Luka Chuppi Movie Review: A youth-centric entertainer, this film deserves to be watched by all

Live in relationships CAN culminate in marriage. But what if marriage leads back to living in?

Director: Laxman Utekar

Cast: Kartik Aaryan, Kriti Sanon, Aparshakti Khurana, Alka Amin, Atul Srivastava, Pankaj Tripathi, Vinay Pathak

Image Source: Google

Whoever knew, that come January, 2019 would soon turn into the year when lines between politics and entertainment would blur to reveal the zeitgeist of what truly drives India- desh bhakti, the lampooning of subjective desh droh – especially the kind that is accompanied by having an opinion and an honest criticism of the government, and of course, the ultra-predictable sanskaar.

So if Uri made your chest swell with nationalist pride, and The Accidental Prime Minister woke you up to the horrors of a largely silent ex-Prime Minister suffering under the thumb of dynasty politics, there’s Battalion 909 and Vivek Oberoi-led PM Narendra Modi later this year to help buff up these nationalist sentiments. I am not against beaming from ear-to-ear when it comes to saluting our armed forces for their exemplary courage and unparalleled sacrifices, but to bite into electoral fodder every other Friday is hardly my idea of entertainment. Thankfully, we are still breathing democracy, and have the chance to lap up some engaging, visual stories of what nationalism could look like. director Laxman Utekar’s Luka Chuppi falls bang in the middle of this nationalism train (actually, anti-nationalism), and delivers a hard-hitting message, albeit, softly and humorously, averting a wreckage imminent in such scenarios.

The Plot

Luka Chuppi revolves around the bane of young Indians hankering for sexual agency and privacy – when confronted with self-appointed moral guardians lurking at every corner, all prepared to disgrace them, should they sidestep bharatiya sanskriti. This pack of crazy fundamentalists consists of members of the honourable Sanskriti Raksha Manch (cough cough) – an organization responsible for keeping uncultured, anti-national youth in check. At the start of the movie, the poster boy of anti-national, unsanskritik behavior happens to be actor Nazim Khan (Abhinav Shukla) who faces probing questions posed by the media for being in a live-in relationship. Elsewhere, in Mathura, ordinary hapless couples end up facing the ire of the Raksha Manch so they do not even dare think of innocent romance, let alone dream of living in.

Soon enough, the tentacles of moral policing cloud the town before being seized by a local news channel for the usual journalistic minting.  This is where we meet Guddu Shukla (Kartik Aaryan), a star reporter of the said news channel, who is entrusted with an exciting new project: interviewing local people to hear their thoughts about live-in relationships. His friend and the channel’s cameraman Abbas (Aparshakti Khurana) is to join him on this mission. However, before the duo can set off decoding the locals’ views on live-in relationships, in walks Delhi-returned journalism graduate Rashmi Trivedi with her father, seeking to intern at the news studio before hitting the job market.

As the trio set about interviewing sadhus, old women and touchy nationalist men on the streets, Guddu and Rashmi steal a few moments to make eyes at each other, engage in banter – quickly falling in love. Guddu, being the small town man he is, makes the leap by proposing marriage. Except, Rashmi isn’t impressed and wants to try out living in with him first before the much-dreaded saat pheras. Guddu reluctantly consents to it; there’s only one little glitch in this arrangement: Rashmi is Vishnu Trivedi’s daughter, the leader of the Raksha Manch aka the vulture pack prowling around the city and hunting for their next victim.  

Left with no option, Abbas, the loyal wingman suggests they try out this arrangement in Gwalior, away from the prying eyes of their families, in the guise of working on a journalism assignment. The deal is sealed and the two head off on a month’s adventure, basking in the throes of a new romance. There is sex, there is humour, there are talks of dividing household chores between the two as well as plenty of theatrics involving sindoor, mangalsutra and fake tacky wedding pictures to fool the neighbours. In short, it is a jolly good ride until they are caught snuggling by Babulal (Pankaj Tripathi), Guddu’s relative.

In less than 24 hours, they’re jerked wide awake from planning romantic destination weddings to playing “husband and wife” for their families, over and over and over.

