’t in its tone-deaf and awkward moments, but in the lack of chemistry between Sattu and Katha. A love story — particularly one that will unfold against a slowly-revealed backdrop of trauma — has to sweep both those in the story as well as those watching, off their feet.
The script’s decision to treat foreplay as a trigger for traumatic memories does little to help Satyaprem Ki Katha live up to its claims of being a love story. It’s for armchair shrinks to hypothesise about the subtext shimmering under the film’s decision to show sex and desire as something that destroys people, rather than being restorative (or even fun).
The film ends with a slide of text about rape statistics in India, with a pointed reminder that most often, the rapists are people victims or survivors know intimately well. The text expressly mentions many husbands are guilty of rape. Considering our courts’ unwillingness to accept marital rape as a reality, Vidwans and Sharma’s clear-sighted statement is applause-worthy.