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Bollywood

‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’: Shallow but fun

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“Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan”; Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Manurishi Chaddha; Director: Hitesh Kewalya; Rating: * * * (three stars)

By Vinayak Chakravorty

At one level you are watching the same old Bollywood rom-com, about two lovebirds trying to unite against all odds, against parental censure and societal diktats. It’s all done with feel-good verve too, with the mandatory naach-gaana and ‘shaadi ka tamasha’ thrown in.

Only, “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan” always looked different despite the cliches. The film grabbed eyeballs from the day it was announced because the lovebirds in the frame weren’t a guy and a girl. This was commercial Bollywood’s first ever homosexual rom-com, catering the story of a couple of loverboys.

Which denotes a big leap for mainstream Hindi cinema. The love story has traditionally been the most commonplace money machine among all genres in Bollywood. To retain every stereotype of the genre and turn the lucrative package into a quiet little snub at homophobes, amid standard hilarity and melodrama, is actually quite an experiment to pull off, and debutant writer-director Hitesh Kewalya deserves kudos if only for that much.

“Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan” sets out to narrate that idea through a screenplay set against a smalltown, middle-class backdrop. This is the world of Aman Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar), who completes a happy family album with his mother, father and siblings. Aman is swept off his feet by Kartik Singh (Ayushmann Khurrana) and thus begins an affair that will leave his conservative family lost for words and reaction.

The struggle of the gay couple, as they try to convince their kin into acceptance, is played out with humour, but Kewalya’s script credibly avoids getting flippant about it. Rather, as Aman’s family go on a desperate matchmaking spree to hook him up with a girl, you realise the joke’s on homophobia.

Being Kartik Singh has to be Ayushmann Khurrana’s toughest challenge among the comedy films he has delivered lately, if only because playing the gay lover would seem at loggerheads with the essential idea that mainstream Bollywood harbours about heroism even in 2020. “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” only marks the latest chapter in actor’s continuing adventure with disrupting everything that defines the Bollywood hero, and he is clearly relishing every bit of it. But this isn’t Ayushmann’s best performance ever — the film and its protagonist lack the nuances of “Andhadhun” or “Article 15”.

For TVF sensation Jitendra Kumar, playing out Aman would seem like a perfect launch into the big screen space. Jitendra fans know him as a maverick of sorts in the web world where he so effortlessly impresses. He carries that understated screen presence into his act as Aman, a perfect Yin to Kartik’s Yang.

The odd couple chemistry the two actors share owes itself to an authorbacked plot, but “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan” wouldn’t be the same without Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao either. The elderly “Badhai Ho” couple returns as Aman’s parents. Primarily, their role is to convey shock in a world where it is still not considered ‘normal’ to accept one’s son as a gay person. Rao and Gupta have lost none of the comic timing edge that made “Badhai Ho” special. Delivering excellent acts individually, they also remain an asset for the film as a duo.

Rao and Gupta benefit from the fact that this film, like most of Aanand L. Rai’s productions, sets up every character including the prop cast with a balance of the real and the entertaining. Proven talents as Manurishi Chaddha and Maanvi Gagroo, who play out vital cogs, also impress in interesting roles.

The film’s biggest assets are its actors, along with the fact that it is among Bollywood’s quirkiest shots at comedy ever. Putting the spotlight on homosexuality in a commercial set-up would also seem like a commendable effort at starting a wider conversation on the subject.

However, you get a finale that is not altogether unpredictable. Looking at the formulaic Bollywood love story through the prism of gay romance, the film also staunchly refuses to skim beneath the surface while addressing a subject as gay relationship, which has acquired topicality in our times.

That way, one could look at it as an opportunity lost, given the reach the film and its lead actor are bound to enjoy.

Bollywood

I-T sleuths ‘search’ Sonu Sood’s home for second day

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 For the second consecutive day, the Income Tax Department continued its ‘survey’ operations at the home of Bollywood actor Sonu Sood, official sources said here on Thursday.

A team of IT sleuths swooped on the 48-year-old Sood’s Juhu home to carry out search operations to detect certain alleged financial irregularities.

The IT department is examining bank statements, books of accounts, documents and details of financial or other business transactions during the ‘survey’, for suspected tax evasion, though no details are being shared officially.

In Wednesday’s operations, the IT had searched around half-a-dozen premises linked to the actor, including offices and other properties in Mumbai and certain locations in Lucknow.

Sood shot into limelight last year (2020) for arranging free flights or luxury buses for stranded migrants during the lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic and sent them to different parts of India, besides organising liquid medical oxygen supplies to various hospitals during the second Covid wave this year (2021).

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IT department ‘surveys’ actor Sonu Sood’s Mumbai premises

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Actor Sonu Sood.

 The Income Tax Department is ‘surveying’ the Mumbai offices and home in the suburbs belonging to Bollywood actor Sonu Sood here on Wednesday, official sources said.

Teams of IT sleuths began the operations since morning, though the reason behind the action is not immediately known.

Sood had shot into prominence last year for arranging free flights to enable stranded migrants reach their homes in different parts of India during the nationwide lockdown.

He also had a scrap with the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for allegedly converting his six-story house in Juhu into an illegal boarding.

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Tahira Kashyap reveals how Ayushmann Khurrana won her heart

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Ayushmann-Khurrana

On Ayushmann Khurrana’s 37th birthday on Tuesday, his filmmaker-wife Tahira Kashyap revealed how the actor won her heart, when they both were just 19 years old.

Tahira on Tuesday shared a throwback picture on Instagram and penned a heart-warming note talking about how the actor wooed her.

“We were 19! I found you quite cool, with your frames, bike, matching sweaters and mufflers, but what got my heart was when you held the guitar and sang a song for me,” Tahira wrote.

She added: “You have always been passionate about art and what inspires me is after all these years your innocence and excitement towards work and life remains the same. You have been my biggest confidante and cheerleader.

“I might not be a big romantic as the goofiness (like you would say) gets the better of me, but I want to tell you that life is amazing with you and I continue learning a lot from you! Happy birthday umm P.S. – we were such lookers no.”

Ayushmann and Tahira were childhood sweethearts. The two got married in 2008. The couple welcomed their son Virajveer in 2012 and daughter Varushka in 2014.

Ayushmann’s upcoming roster includes ‘Anek’, ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ and ‘Doctor G’.

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