Kushi Review: This Sweet Love Story About Our Differences Needed More Originality

Shiva Nirvana's Kushi makes you wish it had fully leveraged its potential but you don't completely dismiss it because of its charm and honesty
Kushi Review: This Sweet Love Story About Our Differences Needed More Originality

Writer and Director: Shiva Nirvana

Cast: Vijay Deverakonda, Samantha, Sachin Khedekar, Murali Sharma, Jayaram, Rohini

Duration: 165 minutes

Available in: Theatres

Kushi, like its title, wants to keep the mood pleasant and gleeful. The decision ends up being a double-edged sword. The light-hearted mood ensures that the film is pleasing and easily watchable for the most part, even though large chunks of it are not unique by any means. However, at times, this simplicity comes in the way of the broad concept at its centre, refraining the film from leveraging on its full potential. On the flip side (let me also double up as the devil's advocate here), had the film gone full throttle on the 'science vs faith' argument, I might have complained about the film's indulgence and preachy tone. So, I understand the filmmaker's choice to restrict the argument to the undercurrent, but still, a little more depth would have exalted Kushi from being a simple entertainer to a remarkable mainstream outing.

Generic but breezy

Viplav (Vijay Deverakonda) and Aaradhya (Samantha) come from families with different ideologies. Viplav is the son of Lenin Satyam (Sachin Khedekar), a staunch atheist whose house has Ayn Rand quotes mounted on the wall, whereas Aaradhya is the daughter of Chandarangam Sreenivas Rao (Murali Sharma), a popular Hindu guru. The clash of these two worlds means not only their cultures differ but also their ideologies. We have seen enough inter-caste and inter-faith love stories—Mani Ratnam's Bombay comes to mind instantly and there are enough references to the filmmaker here — but Kushi is more interested in the ideological differences between the families and of course, the couple.

It's a delightful, relevant premise. In fact, the film's interval centered on a common belief or, say, superstition, that a black cat is a bad omen, is a wonderful, funny touch. But to get there, we need to sit through a large chunk of the generic first-act set in Kashmir. Shiva Nirvana tips his hat to Roja, and there's a hilarious pun about the romanticisation of the valley's picturesque geography. This entire stretch, charting the origin of the couple's love story sparked by a lie runs its course pretty soon and feels bloated after a point. It's also during this act we get an unnecessary, terribly set-up, and haphazardly shot bike chase sequence that makes you wonder if filmmakers don't realise that the audience can see through the fakeness of a green matte. But I don't have major complaints because most of the Kashmir sequence is breezy, even if its stretched beyond a limit.

The central conflict needed more depth

Things become interesting and dramatic when the families get involved. It's fascinating how the marriage of Viplav and Aaradhya becomes a tool for their fathers and ideological rivals, to prove each other wrong, unaware that it's the happiness of their children that's at stake. The dynamic shared by Chandarangam and Lenin (even though the characters are caricatures of a specific belief) feels far more interesting than the relationship between Viplav and Aaradhya, because it's original. This is an angle that I wish was explored more. At one point in the film, a tragedy occurs and Aaradhya becomes a 'subject' for these two men to corroborate their ideologies, forgetting that she's a grieving individual. Also, it's weird that this loss feels only like Aaradhya's and not Viplav's too. It becomes hard to understand Viplav after a point because of the inconsistency in writing. The gravity of the situation demanded more depth. What does Aaradhya think about her father's belief? What does Viplav's mother (Saranya Ponvannan), a believer who has been married to an atheist for almost three decades, feel about her husband's stand on their son's marriage?

Viplav's parents are living examples of leading a happy (?) life despite having different belief systems and you wish the film used their super interesting relationship to lend beauty to the idea of co-existence, which the film posits. It feels like a missed opportunity. There's a very 2 States-ish moment towards the end and I was wishing Viplav's mother gets a scene with her husband. Sure, Rohini's confrontation with her conservative family in Ante Sundaraniki comes to mind but Kushi needed one such moment between the elder couple. 

Trades complexity for entertainment

We also get a highly predictable but lovely arc featuring a senior inter-faith couple, Zoya and Thomas, played by Rohini and Jayaram respectively. It's an element that proves why cliches exist for the millionth time: because they work when done well. The bond they share is reminiscent of Ganapathy uncle and Bhavani aunty from Ok Kanmani but they add to the film's lively world. Logically speaking, the placement of the reveal in Zoya-Thomas' arc feels a bit off because it shares a common factor with Aaradhya's tragedy and I was wondering where this couple was when the younger couple could have used their help during a turbulent period.

When the film can spend time on a tasteless comedy scene in a fertility clinic (which is bound to evoke heavy laughter in theatres, without a doubt), why not let Zoya and Aaradhya have a moment in private? This is the depth the film's world lacks. It's all cute on the surface level, like a small, sweet scene featuring Thomas and Aaradhya, where he teaches her how to cook fish curry, but you wish for stronger, heartfelt moments. There's a great scene in which Zoya scolds Viplav for generalising women, but it's also a film in which there's a dance number generalising wives. Kushi is not perfect, but it wants to be honest and is sweet enough to convince you to let go of its flaws, and most of this admiration can be attributed to the presence of its leads, Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha.

Samantha in Kushi
Samantha in Kushi

Murali G and Hesham Abdul Wahab neatly complement Shiva Nirvana in keeping the mood pleasant and cheerful, with pleasing colours. Murali G beautifies even a normal flat, even if you know it's not realistic. Again, when the magic works, logic can rest. Even during its most dramatic moments, Kushi is never melodramatic, making it Shiva Nirvana's most controlled and mellow film yet. And what the film does with its climax is delightful. It's an edgy climax because, like Viplav and Aaradhya, Shiva doesn't take a side and how he deals with it is, once again, incredibly simple but lovely — something that applies to the most part of Kushi.

Watch the Official Trailer of Kushi

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