Luv Ranjan seems to have identified an audience full of jilted men. He did it with one scene from his first film, Pyaar Ka Punchnama. Even as the film saw a moderate degree of success, one scene…a rant, caught the imagination of the Internet. The scene comprises his lead actor Kartik Aaryan having a meltdown about his ‘manipulative, evil, controlling’ girlfriend, in front of his roommate. Amusing and surprising many by how ‘relatable’ the monologue was, it didn’t take much for people to realise its implications and stop laughing. Seven years and three films later, little has changed for the director with only the ‘song budgets’ flying off the handle, in his latest – Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety.
It’s hard to look at most of the female characters in Ranjan’s films without dropping the M-word. He’s defended his films, saying there are women in the world who aren’t quite a part of the ‘nice’ crowd. Even if we indulge his point of view for a second and examine all his ‘female’ characters spanning the four films, it’s impossible not to imagine him as someone who got stood up at his shaadi ka mandap.
Why else would ALL these characters be so decidedly sinister while the men are the ones who are ‘misunderstood’ and ‘victimised’ in all of Ranjan’s hit films. Did the director embark on a mission to demystify Bollywood’s ‘nice’ female characters that went horribly wrong? At one point, Sweety (played by Nushrat Barucha) announces – “I’m not the heroine in this, I’m the villain.” Well…
In Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (a film name structured in a way that is reminiscent of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola), Ranjan is once again reaching out to his brotherhood of jilted lovers across the country. Sonu (played by Kartik Aryan) is Titu’s (Sunny Singh) chaddi buddy, who counsels him during the rocky bits of his relationships and also ‘suggests’ breakups. He’s also the wannabe, who doles out gyaan about how ‘women are jhamelas‘ and that he will take care of his ‘bhai’s needs’ by some jugaad. Titu, on the other hand, gives strong vibes of the Delhi boy whose parents are too busy putting together bail money for a bar-fight that went too far. And even when he’s painted as the bhola beef cutlet, situations meant to be endearing become so overwhelmingly stupid that you quickly run out of awwws. In my case, even before the opening credits.
In many ways, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety reminded me of those late 1990s and early 2000s Yash Raj movies like Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai and Mujhse Dosti Karoge. In these movies, the single biggest problem the rich kids of the North Indian families have to face – who should I marry? Whose name should be on the ‘wedding card’? Do I choose my pyaar or my family’s barson ki dosti?
And this setting is perfectly complimented by Bhushan Kumar’s carefully curated soundtrack consisting of the remix from the 90s, the desi version of dance hit by a London producer, the Yo Yo Honey Singh song, the auto-tuned Dhol mix by Guru Randhawa and of course, the Arijit Singh song (on cue to comfort the rootha friend). This ‘focus group approach’ rubs off on to the film as well, where sequences resemble sitcom and songs look overly choreographed a la a Dharma movie. Sadly neither are the actors overly brilliant, nor do they have the conviction of a Ranbir Kapoor or a Ranveer Singh to make it an ‘experience’.
However, the most dangerous thing about Luv Ranjan’s latest film seems to be how the director is successfully ‘catering’ to a demographic, who clap and whistle each time he implies feminism is a sham. They howl like packs of wolves when a man puts an ‘evil woman’ in her place, turns towards the camera and walks in slow-motion with a wry smile on his face. What probably began as an exercise in subverting the classic ‘bromance vs romance’ formula, seems to have snowballed into a battle of the sexes from the Zayed Khan era. That too, in 2o18.
Don’t let all the glossy packaging and the confetti fool you, the message at the core of this ‘attempted rom-com’ is far more problematic.