Shudh Desi Romance: Shudh Disorder

Shudh Desi Romance Movie Review

First off, the title is a misnomer. The movie Shudh Desi Romance has been internationally released as ‘Random Desi Romance’ and I infinitely prefer this version – what’s so shudh (pure) or desi about this romance that Maneesh Sharma has put forward before us?? Or is it a purity of heart and mind that leads individuals to run away not once, not twice, but multiple times, from the altar?! Huh? Mr Director? Anyone from SDR care to take on this question??

So here’s what passes for the story: Goyal (Rishi Kapoor) runs this small rent-a-baraati outfit, where Raghuram (Sushant Singh Rajput) otherwise a tour guide, sometimes pitches in to earn some petty moolah. On the eve of Raghu’s own wedding, the whole baraat party is en route in the bus, including Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) who’s the groom’s “sister” in the Goyal version (rent-a-baraati, remember?!) So of course ole Raghu decides he’s fallen in love with Gayatri during the night in said bus and, at journey’s end, he doesn’t have the balls or bluster to tell Tara (new find Vaani Kapoor) that he’s changed his mind about the marriage. No siree, he makes a beeline for the bathroom instead, thence to never appear – indeed, the bathroom serves as a sort of euphemism for commitment-phobia throughout the movie. Okay, so a couple of weeks later, Raghu and Gayatri bump into each other off-chance. He invites her for coffee. She invites him home! Tsk, tsk. They decide they’re in love, so the next obvious step should be marriage, right? Wrong. The next obvious step in this skewed tale is that now Gayatri dumps Raghu at the altar (a fate that the naughty boy had anyway been contemplating for her!) Well, as fate or Sharma would have it, Raghu meets Tara again, who spins him some yarn about her now being an air hostess – which is not true and which I shall explain to you soon as I’ve understood why this angle was bunged into the story. So now THEY are supposed to be in love – the once-upon-a-time jilted and the jiltee. At last, Raghu is about to pop the question to someone. When in walks the other jiltee of this confused triangle – Ms Gayatri. Tara wisely decides to take a bow and leave the arena. Raghu and Gayatri are finally well on the way to popping that champagne when BOTH run away from their wedding to each other! Gayatri returns home, to find Raghu on her doorstep. They decide marriage is for the birds and living-in is the answer. End of so-called story. Whew.

Poking holes in this script is like playing with bubble paper – where do I begin and when do I run out of steam?! “Morale?” Since when did the band-bajawallahs acquire such English skills?? And, while we Indians certainly believe in gate crashing weddings for the free chow – I’ve even contemplated it myself once in Lucknow! –  where did this “tradition”  of rent-a-baraati come from?? Pray, in a population of a billion and counting, how hard is it to find real baraatis, considering Indians claim every Auntyji in the neighbourhood as their own?!

Rishi Kapoor has done a marvellous job. I’d go so far as to say he’s the breath-of-air holding this pack of cards together. I must say the would-be bride handled being jilted at the altar with aplomb. Vaani Kapoor, although not strikingly good looking, makes a serene and confident debut in terms of appearance. In terms of dialogue delivery, she has far to go; there is one steady deadpan tone throughout. Her character Tara appears fairly well-dressed, denoting a reasonable background. And such a girl is having an arranged marriage with a tour guide whose worldly possessions fit into one suitcase? Boy, things have certainly changed in good ole Jaipur and middle class India!

The scenes between Raghu and Gayatri are too abrupt and half-baked for me – I mean, they just bump into each other again, have coffee and gulab jamuns (this combination is supposed to tickle your funny bone, people – laugh!) for no reason whatsoever that I can see he goes home with her and then she asks, “will you kiss me?” Just like that? Is this where modern India is at according to the director? And he thinks this is a shudh romance?? Further, what’s the point of showing Gayatri constantly lighting up and blowing smoke rings – girls who smoke can’t be virgins too? What’s the point of telling us she had not one, not two, but at least three relationships and in one of them she actually got preggers and had an abortion? Oh puhleese. Some more finesse can be expected in portraying a female character is a woman of the world rather than a shrinking violet.

The scene where Raghu’s friend tells him he can go to the bathroom now, followed by a ‘bathroom break’ sign rather than the usual ‘interval’ provided some light humour. However, making Raghu and Gayatri meet again post the interval seems to have been written in with one eye on the clock. For someone who doesn’t know the way to the railway station, he does quite well! There are also oblique allusions to Katrina Kaif which I’m still scratching my head over.

Basically, all I wanted to do through the movie was take a comb to Raghu’s hair! I haven’t understood why it was necessary to have it look unkempt and unwashed to be “in the character.” Which is an oxymoron right there – does a jiltee have a ‘character?’ Gayatri certainly seems to think so. She goes all moony-eyed and has this monologue with herself about the dude; how can she possibly say somebody is honest and straightforward, when that somebody has just left a jilted bride at the altar? Some twisted logic, this! Also what’s beyond my ken is that someone actually dared compare Raghu guide to Raju guide (Dev Anand in ‘Guide!’) Blasphemy!

Parineeti is a pleasant surprise in the movie; I was kind of dreading watching the shrill brash persona she displays at all the award functions for two hours straight! She has done a very competent job given the script she had to work with, and there is an easiness between her and Sushant Singh Rajput. There are so many, many scenes where the latter is trying to ape Ranvir Singh that I had to rub my eyes. Dude, no point in reinventing what’s a fairly good original. Find your own niche. Or is this the director’s hangover, seeing as how he has worked with Singh in his previous two movies?

Hard to believe Maneesh Sharma gave us the eminently watchable ‘Band Baaja Baraat’ as his debut offering. What exactly is SDR about? Is he advocating live-ins over marriage? Is he trying to show that all the young generation today are commitment-phobic? Is he trying to say running away from a problem, aka escapism, is the only answer? Duhh!! Both his female lead characters come across as over-smart and immoral; one goes “Will you kiss me?” while the other asks, “Mere boyfriend banoge?” Doubtless there are some girls like this out there in India somewhere but, when you have both your leads shown as so fast, you’re trying to offer the audience a generalisation that all girls today are such.

Eeeps. Jaideep Sahni is credited with the script! This the same dude who gave us Chak De India and Company? So what’s he smokin’ now?? Some dialogues were funny in their earthiness: “jaan na pehchaan, free mein santaan,”  “Gulzar ka gaa le emotion chahiye toh;” “Chalu paida hue the ya koi infection lagi,” but not enough to sustain the pace.

Music by Sachin-Jigar is passable. ‘Chanchal mann ati random’ is hummable and ‘Tere mere beech mein,’ is a light, breezy number, well sung by Sunidhi Chauhan and Mohit Chauhan. Editing is competent; cinematography by Manu Anand just about makes the mark, although there could have been so much more, given that Jaipur with its fantastic colour and vibrancy was the backdrop.

Apparently this movie was made with a budget of 20 crores. Spent on WHAT, precisely? Bollywood seems to be tacking on figures like zeroes were going out of fashion!

*This review is written exclusively for The Film Writers Association of India.

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