I enjoyed Saket Choudhary’s Pyaar Ke Side Effects, and I wrote: “We’ve seen this sort of thing a thousand times in Hollywood before, and if something like this had come along with, say, Matthew McConaughey or Kate Hudson or Luke Wilson or Reese Witherspoon, we’d have just rolled our eyes and said: ‘Not again!’ But with the same basic idea transposed to a desi setting – with brown-skinned people and smatterings of Hinglish (though no one’s actually ‘Indian’ in a sense; these folks may live in New Delhi or Bombay, but with their attitudes and their lifestyles, they may well be from New York or Boston) – it all seems fresh and interesting again.” But that was 2006, when these ultra-urban films were still something of a novelty. Now, with every other multiplex movie channelling Hollywood sensibilities, there’s little reason to sit through the many-years-later sequel, Shaadi Ke Side Effects.
The earlier film was a chronicle of the male terrors surrounding commitment and marriage. This one’s a chronicle of the male terrors of becoming a “family man,” namely growing into the role of a father. Siddharth and Trisha are now played by Farhan Akhtar and Vidya Balan, and you couldn’t find two actors more suited to these parts. In him, we sense the Peter Pan aspects of the character (does Akhtar ever age?), and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a terrific comedian. And in her, we have an actress whose body type isn’t what we usually see on screen – Balan will go down in history for liberating, to whatever small extent, this image of the heroine and still managing to carve out a niche as a star – and this adds to his discomfiture, that he’s now married to this… mother. They’re believable as a modern-day couple. When Trisha realises she’s pregnant, they don’t scream for joy. They sit down and think about the consequences – about what this could mean to his dreams of cutting a record, to her upcoming promotion.
It’s telling that his career is detailed with fetishistic obsession, and hers is just alluded to with a vague line about making a “deal.” Shaadi Ke Side Effects, like its predecessor, is narrated from a male point of view – except that the asides to the audience are now voiceovers – and after a while, the film becomes unbalanced. This wasn’t a problem with Pyaar Ke Side Effects because that was primarily a love story. It was the man’s problem that he couldn’t see what the woman did, that they were meant for each other. But that gambit doesn’t work here because all we see, for the longest time, are his problems with his parents’ breakup, his insecurity about the new neighbour (Purab Kohli), his loss of space at home, his having to work harder because she’s given up her job (though given their house and the way they live, money doesn’t seem to be a problem), his inability to understand what his infant daughter’s crying really means… We’re force-fed this notion of Trisha as a comically obsessed mother, a punching bag for Siddharth and the screenwriter – and then, towards the end, we’re told she has issues of her own. (Balan is superb when she says, “I was such a fool.”) It’s too little, too late.
And worse, the already overlong narrative, at this point, takes the ugliest imaginable turn and veers off into cheap, audience-baiting melodrama. Why all this seriousness in a film that’s essentially a reworking of comic bits that we saw in Hollywood rom-coms like Nine Months, nearly two decades ago? The lines, here, unsurprisingly give off the thought-in-English-and-translated-to-Hindi vibe. Sample: “Apne fatherhood ko feel karne laga…” And like those films, Choudhary goes for the most obvious jokes. Shaadi Ke Side Effects isn’t unwatchable. I enjoyed Ram Kapoor’s portrayal of a Buddha of domestic wisdom. He gets a good running gag about teaching his young son foreign languages. (When the kid has to use the bathroom, he announces solemnly, “Papa, nombre deux.”) And I loved the bit with the decapitated duck. But after a few of these jokes, the film feels toothless, pointless, pretending to tackle real issues while really searching for the next easy punch line.
* Shaadi Ke Side Effects = the side effects of marriage
* cheap, audience-baiting melodrama = see here
* “Apne fatherhood ko feel karne laga…” = I’ve begun to experience what it’s like to be a father
* nombre deux = see here
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