What transpires from living in before marriage to still “living in” in a full-fledged marital setup is what forms the spine of Luka Chuppi.

Execution

From the word go, Luka Chuppi succeeds in drilling into your head the perils of indulging in young romance in a country like India. Be it the Sanskriti Raksha Manch’s hooligan-like antics in the beginning, Guddu and Rashmi’s sneaky live-in romance against the backdrop of the culture police or their desperation to living in like a sanskaari married couple, the urgency in these critical moments is palpable.

Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Sanon and perfectly cast for their respective roles, and fit in easily into their characters. While the chemistry between the two is hardly crackling, the duo is easy on the eyes and manages to draw genuine curiosity, sympathy and laughs from the audience. Thankfully, Kartik does not have yet another lengthy monologue as was the case in Pyaar ke Punchnama (which actually set off this bizarre trend) and Sonu Ke Titu ki Sweety, or dish out sexist dialogues in favour of bromance as was the norm in both these movies.

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The film’s humour is the situational kind that you may have come to love if you’ve ever watched cult picks like Hera Pheri, Hungama, Hulchul and others of this genre. That said, it’s only in the second half when Luka Chuppi actually feels like a comedy of errors and tickles your funny bones, hard. A large supporting cast is intricately involved in the romance and boasts of weirdos such as Guddu’s much-older, single brother who feels betrayed much by the younger brother’s secret marriage and is merely a brink away from falling into irreversible depression.

Others in the cast include the top of the crop like Atul Srivastava (who plays the stumped father yet again mentoring his supposedly libidinous son on sanskaar) and Alka Amin (yet again the indulgent mother). Vinay Pathak plays the leader of the Raksha Manch and Rashmi’s father, his sole aim being to crack the election using the religious and cultural card. While earnest and at times even funny, Pathak’s role seems to have been written in a lopsided fashion – almost as if the writers could not make up their mind as to how they wished to paint him. On the other hand, Aparshakti Khurana, who seems to have undoubtedly mastered being the hero’s sidekick, plays it down for the film, securing a neat place as one of the highlights of the movie.

It is, however, Tripathi, dunked generously in broad strokes of a small-town stereotypical Romeo – donning shocking red trousers and a mismatched shirt – I had the most expectations from, which, I’m glad to say were largely met. Given the blatant typecasting, it is obvious the makers intended to write Tripathi’s character purely as a comic relief; nevertheless, it is to the award-winning actor’s credit that he prevents Babulal from slipping into that homogenous box and instead turns it into a key link in the chain of events in Luka Chuppi.

Winning Moments

In a film about sanskaar (or the lack thereof), what else can make an audience sit up and take notice than the words of a saffron-clad sadhu endorsing live-in relationships by alluding to the ancient yet controversial tale of love between Radha-Krishna! Then there is swag with which Abbas handles dad Trivedi’s tacit disapproval of his religion, and by that token, his existence. The cherry on the cake, however, sits pretty in the implied accusation that well, the Raksha Manch has little to do with dharm, and more to do with chunaavi mudda.  I kid you not, at this point, I was sitting with the stupidest grin on my face.

But you know what truly hits home with the film? Its rather straightforward, simple approach to young romance and the perils thereof, in a divided nation like India.

What else does the film score on?

The music. The movie is peppered with just the right number of songs to temper the slightly long-ish runtime and the occasional repetitive humour. Barring Poster Lagwa Do (sung by Nikita Gandhi), the remaining are generously infused with Punjabi lyrics and are a fun mix of slow romantic to high-on-beat music. My personal favourite is Tu Laung Main Elaaichi (Tulsi Kumar), a remake of 2018’s massive hit wedding song that, in Luka Chuppi, incidentally turns things around for the duo. In fact, since I watched the movie, I’ve listened to it no less than 20 times!

Yay or Nay?

Luka Chuppi, despite its obvious flaws is earnest, mostly hilarious yet social relevant – without being preachy. Plus, at a time when being political (and expressing condemnation of the powers that be) can get you trolled, fired from your job and everything else you may not have possibly imagined, Luka Chuppi is an act of courage.  That makes it at least a one-time watch, and yay, yay, yay! All the way!

