Director: Laxman Utekar
There is nothing lazier in Hindi cinema these days than the social message comedy. Maybe the social message drama, but that’s a crisis for another day. The problem lies in how most of today’s filmmakers perceive the “comedy” part. Those of yore devised the sociopolitical satire, some used the behavioral comedy-of-errors trope, some the sanitized situational comedy and others as recent as Stree even blended horror into the genre. In short, there has to be a voice attached to the generic comedy – like a famous star attached to an average project, or a cable add-on pack piggybacking the primary package – in order to sell the social message.
Luka Chuppi is supremely unimaginative on these accounts; it believes that the success of Kartik Aaryan and the dimples of Kriti Sanon are legitimate add-on genres. Except Aaryan, who I still maintain is the human equivalent of a Twitter rant, is painfully one-note as the harried/henpecked chocolate boy, while Sanon is impressively unremarkable. It starts out by trying to be the quintessential small-town comedy: motormouth hero, “firebrand” heroine and two families full of assorted caricatures. Even the names Guddu Shukla and Rashmi Trivedi sound formulaic. But its social message is so dated that it’s almost cute. The tired film cries itself hoarse about “live-in relationships” two decades too late.
Boy and girl decide to shack together after brief romance, homicidal family discovers, couple fakes marriage while secretly trying to put a real ring on it. Sure, it might be catering to a second-tier India (based in Mathura), but there is no excuse for insipid writing. Most disturbingly, for a comedy with no outer peg, the characters are unfunny. I attribute to them the term ‘regressively woke,’ in the sense that they are clearly designed by a bunch of overzealous males desperate to mount the sermon bandwagon.
You have the token Muslim best friend, the dastardly politician doubling up as the girl’s father, the dodgy orange-pant-sporting bachelor uncle (Oh, Pankaj Tripathi) out to sabotage the hero, the horridly loud neighbour aunty out to expose the unwedded blasphemy of the live-in couple, a background score that is more suited to a defunct Worli discotheque or a dancing circus monkey than the “relevance” of the theme…and so on and so third. Other than the running joke of a #ForeverAlone brother, the film literally wages war on the concept of comic timing. Guddu and Rashmi in fact spend the entire second half trying to get married – an extended premise so birdbrained that some scenes seem to just give up midway.
I dozed off during one of the “hysterical” situations involving a temple and a beard (don’t ask), and woke up only to realize that everyone in the frame was still…speaking. Monsieur Aaryan was quiet, bruised, stunned, hands on head, oblivious to the noisy characters around him. At this point he looked like the existential protagonist of a social message drama about an abusive marriage between film critics and their rants about cash-grabbing comedies. That would explain the beard. And the tattered clothes.