Directors: Gurmeet Saajan, Manjeet Singh Tony
Cast: Harjit Harman, Japji Khaira, Gurmeet Saajan, Nirmal Rishi, Anita Chaudhary, Hobby Dhaliwal
The rise of Punjabi singers has catapulted the Punjabi film industry into a fixed template based success story. Harjit Harman plays the hero with an unchallenged right to silently stalk Japji Khaira, the heroine, till she falls in love with him. The template caters to flatter Harman, who had the greatest Punjabi music hits in the early 2000s. When a slew of Punjabi singers started to look for success as actors, a few could emulate the success Diljit Dosanjh had. What Diljit left behind is a legacy for the singers, old and new alike, to basically start out in non-issue, vanity-project movies. For Harman, it has to be with as little dialogue as possible.
The story is predictable as the title gives too much away too soon. Kurmaiyan means engagement before marriage, and in Indian context the engagement also involves the two families. There is point A, which is Harman and Khaira falling in love, and point B, their marriage. Now the idea of the template is to traverse the longest possible path from A to B. There are hardly any unpredictable twists. What is entertaining is the clash between the character of Nirmal Rishi, Ambau Jai Kaur (mother-in-law of Khaira’s sister) and Anita Devgan who plays Dhan Kaur (Harman’s paternal aunt).
There is point A, which is Harman and Khaira falling in love, and point B, their marriage. Now the idea of the template is to traverse the longest possible path from A to B.
Khaira’s character is devoid of any will or power, and to compensate for that Ambau and Dhan Kaur are two hard-willed and muscle-flexing women who are pitched against each other to become the village sarpanch. They are eccentric, scheming, shrewd and highly dramatic. They exert an authority not just on their husbands or families but also on the people within their circumference. They are the wit and charm of the movie, more than the dancing and dolled-up Khaira in the lush fields.
The template allows triviality to thrive. Nothing unexpected is going to happen. The characters are either mocking or mocked. They are simple, plain and two-dimensional. They don’t do any work. Harman’s father, master Joginder Singh Joga played by Gurmeet Saajan (also one of the directors of the movie) never goes to or comes back from any school. His punch line is “Jat is a man of words and his moustache is twisted-up”.
Nostalgia is central to the success of the template. The absence of cell phones, luxury cars, and NRI characters in itself is romantic. The year is 1995, the year of Beant Singh’s assassination, then Chief Minister of Punjab. Although it was a changeover time with the dying Khalistan Movement, people in the villages were still fearful. Terrorism and terrorists were a part of their daily conversation. These conversations are missing even from the narrative of the Punjabi sath (a place where people play board games and discuss politics) shown in the movie. To fit into the template, the story must be blind to the harsh realities and issues of the past.
Kurmaiyan rests on Harman’s popularity as a singer. His songs in the movie are worth a listen. Rishi and Devgan shoulder the overall entertainment responsibility as they have been doing for other movies too. Overall, Kurmaiyan is a recycled version of other similar movies in the past.