Rating: 3.75/5

Sonu Ke Titu ki Sweety: Sprinkled generously with gender stereotypes, but undeniably funny

No more just men versus women, it’s Bromance versus Romance all the way

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When was the last time you sat down and openly laughed at gender stereotypes playing out in myriad ways on a 70mm screen, along with a bunch of other cackling adults (and teens, and hapless 2 year-olds who had no business being there), without a few pairs of eyebrows shooting up?

With serious projects like this year’s thought-provoking Padman (based on real-life revolutionary Arunachalam Muruganantham credited with generating awareness around female menstrual hygiene, particularly in rural India) – and the politically tainted, violence-inducing Padmaavat – that spoke of a beautiful Rajput queen’s fearless act in the face of savagery, lust and a probable miserable death at the hands of a brutal Muslim ruler – a lot of food for thought has been fed to the audience in the span of a quick two months.

And while I wholeheartedly agree with, and respect each of these premises explored in the aforementioned films, they are hardly viable opportunities for a regular movie-goer to burst out laughing without being judged. Not that we wanted to.

But if you, like me, have been looking to give your over-analytical mind some rest and play silly, Luv Ranjan’s latest flick might just help in loosening up those overworked intellectual muscles. In Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety (indeed, a tacky tongue-twister), you step in knowing what to expect, given the director’s penchant for making laugh riots of a similar nature in the past– in fact, you sort of look forward to leaving all the isms behind and just partaking in a rom-com that is of course ridiculous, and sexist, and audaciously stereotyped in chunks, but makes you chuckle anyway.

Borrowing the familiar shtick first used in Pyaar ka Punchnama to roaring success, and then re-used in Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 to relatively smaller success, Ranjan adopts a mix-and-match of sorts and inverts the popular love triangle on its head in this instalment.

The core elements remain the same – the director takes a laidback route and retains the film’s foundation on the commonly accepted Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus theory while introducing some interesting twists. This time it’s not just men versus women, it’s a battle of the sexes over a man. Yes, you heard that right.

At the helm of the story stands a young, love struck man who falls in love faster than you could blink an eye, a scheming, manipulative woman who does everything right by Sooraj Barjatya’s culture book (jarringly and nauseatingly so) and an equally kameena best friend who would do everything in his power to rescue his buddy from the clutches of this woman – who, by her own admission, is not the “heroine” but the “villain” in the story.

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The film opens with Sonu (Kartik Aaryan) delivering a monologue styled along the lines  he delivered earlier in Pyaar ka Punchnama and that had worked wonders at the time because it was fresh, and funny. Only this time it seemed tiresome already. Thankfully, it is directed at a customer’s tedious demands than his buddies stacked against the sofa like a neat row of pillows, waiting to begin his endless diatribe. Other details follow – we get to know that Sonu runs an event management company and his bachpan-ka-yaar from way back in nursery, Titu (Sunny Singh), takes care of the family halwai business. The duo are your classic, cutesy and sometimes annoying chaddi-buddies, meaning, they’ve been best friends since nursery and continue to be attached to the hip even at the ripe old age of 28.

Titu is the gullible, naïve quintessential romantic who seems to always fall for the wrong woman – it could be anything that threatens Sonu’s sniffer-dog sensibilities. Okay, let’s be fair, the first girlfriend (Ishita Raj Sharma) with her overzealous emphasis on maintaining Tinder privacy was too much to take, but that in no way discounts how badly Sonu wants to press the pause/stop button on Titu’s apparently glowing love life every time it takes a serious turn. Following which, Sonu apparates like a knight in shining armour to ‘rescue’ Titu by effectively leading him to break up with his girlfriend (s) in dramatic ways that could make even 70s’ actress Rakhi cringe. We are given to understand Sonu has had a practiced hand at this sort of thing.

Enter Nushrat Bharucha as Sweety (really, who goes around with a name like that in 2018 for Chrissake!), an educated, susheel, sanskaari, pretty damsel via the arranged-marriage scenario, a cardboard-cut bahu prospective grooms and their families publish ishtehaars for in the seedy-looking matrimony section of the Sunday newspaper. She looks right, says all the right things at the right moment without ever slipping up, and while this is ideally a dream-come-true for a big fat joint family that wants to retain its hold over the potential new member and mould her into the established setting, Sonu suspects this whole easy-breezy vibe around Sweety as too-good-to-be-true.

