Director: Abhishek Sharma
Writers: Shariq Patel, Shokhi Banerjee
Cast: Diljit Dosanjh, Manoj Bajpayee, Fatima Sana Shaikh
When American critic Gene Siskel disliked a film, the question he asked was: Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch together? Over the years, I’ve applied the Gene Siskel test to many movies and I’m afraid Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari doesn’t pass. I’m certain that it would be more interesting to watch Manoj Bajpayee, Diljit Dosanjh, Annu Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Seema and Manoj Pahwa, Supriya Pilgaonkar and Fatima Sana Shaikh dine together than it is to see this film.
I went in with enthusiasm. I can get behind any film which begins with Diljit looking into the camera and saying, ‘Hi Peoples.’ He plays Suraj, a 28-year-old desperate to get married. The actor works like an energizing shot of goofy charm and adrenaline. You have no option but to smile. His signature Punjabi liveliness contrasts nicely with Manoj, who mines his tightly-wound intensity for laughs. Manoj plays Madhu Mangal Rane, a private detective who specializes in investigating prospective grooms. He is a master of disguise on a mission to ensure that no woman settles for a substandard spouse. Mangal wrecks one of Suraj’s rishtas. So Suraj decides to take revenge by romancing Mangal’s sister Tulsi, who has some secrets of her own. It’s a set-up with potential but director Abhishek Sharma, who earlier made Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive and The Zoya Factor, botches it up. Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari saddles its solid cast with lame jokes, inane plot twists and dull storytelling.
The film is set in the 90s but it also feels like it was made then. It’s almost as if conversations about sexism or mental health totally eluded the writing team of Shokhi Banerjee and Rohan Shankar. So OCD, which can be debilitating to live with, is fodder for comedy. We are supposed to find a character who compulsively straightens chairs and cutlery, funny. In the battle of wills between Suraj and Mangal, the women become instruments of revenge. The dialogue will make you cringe. In one scene, a character is revealing to another that his wife is having an affair. He says: Gaaye aapki hai aur ghee koi aur khaa raha hai. And the unkindest cut – both Supriya and Manoj are in their early 50s but she is playing his mother. It’s ridiculous.
Manoj and Diljit have talent to burn and they infuse some fun into the threadbare material. In an early scene, Manoj is disguised as a Maharashtrian woman, with a nauvari sari and nose ring – his coquettish mannerisms are wonderfully over-the-top. We are told that Mangal was an actor in his youth. Another character describes him as ‘Punar janam ka frustrated actor aur woh bhi overacting karta rehta hai.’ Mangal is now fulfilling his acting dreams but as a detective – it’s a clever idea, which gets buried. Diljit gets a few fun dialogues – Suraj doesn’t speak English very well. At one point, he says, “I talk ghanta in English,’ meaning that he can talk for hours in English. But that’s about as good as the film gets.
Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari also features a DDLJ-style chase at the train station. I’m as big a lover of that film as the next person but can I make a request to directors to let it go?
I’m not sure why the story was set in the 90s. Apart from bringing back pagers, Abhishek doesn’t exploit the time period much. Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari also features a DDLJ-style chase at the train station. I’m as big a lover of that film as the next person but can I make a request to directors to let it go? It’s been twenty-five years. Even as comedy, it doesn’t work anymore.
The good news is that Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari has released in select theaters. If you decide to go, please wear a mask and stay safe. Happy Diwali!