Two States: No Man’s Land

Which, I have to say, is pretty much my state of mind after seeing this movie. On one hand, the refreshing bond between the spunkier Alia and the more sober Arjun was there for all to see. On the other, a simple premise such as the one the movie is based on could have been oh-so-much fun, instead of which I’m handed a long doze on a platter!

‘Two States’ is based on a novel by the same name, written by Chetan Bhagat. A story of a Punjabi boy, Krish Malhotra (Arjun Kapoor) and a Tamilian girl, Ananya Swaminathan (Alia Bhatt) who meet and fall in love while doing their MBAs and then must win over both sets of parents so they can get married.

That’s it – that’s the story in one simple sentence. Could be the story of any one of us in modern-day India. So what went wrong? I have read ‘Two States’ as well as’ Five Point Someone’ by the same author and on which the movie’3 Idiots’ is based. Just because one book went on to make a phenomenal movie is no guarantee the other will follow suit. Apart from having a strong cast and a highly competent director, ‘3 Idiots’ became a runaway success due to the treatment it received. Had it been the visual equivalent of turning the pages of the book, the movie would have prolly sunk without a trace! And therein lies the problem with ‘Two States’; it seems to be sticking too closely to the prescribed manual.

The pace of the movie is mind numbingly slow, with infuriating cliches. The treatment of it could have been so light-hearted and entertaining – remember Dolly Ahluwalia in ‘Vicky Donor’ whose Punjabi son falls in love with a Bengali girl? She pulled that off with absolute aplomb. And that’s the second major problem I have with ‘Two States.’. The casting director (Nandini Shrikent) needs a reality check! The meet-the-inlaws lunch scene was flatter than left-over beer. Amrita Singh doesn’t have much acting talent to begin with; the only way she can pull off a role is if she’s being loud and boisterous (‘Betaab’, ‘Chameli ki Shaadi’) Who in their right minds would cast her in the role of a Punjabi mother (Kavita Malhotra) opposed to her only. son marrying out of caste and not even write in some funny lines for her?? Instead, she plays this subdued character who tiptoes around her husband (we dunno why.) Clearly, she was trying too hard; even the scenes when she was supposed to be bitchy and gleeful discussing dowry fell flat. Revathy … the lovely, irrepressible Revathy, once Salman Khan’s heroine, has metamorphosised into this plump matron who has no wisecracks or expressions except stock-in-trade disapproval. As for Ananya’s father, Shiv Kumar Subramaniam as Shiv Swaminathan – a lump of wood could have done the job as easily. Ronit Roy as Vikram Malhotra, the boy’s father, does better except that one wishes he wasn’t always so glum and fretful like a broody hen throughout the movie.

If you hark back to my opening para, I’ve mentioned the “refreshing bond” the lead pair share. There is an apparent friendship and mutual liking which comes across in the movie but – zilch chemistry here. The now-mandatory kissing scene and enthusiastic groping did nothing for the ole adrenalin. In my veins, at least!

This role was right up Arjun Kapoor’s alley. I have always been sceptical about his acting talent after watching bilge like ‘Aurangzeb’, ‘Gundaay’ and even his debut ‘Ishaqzaade’; he doesn’t have the Muscle Man image. A role like Krish Malhotra fits him like a glove; he comes across as believable when he’s being himself, typical “Fubbu” (Arjun’s pet name) the simple, goofy look with glimpses of mischief flashing through the otherwise sober demeanour. This is a boy who’s a bit of a geek, a boy hurt emotionally by his parents’ embittered relationship and thus more protective about his mother even when he knows she’s in the wrong. Arjun should follow in the footsteps of his talented uncle Anil Kapoor who knew he was not he-man material nor did he have the looks and therefore, went in for roles that were more suited to his personality.

Quite a pleasure to watch Alia Bhatt. Sadly, her perkiness alone could not save this movie. That small elfin face and big puppy eyes can take her most places, but no way can she be a believable south Indian! I’m not saying I wanted her to be typecast and neither am I looking for heavy dollops of sambar, however, apart from the garish sarees and the fact that we, the audience, are reminded ever so often these two lovebirds can’t trill. in joy because the female lovebird is a south Indian, there is nothing even remotely SI about Alia’s character, which has not been well defined. She is simply, well, Alia. Not Ananya. Also, I’d like to know which TamBrahm girl wears such shortie shorts and jumps into bed so eagerly, thus crossing the line betwixt friend and lover in the skip of a heartbeat! Post MBA and back home in Chennai, she’s back to wearing full pavdas and being the demure damsel.

The whole story is recounted to us through the medium of a shrink’s couch … in the opening scene, Krish is seen there asking for ideas on how to commit suicide, and the closing scene has him bouncing twin babies (how stereotyped) on the same couch. . Huh?? Lost me there, somewhere. If all is well, why is he still gabbing with the shrink?

By the by, which year is this movie set in? I know somewhere someone says 2014 so, in that case – what’s a ruddy manual typewriter doing on the scene?? Does the director or, I daresay, the writer, think that all writers ought to be pigeonholed, with unshaven look and feverishly banging away on typewriter keys?!

The Yes Bank Dude must be thrilled! Such blatant promotion! This is Happening more and more in Karan Johar Frequently Productions (The movie is produced by Dharma Productions and Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment.) Would not be surprised if The Star of his next movie is. a coffee cup, duly autographed by the lead sponsor!

Direction by Abhishek Varman Leaves much to be desired. The Story direction and thus should have been crisper and The Editing tauter; Namrato Rao Fell Short here. Choreography – Remo D’Souza; Slick job. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have Come up with some. mellifluous music, particularly The Tamilian Numbers and ‘Mast Magan’; did Anybody else NOTICE that ‘Locha-E-Ulfat “has strains of” Woh ladki Hai Kahan’ from ‘Dil Chahta Hai.’. Hmmm.

Verdict: A simple tale, lost in the telling.

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