Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya Review: Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon Add Gloss to a Clueless Romance

It’s ‘Animal’, but with an engineering degree and a robot.
Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya Review: Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon Add Gloss to a Clueless Romance
Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya Review: Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon Add Gloss to a Clueless Romance

Directors: Amit Joshi, Aradhana Sah
Writers: Amit Joshi, Aradhana Sah
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Dimple Kapadia, Dharmendra, Ashish Verma

You know how some movies are so confidently daft that you keep looking for the catch? You first think: “No, it can’t be”. Then you think: “Its stupidity must surely be part of a larger plan of self-awareness or smartness”. Then you think: “Any moment now, it’s going to call our bluff”. Then you think: “Wait, where’s the moment?” Then you think: “Okay, maybe it’s not coming”. Then you think: “Wow, there is no larger plan”. Then you think: “Are you kidding me?” Then you stop thinking. It’s a very specific journey of befuddlement and false hope. Last year, Bawaal and its doomed marital metaphors offered a one-way ticket on this journey. This year, it’s Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya (TBMAUJ)and its blissfully oblivious reading of modern romance. The mind games are precise – except the film has no idea it’s playing mind games. 

Watching TBMAUJ is like watching an ambidextrous artist paint a planet – it has the colour, complexity and depth of Jupiter – only for him to call it a rotten egg instead. Allow me to elaborate. For most part, the story appears to unfold as a self-reflexive critique of Kabir Singh-style love stories. Everything points towards the commentary of confessional cinema: Think Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani (2023), but for toxic masculinity. The actor, for one, is Shahid Kapoor. He plays Aryan, a hunky programmer with a penchant for smoking and bachelorhood. In one of his first scenes, he even drives away a new housemaid. When Aryan visits his America-based aunt (Dimple Kapadia) – also the CEO of the robotics company he works for – he meets his aunt’s attractive caretaker, Sifra (Kriti Sanon). Of course he doesn’t know she’s a robot in her final testing stage. Who can blame him? He probably likes action stars less expressive than her. Aryan then falls hard for Sifra; they even have sex after a day of flirting-galavanting. 

Kriti Sanon and Shahid Kapoor in Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya
Kriti Sanon and Shahid Kapoor in Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya

For the Love of Mansplaining  

At this point, it’s natural to look for lofty subtext. Maybe it’s a swipe at the ‘algorithmic language of new-age emotions’. Maybe it’s a play on love as a form of programming (or conditioning)? More likely, though, maybe it’s a swipe at the inherent patriarchy and power dynamics of love. Aryan is head over heels because Sifra is the primal male fantasy: Subservient, infantile, attentive, curious, sheltered. She cooks, cleans, serves, smiles and asks him innocent questions (a humanoid version of, say, Ameesha Patel’s character in Aap Mujhe Acche Lagne Lage (2002)) – he teaches her Hindi slang, smoking, kissing, dancing. It’s peak mansplaining. 

That’s all it takes: No personality is the best personality. When Aryan discovers Sifra is a robot, he is informed that she analyzes expressions and only responds the way a man wants her to. A sci-fi take on consent, perhaps? When her trickery for eating food is revealed – a baby tomato she swallows is ejected on a metal plate from her stomach – Aryan eats this cherry-like veggie with a grin. A cheeky virginity pun?  

But the enduring horror of this film is that it never gets its own memo. It consistently fails to read the room. You assume it’s being snarky but it’s actually being…sober. Apparently, Aryan’s love for Sifra is perfectly acceptable. This is no indictment of Kabir Singh, this is Kabir Singh. Worse, the movie thinks it’s a Bollywood avatar of Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) – a profound connection between a man and a machine. There are a million more opportunities for TBMAUJ to be a planet instead of an egg. The second half, for instance, revolves around Sifra (Super Intelligent Female Robot Automation) meeting Aryan’s unsuspecting family in Mumbai. Rather than satirizing her lack of agency in the man’s house, however, the film chooses adolescent humour: A doctor finding no pulse on her, a software update wiping out her memory, a charging problem, a nosy neighbour coming on to her as if she’s a sex doll. 

Shahid Kapoor in Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya
Shahid Kapoor in Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya

The Sputter of Star Power

The writing finds nothing abnormal about Sifra impressing his elders with chores, cooking, coyness, knowledge about traditions, and obedience. Aryan’s alibis for her passing strangeness range from ‘American’ and ‘orphan’ to ‘mental patient’. The movie insists that it’s about the defiant feelings and conviction of Aryan (His future memoir is destined to be titled: The Robot Who Shagged Me). Every time you expect the screenplay to hold Aryan accountable for being a creepy guy with a fetish for compliant and mechanical soulmates, it turns him into a tortured hero. It refuses to recognise its own metaphor about an entitled Indian man treating his partner like an artificial being. I could swear he even says, “Be gentle, she’s like a little girl learning about the world” in an attempt to sound caring. “I’m your admin” is a close second. It’d be funny if it weren’t so serious. 

In terms of performances, Sanon is befittingly robotic – and I don’t mean this in a snide way. She was given a raw deal as the original wolf in Bhediya (2022), so this feels more like it. The irony is that her meaty role here is a rawer deal, because it’s at odds with the tone-deafness of the film. Kapoor is glitchy as Aryan; he plays an unlikable man that the film misinterprets as likable. It’s the sort of extravagant turn better suited for Varun Dhawan (in which case the film would be called “Yediya”). 

At some point towards the end, though, TBMAUJ dares you to dream. There are bizarre shades of Kapoor’s past turns in Padmaavat (2018) and Kabir Singh (2019). A ‘malfunction’ occurs, and the lingering subtext of rebellion and feminism starts to emerge. Sifra is done being a Yes girl. All hell breaks loose. Every unpredictable scene builds towards a message. That’s when you think: “Finally, there’s still time to subvert the whole thing”. You think: “Here we go, it’s happening”. You think: “A last-ball six, it’s there for the taking!”. Then the film stops thinking. The credits – and several eyes – roll. The catch is that there was no catch.

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