Thereafter, he swoops in once again and makes it his life’s mission to break Titu and Sweety up before the damage is done. His insecurity over losing his place in Titu’s life and the obvious dents in their friendship adds fuel to fire, stoking his otherwise noble cause. Sweety too, is no wallflower either and has no intentions of relinquishing her control over Titu and his entire family, and openly declares war when Sonu least expects it.

From that point on, it is the launch of one psychological attack after another – with fervent blows raining from both sides – from sex to ex to food to every other trump card in between and beyond.

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An oddly exciting plot, Luv Ranjan optimizes popular male-narratives to the maximum, by brushing the women in strokes of monochromes – mean, manipulative, controlling gold-diggers, while painting the men as blameless bystanders in their own lives. That’s fine, as a director he is catering to the majoritarian viewpoint he knows will draw easy, cheap laughs. But apart from Sweety brazenly admitting she is ‘chalu’ and a ‘villain’ we don’t really see how she really is that wicked, wretched monster out to ruin Titu’s life. Much of what she does is how most women think, and if given a chance and/or possessed of brains like those of our anti-heroine, would do it her way – the Chanakya neeti way.

In the absence of any clear defined reason for the Sweety-hating, thus, the movie – especially in the second half – looks sort of scattered and tangled, leaving you impatient for the battle of the sexes to end asap, saved only by a startling climax. The heap of overbearing, dhinchaak Punjabi music, although enjoyable, seems overwhelming, at times taking you by surprise because frankly, movies these days hardly have enough songs worth tapping your feet to!

Notwithstanding the glaring yet bearable hiccups in the storytelling, the writing is crisp and the comic timing of the actors impeccable, which means you keep laughing through some genuinely smart punches, as well plenty of absurd misogynistic logic casually thrown around. While that might cause some discomfort at times, the biased script is sufficiently powered through with the actors’ (especially Kartik) earnest performances to let you keep feeling that way for too long.

Though Kartik is mostly credited with sincere performances in Ranjan’s movies, his best being Pyaar ka Punchnama, he seems to have a lot more potential simmering underneath, a glimpse of which we would like to see in a genre other than the women-bashing cinematic franchise he has helped build and popularise till date. Given the limited scope in the script, Nushrat Bharucha too pulls off a nuanced performance in a role that could’ve easily been overdone – and makes Sweety relatable than an outright evil witch who must be hated. Ironically, it is Sunny Singh’s Titu that, despite being the crux of this rom-com, has little to do and largely gets overshadowed by the other two, despite consistent attempts.

Keeping aside the lead actors’ performances, and a refreshing supporting cast (with all the members belonging to Titu’s family), it is Alok Nath’s rendition of the perpetually drunk, uber-cool granddad (Ghasitaram) throwing the swearing and the sexist jokes around that truly sinks into your memory, as you see him turn upside down his decades-long image of sanskaari babuji and fling it out of sight. Paired with his best friend Lalu (Virendra Saxena), he seems irrepressible – the duo consistently couched in the men-will-be-men zone, but never losing their charm – a camaraderie viewers will be compelled to dig.

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The same cannot be said of Sonu and Titu though, who refuse to grow up and quit labeling the opposite gender in tones of black and while. Hypocrisy is generously sprinkled, with the men complaining of how God has stopped creating “good girls”, missing their own lack of worthiness as “good boys” by a mile and more. However, even under the heavy-duty influence of his childhood bestie, Titu seems to grow a brain at some point in the movie. Does he make it all the way to the other side of sense and sensibility or does he get pulled back into the frat-boy cult this side of the fence? Find out by giving this blatantly stereotyped, yet light-hearted Bromance versus Romance a chance.

Meanwhile, after watching three full-blown chapters of the all-male perspective on relationships, my eyes are itching to see the tables turned on the men, and a bunch of women sharing boisterous, guttural laughs over the same.

High time someone played to this section of the gallery, isn’t it?

 

Rating: 3.5/5