Director: Luv Ranjan
Cast: Kartik Aaryan, Sunny Singh, Nushrat Bharucha, Alok Nath, Virendra Saxena, Ishita Raj
In one scene in Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, four men are sitting together, dipping their feet into the pool and knocking back the whiskey. They are chatting about marriage, women and relationships. One of them exclaims: uparwale ne acchi ladki banana hi band kar diya.
I have no idea what director, writer and co-producer Luv Ranjan's definition of acchi ladki is. But none of the women in this film – at least the younger ones – are deemed worthy of the descriptor. Instead they are positioned as manipulative shrews or hard-drinking airheads willing to do anything to snag a man. Their desperate desire to marry breaks the bro-code between besties Sonu and Titu. The two chaddi buddies aren't lovers – this film isn't brave enough to consider that – but they are emotional soul mates. They even get a song of loss and longing – Tera Yaar Hoon Main. Meanwhile the women get to shake their rear ends in a club number – Bom Diggy Diggy Bom Bom.
Misogyny runs deep through the film. Ranjan has had great success chronicling men struggling with women and relationships. You will recall the 5-minute rant against women in the first Pyar Ka Punchnama. The monologue included lines like, "A happy woman is a myth" and "Any discussion with a woman is an argument." Here he goes a step further – the entire film is about a friend trying to break up his best friend's marriage because he believes that the woman his friend is marrying is a fraud. Sonu has no proof that Sweety is problematic. He says, it's just a feeling. She is, in his words, too good to be true.
What does "too good to be true" mean? Sweety works in a children's NGO but doesn't aspire to a career. She is deeply respectful of the elders in the house. She wants to do a mata ka jagrata in her new home even before marriage. She also cooks wholesome vegetarian food and even turns Titu's family vegetarian. Not a role model in my mind but she is the Bollywood stereotype of a good Indian bhau. And yet Sonu is not convinced. He is sure that she is hiding something and therefore he proceeds to wage war on her.
Ranjan has a flair for comedy. Some of his characters, like Alok Nath and Virendra Saxena playing aging friends, have a few genuinely funny moments. Bollywood's custodian of sanskar, Alok Nath gets to swear and drink and even hang out in a nightclub. There are also some nicely written lines. But the laughs can't compensate for the lack of logic, which only gets worse in the second half. There is a random bachelor party in Amsterdam. Meanwhile Sonu and Sweety are locked in a never-ending game of one-upmanship – they constantly try to outsmart each other and keep walking away from each other in slow motion. But Sweety doesn't actually do anything damaging – it's almost as if Ranjan decided she is awful and his intent as the creator is enough. We don't need to see any evidence. Too many cuss words are bleeped out and the deafening background score underlines every action just in case we miss the point.
The actors – Kartik Aaryan, Sunny Singh and Nushrat Bharucha – try to make this juvenile bromance versus romance drama convincing. Nushrat is saddled with an underwritten character. Kartik works hard to make Sonu likeable but it's an uphill climb. Sunny is the best among the three – he has an easy, unassuming presence. I just wish his character had more spine.
In once scene, Sweety tells Sonu that dosti aur ladki mein hamesha ladki jeetti hai. But in the Luv Ranjan's universe, women don't stand a chance.
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