After Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, Satyaprem Ki Katha is yet another romantic drama that pushes a progressive thought in what appears like a dated envelope in the first half. It takes time to get used to the world of Satyaprem (Kartik Aaryan) because, for a while, the film feels more like a promotion video of all things Gujarati and a jewellery brand but once the social drama finds its voice, this Katha becomes worth listening to.
Addressing the idea of consent in a relationship in a fast-changing society where men want to embrace modernity and liberal values but don’t want to give up on the patriarchal notions of dignity and honour, the title is a play on the traditional Satyanarayan Ki Katha, a common ritual in many Indian homes. In the climax, director Sameer Vidwans blends the ritual which can’t be completed without the woman of the house, with women’s rights to pave the way for change.
Satyaprem Ki Katha (Hindi)
Within the contours of popular Hindi cinema, the story probes the ideas of izzat and maryada and goes on to almost preach to its protagonist Katha (Kiara Advani) that speaking out the truth, howsoever difficult it might be, is more important than suffering in silence. Here, for a change, the hero makes us know that he is a virgin. Jobless, Satyaprem has grown up in a middle-class household where he and his father (Gajraj Rao) prepare the breakfast and his mother and sister (Supriya Pathak and Shikha Talsania) control the purse. He dreams about Katha but she is not into him. Destiny brings them together when Katha’s parents ask for his hand for their daughter. But Katha is not on the page.
Like the washerman in Ramayana, here we have a milkman (Rajpal Yadav in form) who represents the snooping society that questions the heroine but our hero doesn’t take note of the canard. He not only stands behind her but also becomes that catalyst that could slay the ghosts of her past. Does he reduce to a supporting hero in the process? The film sparks an interesting debate about reel and real-life heroes.
After cricket, it seems the headquarter of Bollywood is also inching towards Ahmedabad. For a long, Punjab and Punjabi have been the flavour of Hindi films. Here the romance is told in Gujarati mode. The good thing is while the makers nod to khakra, farsan, and the good old Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, they also take a dig at the so-called success of prohibition in the dry state. The showcase of local fabrics provides a novel texture to the costumes and the relatable characters in the traditional society provide the necessary heft to the storytelling.
Writer Karan Shrikant Sharma has drawn lively characters from the middle-class milieu but they indulge in a lot of posturing before coming to the point. And the point is made with a bleeding pen. However, in between, once the dust settles, Sharma etches an endearing relationship between two troubled souls that is deeper than throwaway adjectives like cute and beautiful. Both are seeking social sanction. An LLB-fail, Satyaprem is being judged by his joblessness. Katha is suffering because of a botched-up relationship. As they nurse each other, we get some tender moments of true love. Unfortunately, the five music composers could not complement the writing with their melodies.
Backed by Sharma’s writing, Kartik and Kiara carry forward the organic bond they generated in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. This time it is less about physical chemistry and more about the underlying friction, for Katha doesn’t see Satyaprem as an equal partner. Kartik finally gets a role where he is expected to do more than just provide a consistent goofy smile and, of course, a monologue. Cast in a role that perhaps would have gone to Govinda a few years back, he doesn’t disappoint as the “Gujju pataka” who busts with plenty of emotion when the story challenges him. As the fulcrum of the tale, Kiara does some heavy lifting with her expressive eyes to keep the melodrama afloat.
They are ably supported by Gajraj Rao who gets some of the best lines to perform. In fact, the supporting cast headlined by popular Gujarati stage and film actor Siddharth Randeria and the ever-reliable Supriya Pathak and Shikha Talsania provides a credible backdrop. One more draft and a bit more lilt would have made this Katha absolutely riveting. In the present form, after spending around 140 minutes one could say: and thereby hangs message for boys and girls!
SatyaPrem Ki Katha is currently running in theatres