Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (2018): Superstardom fell into Kartik Aaryan's lap with this film where he played a character so scheming and dangerous, he gave a new definition to the art of emotional manipulation. The repartees in Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (SKTKS) just roll off the characters’ tongues making them sound sassy and sombre, even when they are being mean and vicious just because it suits the script’s purposes. And God knows, this film needs no excuse to let the words flow. So full marks to co-writer Rahul Mody and Luv Ranjan for investing the vivacious proceedings with a verbal gusto, that I found to be more sparkling in wit and insinuations than the dialogues in any recent film. SKTKS is the story of the eponymous Titu (Sunny Singh, suitably equanimous) who is a bit of a rich spoilt dullard Mithaiwala’s son who falls in love with every human being in a skirt, the shorter the better. It takes Titu’s BFF Sonu (Kartik Aryan) to rescue Titu from his disastrous relationship crises time after time. At one point, in the slyly silken storytelling, Kartik’s Sonu tells the manipulative gold digger a story of what he did to a boy in the classroom as a child when that boy troubled Titu. Clearly, this is a bromance of extraordinary intensity and Kartik plays the brother-born-from-different-mother with a ferocious fidelity never allowing gay insinuations to colour their camaraderie.
Luv Ranjan is very clear in his reading of ‘bromantic’ relationships. The woman is often a gold-digging manipulative scheming bitch. Nushrat Bharucha plays the part with relish. It’s her ongoing game of one-upmanship with Kartik Aryan’s Sonu that gives a thundering heft to the plot, lifting even the sagging episodes (like the pre-marriage bachelor party in Amsterdam which stretches into a blingy binge) to a zestful place filled with sexy sounds and seductive images of from privileged homes where no one has to bother about anything except the next holiday abroad. Luv Ranjan is terrific at shooting family dynamics during festive times. The wedding-time negotiations, backbiting and meal/alcohol consumption occupy a major part of narrative. There is a kind of compelling clarity to the way Ranjan pins down the inner workings of relationships in joint families about to come together through a marital alliance.
Of course, it helps that character actors from Alok Nath (abandoning his bovine image to play a wickedly irreverent grandfather) to Pritam Jaiswal(as an annoyingly efficient house help who is manipulated out of the household) add character to every scene they occupy. Indeed, this is not so much a triangle as a wreck-tangle with every supporting actor egging on the central conflict among a two men who just can’t stop loving one another and a woman, who will tear them apart at any cost. Nushrat Bharucha’s deftly enacted Sweety admits at one point she is not the heroine but the villain. So does she get her hero or does she get her comeuppance? The answer my friend, is blowing in the ‘wink’. Tongue lodged firmly in cheek, Luv Ranjan’s bromance-versus-romance tale has enough bite to make it one of the most invigorating rom-coms in recent times. Watch Kartik Aaryan get the better of everyone. In more ways than one.
Kuch Bheege Alfaaz (2018): In his latest directorial venture the prolific and insightful director Onir probes wounds that never heal. The love that grows between two wounded people trapped in the numbing bustle of the metropolis—Kolkata this time, it was Delhi in Onir’s previous film Shab—is not uncharted territory in the cinema of emotional diasporas that Onir has constantly explored and Anurag Basu also examined with scrupulous integrity in Life In A Metro. In Kuch Bheege Alfaaz (KBA) the traditional tearfulness associated with the emotions of hurt, pain, betrayal, isolation and guilt—yes, all of these emotions are compressed into Onir’s latest—are alchemized into a warm-hearted frothy but never frivolous look at how craggily man-woman relationships pan out in the city. There is a lot of ‘ping’ in the pain of mutually shared hurt between the pair as they exchange messages on the phone that they find very entertaining.
Onir shoots his love stories in the pitiless heart-land where he succeeds in ferreting out a bedrock of compassion while his protagonists, melancholic but smiling misfits of the metropolis, struggle with their isolation and suffering. In KBA , Alfaaz suffers in abundance for a guilty secret that he harbours from his teens.
Hint: it is to do with a pretty bright 15-year old girl Chhavi played Sheefal Chauhan.
It’s Alfaaz’s good fortune that his misfortune is portrayed by an abundantly emotive new actor. Zain Khan Durrani is most decidedly a prized find. His command over his character’s dithering emotional graph is impressive. His command over the Urdu language and the sher-o-shayari that his RJ’s character is insistently required to spill into the scanty screenplay, is even more impressive, especially in today’s cinema where our heroes “think” in English. Zain with his restrained ruminative romanticism makes you overlook the film’s bleaker bits, the repetitive use of the WhatsApp theme to drive in the point of how contemporary relationships are driven in to the zone of tenability on the Smartphone. After a point those pings on the screen just begin to seem annoying. The lead pair keeps our attention from flagging. If Zain is every bit the dreamy RJ with a nightmare tucked in his heart, Geetanjali Thapa (so brilliant in the unreleased Liars Dice) as the sunshine girl with a skin ailment, gets into the skin of her character, though some of the script’s attempts to scrub her conscience clean of all self-pity is way too tactless (a blind date who keeps digging his nose, for example, hardly makes for a convincing case of self-worth for the girl with the skin ailment).
Zain and Thapar keep us watching. Zain’s voice playing across the radio waves gives the narrative a romantic heft that the film may have otherwise lacked. The supporting cast is also well-woven into the script. Mona Ambegaonkar as Thapa’s feisty mother and Shrey Rai Tiwari as Thapa’s best friend with a nosy mother serve potentially hackneyed roles with an empathy that goes a long into making the core romance convincing at times even sublime. The film’s Kolkata locations are solidly shot by Nusrat Jafri to capture a city trapped between an evaporating traditional edifice and a rapidly developing urbanization. Significantly, Kuch Bheege Alfaaz ends not in Kolkata, but scenic silent serene Simla with the film’s most memorable moment of empathy where Zain’s Alfaaz is shown resting his weary guilt-ridden head on the shoulder of a grandfatherly figure. The moment expresses a stirring mix of regret and hope, the kind of emotional synthesis that we rarely get in today’s cinema . Cherish it.
Image source: IMDb, Youtube/T-series/Yoodleefims
Image source: IMDb, Youtube/T-series/Yoodleefims