Shaandaar: Beautiful to behold, but shallow

S haandaar, you could say, is about two marriages. The first one is between two families, the Aroras and the Fundwanis, who come together for the wedding of Esha Arora (Sanah Kapoor) and Robin Fundwani (Vikas Verma). The second one is the marriage of two worlds of Hindi cinema — Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films. While we expect the Johars to bring in the glamour, we leave the grit and the depth to the Kashyaps (also the Motwanes and the Bahls) who we also trust with keeping the proceedings grounded. On paper, this appears to be a match made in heaven. Who wouldn’t want to see great production value in a realistically told family tale about finding comfort in being yourself? But like the Indian cricket team’s batting line-up, it’s good on paper but needn’t necessarily translate to victory. In fact, here, like the marriage between Esha and Robin, it seems doomed right from the start.

For starters, the Johars seem to have done their job better than they should have.  Shaandaar’s every frame is worthy of being in the glossy pages of a bridal magazine. It’s a treasure trove of wedding ideas for brides-to-be: the clothes, the events, and even the setting. The palace-like setting in which the film’s wedding is to take place is what dreams are made of. So, how brilliant is the idea of bringing in two insomniacs (Shahid Kapoor and Ali Bhatt) — in other words, two people who cannot dream — into this setting! Alia plays Alia, the sister of the bride and the adopted daughter of Bipin Arora (Pankaj Kapur), while Shahid plays Jagjinder Joginder, the wedding planner.

Genre: Romantic comedy
Director: Vikas Bahl
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapoor, Sanah Kapoor
Storyline: Two insomniacs meet at a destination wedding
Through their eyes, which remain open 24 hours, we see the darkness that surrounds the festivities. For the Aroras, the wedding is one of convenience, a ruse to save their company from going bankrupt. The Fundwanis too, just as broke as the Aroras, want to get back on the green by marrying off their eight-pack obsessed dimwit son to the daughter of the Aroras, who is a bit on the heavier side.

Alia, who seems more comfortable in the company of animals (she has a frog named Ashok), has to deal with the eccentricities of these two families. Her matriarchal grandmother keeps reminding her that she’s an orphan, an outsider, even as her father Bipin, the only person she loves, tries to make her feel a sense of belonging.

Until she meets Jagjinder. In him, she finds someone she can go to bed with… literally. After decades of sleeplessness, she sleeps like a baby with him. In a sense, he’s not just the man of her dreams… he’s the man who introduced her to dreams. Jagjinder, meanwhile, is smitten by her zest for life. She becomes the light that helps him get over his fear of the dark.

So, if we thought the film ends with the resolution of their insomnia, we’re mistaken. In fact, I felt almost cheated when they get past it quickly and move on, which perhaps is the main problem with  Shaandaar. The skewed narration gives us a film that isn’t really about anyone. Constantly interrupted by perfectly choreographed songs and elaborate comedy set-pieces (including a tiring one with psychedelic hash brownies and magic mushrooms), the film struggles to tell any one story genuinely. Even the film’s moment of triumph, coming in the last 10 minutes, feels like Vikas Bahl reminding the world that he’s the pro-woman director who made  Queen. We walk in to  Shaandaar expecting to meet a beautiful girl who will captivate us with insightful conversation, but instead, we meet a dumb blonde who’s just too busy filing her nails.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 3:38:00 PM |

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