Every generation of filmmakers probes the institution of marriage from a cinematic prism. Director Saket Chaudhary is doing it the second time over in a decade. If you ignore the likes of Basu Bhattacharya, over the years, the tone of such a probe has been light-hearted and Saket is no different from the other Basu (Chatterjee), who in fact made a film called Safed Jhooth (white lies), which has been prescribed for long for a successful marriage. The difference is, unlike Basu’s deep-seated characters, Saket’s protagonists seem eager to look glamorous even when they are on the verge of a break up.
The key in such an investigation is that beneath the comic veneer, the audience should be able to identify with what the couple is going through in the dark theatre. Here Saket in the company of two actors, who understand that they are playing exaggerations of real people, once again manages to strike a chord with an audience who doesn’t feel the pinch of a multiplex ticket. He addresses the issues urban upper middle class couples face. He does bring economic difficulties into play but most of them are essentially cosmetic. His real concerns are emotional manipulation in a section of society where bread is in good supply, only the flow of butter has to be maintained. Perhaps to catch their eye, the film is brimming with product placements but Saket manages to do it smartly. Siddharth (Farhan Akhtar) and Trisha (Vidya Balan) believe that they are made for each other until Trisha becomes a mother. Now Siddharth feels Trisha is made for the baby and begins to feel matrimony a burden. Farhan is good as a husband hassled by a wife, who is gaining weight and losing perspective. At times he overdoes it to play to the gallery but never goes out of hand. Vidya, on the other hand, shines in a role that doesn’t allow her enough elbow space. Together they don’t allow the couple to become a caricature even when Saket loses grip on the proceedings.
Apart from conjuring up funny moments around seemingly serious issues, Saket’s storytelling keeps you engaged even when you know the obstacles on the way are not entirely novel. The arrival of the child, the presence of a handsome neighbour, the emergence of a marriage guru in the family, we know the basic tropes but still Saket manages to keep us in good humour with witty lines and a couple of foot-tapping party numbers. He has a knack for making you feel complacent and then surprising you with a little twist in the treatment. Like the way he opens up the woman’s mind in a scene where Trisha tells Sid that she wants him to think the way she feels even if she is saying the complete opposite of it. Yes, it is complex and not just funny! Or the way he slips in a fresh layer when he tries to suggest that in the Pati Patni Aur Woh format, the woh need not necessarily be a third person as you could very well have an affair with yourself. Essentially, telling us that the definition of Masti is not one dimensional. It is an interesting way to look at the institution in times when individualism is on a never before high.
He notes the increasing absence of grandparents in these upmarket nuclear families where the couples learn parenting either through manuals or by trial and error. The bai (Ila Arun nails the part) episode is also insightful without being preachy.
For a large part it seems like conveying the concerns of the husbands and guys who don’t want to get into a knot, but towards the end Saket turns the table on the pati by showing him the grass on the other side of the fence.
This is a step forward in the mainstream space, even if the step is a baby one!
Director: Saket Chaudhary
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Vidya Balan, Ila Arun, Purab Kohli, Vir Das
Storyline: What happens when a seemingly know-all, smart couple gets afflicted with the seven-year itch.
Bottomline: A sugar-coated pill that keeps you amused as long as it lasts