“Luka Chuppi”… A superb screwball premise results in a merely okayish comedy

Posted on March 7, 2019

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Spoilers ahead…

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hen I heard about the “live-in” premise of Luka Chuppi, directed by Laxman Utekar, I feared the worst. This is how I thought things would go: Guddu (Kartik Aaryan) and Rashmi (Kriti Sanon) would fall in love, move in together before marriage because, as the trailer puts it, “sab log karte hain”, and face the consequences. Or worse, discover that loving someone is different from living with them, a lesson we got as least as far back as 2005’s Salaam Namaste. But thankfully, the film is not about a live-in relationship, the validity of which is cheerily endorsed very early on. Guddu is a hotshot TV reporter interviewing various people about their views on live-in relationships. A priest invokes Krishna and Radha. If they could get by without getting married, well… Okay, then! So there’s a reason this film is set in Mathura.

The genius of Rohan Shankar’s script (only in theory, though, not in execution) is that the “live-in” becomes the basis of the shenanigans that follow. Guddu and Rashmi do the “cool” thing and live in, but despite their big-city dreams, they are essentially small-town conservatives. (Guddu stocks up on condoms in different flavours, but when the time to use one comes, he wonders, “Yeh khulta kaise?”) They’ve had enough subversion. Now, they want to get married. But their families think they are already married, so how do you get married again? (Vinay Pathak plays Rashmi’s father, the leader of a hardliner party called Sanskriti Raksha Manch.) The premise is screwball heaven. The “live-in” is the equivalent of the leopard in Bringing Up Baby, something that creates a situation and keeps fostering it. What an uproarious comedy Luka Chuppi could have been with someone with the sensibility of the 1970s Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

Alas, Laxman Utekar cannot get a consistent manic rhythm going, and the leads are barely actors, leave alone comics. (Kartik Aaryan always looks like he’s a minor provocation away from launching to another Pyaar Ka Punchnama monologue.) But the film has its moments and, after a rocky first half, it’s an easy watch. Pankaj Tripathi and Aparshakti Khurana, who are actors as well as able comics, have a lot of fun. The former plays a character who looks like the love child of a Shakespearean imp and Inspector Clouseau. And the latter’s reaction shots are priceless. (Whatever chakki ka atta Mama Khurana raised her boys on, it was clearly the right stuff.)

The gags are hardly path-breaking, but sometimes, corniness can be comforting. If you smile thinking about a youth of today proving his patriotism by launching into a song as ripe as Jahaan daal daal pe from Sikandar-e-Azam, you’ll know what I mean. Heavy-duty topics like patriarchy and housewifery are addressed with a smile, via Rashmi’s perpetually ghunghat-clad mother and Guddu’s chore-laden sister-in-law. And I loved how, again with a smile, religion is dismissed when a Hindu wedding is officiated by a Muslim, or when a Hindu woman calls a Muslim man her brother. Luka Chuppi ends with a note that today’s youth doesn’t want moral policing and that their votes are for those who deliver on real issues like employment. It’s not a bad reminder in this election year.

Copyright ©2019 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi