Believe it or not, there is no other writer in the industry who is more surgically detailed and so stunningly engaging than Sahni. He is an institution in himself and it would be a treat for anyone to read his scripts, given a chance. Artistry and technique make up compelling cinema, but nothing can replace a sprawling assiduously written screenplay which inevitably, and jaw-droppingly, lays out every little-est thing you are supposed to shoot as a director. Long immersing conversations, disturbingly real grasp on the pulse of his characters originating from real life and a delightful take on a concept via his observations – Jaideep Sahni proves it once again that he may take his time, but his fictive escapades dont reek of blubbery froth or campy shlock.
Screw you everyone who did not watch Rocket Singh : Salesman Of The Year or Khosla Ka Ghosla, delectably penned by Sahni’s genius.
SDR was equipped to haul the audience into its odd space from the first promo itself making all of us rife with anticipation. The songs worked big time and the promotional campaign was fresher than the smell of first rains. The cast was unanimously intoning a win in their kitty. But being a virgin territory for Sahni, SDR raised some doubts in one’s head. Dispelling the doubts, he fillips the correct note with this one which is almost an anti-thesis of most products from Yash Raj Films. Too much bravado!
Now, Maneesh Sharma. The man who gave us Band Baaja Baraat. How could he go wrong? But then he did with Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, a film trying too hard to cash in on the impish success of the former. With Shuddh Desi Romance, he makes a surreal comeback into his native space, ably riding on Sahni’s back. It is not a glitch free film, let me affirm that at the onset, but more on that later. But is a ballsy take on the fakeness that has seeped into the institution of marriage and established cultural morality in Indian society. It is a shocker for the typical movie going audience of India who hold their derived morals close to their heart, but it is smartly handled under the garb of a black comedy by Sharma. I am not campaigning for SDR under the pretext that it overthrows the established systems of marriage and love, but because it scores in many parts. When was the last time you saw a montage consisting of non-humans enacting out the lyrics of a song? The title sequence has monkeys and pigeons doing what the lyrics are talking. So much for setting up the milieu. When was the last time you were not taken around a city without the camera acting like the eyes of a tourist guide? The city of Jaipur is a part of the script so much that you dont feel that the characters belonged elsewhere. Moreover, Sharma drains SDR of every drop of melodrama, in the most susceptible plot points as well. No sad songs, no remorse, no guilt for non-committal people or indecisive characters. Some sequences are repeated with stunning nuance highlighting the dynamics of the situations with so much ease. Lastly, when was the last time you saw a dialogue heavy film that kept it constantly engaging? Yes, we have all of this here.
As astute as it may have wanted to be, Shuddh Desi Romance does run out of steam in the last 30-40 minutes when there seems to be a dearth of fresh ideas in the plot. The lines are still terrific, but there is not much meat to accompany them. Love is confusing and demanding, but it may get a bit too much in a film as the characters take too long to drive home the point that some of us out there may just not be made for marriages. Randomness may add to the real nature of the proceedings but it does rob the film of a masterstroke impact in the final act. Yet, there is much to like here. No societal drama, no inhibitions, no cliches and no campy notions.
Yash Raj Films is largely responsible for breeding the idea of love as it exists in millions of Indians around the world. Yet, SDR is a welcome departure from their own school and they have been much sport about it. Some brilliant editing by Namrata Rao does not let the film slip even when the story skids. Notoriously fresh score by Sachin Jigar adds immense flavor to the film without the songs being a hindrance ever with Gulabi being the pick of the lot. Abid T.P. and Rashmi Sethi (Production Design and Art Direction). The water cooler, the chai, the gulab jamun. Sigh! Varsha Shilpa’s Costume Design is pitch perfect with all those shirts which only people from Rajasthan would wear. But the real finesse was achieved by Sahni who is responsible for all the writing bits, including the lyrics.
And now Shanoo Sharma’s (Casting Director) pack of actors. Sushant Singh Rajput plays Raghu, an indecisive lover who compulsively falls in love faster than the blink of an eye. Rajput, riding high on this year’s earlier release Kai Po Che, only grows as an actor. He obliterates the bar of the guy next door and is seamlessly adorable. Vaani Kapoor proves yet again that YRF scouts some great talent from the thousands of actors out there. What a find! As Tara, she lends the right candor and vulnerability to the character, apart from being the more reasonable part of the trio. But it is the indefatigable and frivolous Gayatri of Parineeti Chopra that is the soul of the film. Much alinged with her shtick in previous films, Chopra still manages to inject innovation and deliver some striking work, possibly her best yet. Rishi Kapoor is on a roll coming out with a movie every other month, all with such diverse characters. As Goel Saab, he is funny as hell and provides the contrasting philosophy in the film.
Shuddh Desi Romance is a motif-laden dark and funny take on our society. A good comeback by Maneesh Sharma, it also establishes Sahni as undisputed king of penning a film via dialogue. It may suffer from a few hiccups in its second half but does not get derivative even then, and to top it all, it is thoroughly hilarious. What else do you want to escape, all ye massy audience? A lot of people are getting annoyed with the lack of decision of its characters, from what I hear, and they are attributing it to the lack of a ‘story’. So much hypocrisy there when we are like that in our real lives. But no, we love to see a Satyagraha that preaches us all about the development of our country but never implements it. On the contrary, here is a little film questioning your morality itself and has a lot of fun while doing it. Give it a try, this is the new cinema we should want to see and promote as it perfects itself. An extra half star for the super dialogues here!
Rating – 3.5/5