The movie adaptation of 2 States reiterates why Chetan Bhagat is so successful. His books are like the first draft of screenplays — with a lot of stuff that can be edited out and rewritten — the reason why he is among the most criticised author of our times.
But then, his books also tell us stories of a middle class India and its values — a country on the cusp of change and dealing with it in a way we can relate to — the reason why he is among the most popular storytellers of our times.
Like 5 Point Someone (3 Idiots), One Night at a Call Centre (Hello) and 3 Mistakes of My Life (Kai Po Che), this is a story that lends itself organically to Bollywood because it’s a love story about manufacturing consent. What movies in the late 80s and 90s used to be about — Maine Pyar Kiya, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Hum Aapke Hai Kaun all the way to Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham — where it was all about “loving your parents”. Those were the stories that reflected a country that was trying to negotiate between two different generations or at least tried to start a dialogue between the conservative and the modern, the old and the young.
Chetan Bhagat was a product of those times and that showed in 2 States, the book. But to ensure that the film doesn’t seem dated, quite a lot of the information and detail has been left out in the film version — like when students at hostels used to queue up outside STD booths at night when rates were less or when mobile phone calls used to be more expensive than petrol.
And to ensure no fragile egos are hurt, at least a couple of references from the book have been left out. How can a line like “From Hema Malini to Sridevi, all of them trying to catch Punjabi men” make it to a film starring Sridevi’s stepson, anyway?
With details omitted for pace, some for period and some to play safe, 2 States just sticks to the basics of the story and stays faithful to the structure and the plot, unlike the other two successful movie adaptations 3 Idiots and Kai Po Che that were actually decent rewrites of the book.
We know Chetan Bhagat’s stories clean up well for the screen and they do here as well, especially with this exciting fresh cast. While Arjun Kapoor lets his glasses take on the burden of looking the part, Alia Bhatt more than makes up for her Tamil pronunciation with her presence and spunk. She has a tremendous range; she’s Bollywood’s Carey Mulligan — a picture of vulnerability, great beauty and the promise of youth.
Veterans Amrita Singh, Revathy, Ronit Roy and Shiv Kumar Subramaniam have meaty author-backed roles to play and they make the most of it, giving the performances the right amount of restraint. Exactly what a film about stereotypes needed.
Otherwise, every other line from the book finds its way into the film, literally translated rather than improved and there has been absolutely no effort to stray from the author’s words.
Which puts this in the safe zone. It is a pretty decent translation that will work for fans of the book and those who haven’t read it but given the potential of the material, it falls a little short.
Director Abhishek Varman fails to milk it for impact. A Rajkumar Hirani or a Karan Johar at the helm would have made you reach for your hankies, but Varman is just happy to make fans of the book smile.
Director: Abhishek Varman
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Amrita Singh, Revathy, Ronit Roy and Shiv Subramaniam
Storyline: A Punjabi boy and a TamBram girl need to convince their families to get married
Bottomline: A faithful translation of the book where the director is invisible