In Sukhee, directed by Sonal Joshi, a bunch of middle-aged men joke that there are just too many women empowerment films out there, and they all seem similar. Ironically, in the end, the joke is on the film, as Sukhee fails to help the cause of feminism due to the utter lack of freshness in the story.
In its attempts to tell the story of a Punjabi homemaker (Shilpa Shetty in the titular role) yearning for respect and wanting a break from her mundane existence, Sukhee reminds you of several popular, well-made movies that deal with a familiar theme. However, Sukhee doesn’t have an edge, as it is neither on par with those films nor better than them.
Watching the film, you wish it had the hard-hitting tone of Tapsee Pannu’s Thappad or the pleasant-yet-affecting nature of the Sridevi-starrer English Vinglish. The horrors of a homemaker’s unending responsibilities we witnessed in The Great Indian Kitchenand Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum are missing in Sukhee. We saw a convincing portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship marred by the generation gap in How Old Are You?, but that depiction in this film feels stagey.
A bone to pick with Sukhee’s writing is the one-dimensional behaviour of its characters. Sukhee’s husband (essayed by Chaitanya Choudhry) is perennially agitated about work, forgetting that he needs to dedicate some time to his family. Sukhee doesn’t get a break from her daughter, who wants her mother to be “modern” and never appreciates her selfless contribution to her growth. One wishes the writers (Radhika Anand, Paulomi Dutta, and Rupinder Indrajit) added some new traits to their personalities.
The first half belongs to veteran Vinod Nagpal (who plays Sukhee’s ailing father-in-law) as he delivers terrific one-liners on Punjabis’ obsession with high-fat food. The film’s trailer gives too much away. So, as expected, one night, Sukhee decides to end her midlife blues by attending the reunion of her schoolmates in Delhi. This plot shift is just a reason for the director to incorporate a party song (the now-famous number ‘Nasha’) worthy of an Instagram reel, showcase Delhi’s famous street food, and a horse race meant manipulatively to offer an emotionally rousing moment.
As it happens in films that only scratch the surface of an important topic, Sukhee also moves towards a predictable end with people at fault (in this case, the husband and the daughter) conveniently changing their minds and deciding to transform themselves. If the screenplay is scattered, the performances are subpar. Shilpa Shetty has a gorgeous presence, but doesn’t bite into the role of a woman missing her past as a fearless, carefree teenager. Her dwindling on-screen chemistry with Chaitanya Choudhry doesn’t help either.
The film works best when Sukhee is with her gang of girls (three in all, with one of them delightfully performed by Kusha Kapila). They share great camaraderie and even get to deliver the best lines on women and their problems in an everyday scenario.
Inside the hall, as I watched the film, a large group of girls danced to a song during the interval break, perhaps to upload it as a social media reel. Perhaps, the dance is a cue that this film is made for women to reminisce about their school or college days. Otherwise, Sukhee doesn’t deliver a knockout punch as a film about a homemaker’s journey to finding freedom and respect.
Sukhee is currently running in theatres