As I said in my “no spoilers” review, there was a political message in this film that already feels dated. So I am going to briefly acknowledge it, but not deal with it in the amount of detail I would if I were watching this movie ten years from now. Oh, and in terms of spoilers, there isn’t anything super surprising in the plot, not really a lot of twists you couldn’t have guessed already, so don’t worry too much about spoiling yourself on this review. But if you want to remain unspoilered, read this review.
Big picture set-up first, a movie star announces he is in a “live-in” relationship and a local political party turns it into a political issue. With this in the air, Kriti (daughter of the head of the political party) starts an internship at the small local TV station and begins working with young reporter Karthik Aryan. After a month, they are in love. But when Karthik proposes, after all this talk about live-in, Kriti decides she wants a try out first. They have to do a 20 day shoot out of town, Kriti and Karthik decide to rent a furnished apartment and live together, if it works out they will get engaged and no one will ever know. They lie to the landlord and neighbors that they are married, even put up photos on the wall of their wedding. The first night, despite Kriti previously saying she wouldn’t do anything, they end up having sex. They have a wonderful 20 days, and then as it is ending and they decide to get engaged for real, Karthik’s family turns up having been tipped of by his slimey brother-in-law Pankaj Tripathi. Karthik’s little nephew finds their used condom wrappers, they either have to go along with the lie of an elopement or admit they have been having sex before marriage. INTERVAL
They go with the lie of an elopement, and everyone is fine with it, which just makes it worse. Karthik’s family is delighted with their new daughter-in-law and are even supportive of her going to work. Kriti’s family is fine with it too. Karthik’s family is poorer and less powerful, but still Brahmin, they can spin it as part of a “all classes united” political message. The cover up is to have a fake wedding reception, but not another ceremony because Kriti’s father is shocked at how irreligious it would be to get married twice. Kriti moves into Karthik’s house but they are both wracked with guilt over not really being married. They try to get married at a temple, but the priest sees that Kriti is wearing sindoor already and thinks Karthik is trying to marry a married woman. Kriti gets away, Karthik gets beaten up and his family called, they think he is so lustful as to want to be with a married woman despite having a wife at home. They try to complete the ceremony in their bedroom with a recording of the hymns, but Karthik’s friend Ayushmann runs out of data on his phone. Finally they join in a mass wedding ceremony, but coincidentally Kriti’s father is there too and recognizes Karthik, thinking he is marrying yet again. They tell their families the truth, but convince them that there is no point in holding out against Live-In, it is what the youth of India wants, just get on board with it.
So, political part, it spins in this whole thing about how Kriti’s father’s party is shamelessly stirring up anger about a threat to “Sanskar” from live-in relationships just in order to win the elections. This is NOT a good message for right by the election. Weirdly, it is TOO timely. Brings down the whole lighthearted energy of the film for me, way way too serious and realistic. So, I’m ignoring it. Except to note that the bad guy political folks wear matching red-orange scarves with chairs embroidered on the end. HA! Because all the religious stuff is really just about getting “chairs” in the legislature.
Okay, moving on, let’s talk “live-in”! What usually bothers me about the whole “live in” thing as envisioned by filmmakers is that they seem to think it is super different from marriage somehow, all sex and no fights. But this movie made me see the other side, that marriage isn’t supposed to be like live-in. The unspoken thing is that “live-in” is necessarily voluntary and based on love. So it is two people who actually like each other, want to have sex, want to spend time together. Basically what marriage looks like for most people in the Western world. While “marriage” in India, on the other hand, is two strangers who hopefully find a way to live together and compromise in every way, including the bedroom.
This movie handles “live-in” perfectly for me. Karthik and Kriti represent the two strongest arguments for marriage and for live-in. Karthik says, if you love each other and that’s why you want to live together, isn’t that also a reason to get married? But Kriti says, how can you be sure it is real “love”, how can you really know that without living together first? And Kriti’s argument wins, as it kind of has to. Because the thing is, you can live together and then get married later. But marriage is forever. With Kriti’s argument, they can both win, with Karthik’s, he is the only one to get his way.
And their “live-in” experience really is a test run for marriage. It starts with Aparshakti Khurrana, as their friend, pointing out that just staying in a hotel together for 3 weeks isn’t marriage, it’s a honeymoon. So they rent a real apartment. And they have real discussions about who will do the cooking and who will do the cleaning, and real fights, and real making up. And also real sex.
The film gives a faint towards “don’t worry, they won’t really have sex” when Kriti indicates they won’t be doing “everything” a married couple does, and then announces she is tired and rolls over and away on their first night in the apartment. Before the camera swings down to reveal a little smile from her before she rolls back over and initiates sex. It’s delightful. Because yes, that is part of the “try out” aspect of live-in before marriage. And what’s wrong with that? They are young, they are in love, they are doing what they want to do. With protection, the film is sure to let us see that they have condoms. And after 20 days, they decide they want to get married. Live-in doesn’t make them not want marriage, there is no nonsense about “buying the cow”, it just confirms that they are in love and compatible and happy, so of course they want to get married even more.
I also like that live-in is treated as an option not because they have no respect (or liking) for marriage, but because they have so much respect for it. Another common take is the “couple hates marriage, doesn’t believe in marriage, that’s why they are living together”. And then they learn to believe in love again, reconcile with their estranged parents, whatever, and suddenly believe in marriage again. Everyone I know who is married did the live-in thing first (including my parents and all my aunts and uncles). And it wasn’t because they were terribly traumatized and hated marriage. It was like it is shown in this movie, people who believed in marriage so much that they didn’t want to rush into it just so they could have sex. Better to try it out and make sure they could really really commit before they made a lifetime promise.
That really pays off in the second half. They have every part of marriage now, except the real religious ceremony. And it isn’t enough, even with an accepting family, the whole of society thinking they are married, and the ability to live together and have sex with full family permission, they still want the words said. Just for themselves, even if it is a secret ceremony in their bedroom, or under fake names at a temple. While everyone around them thinks they eloped, that Karthik is romancing multiple women, and on and on, in fact they have a greater appreciation for the meaning of the marriage ceremony than everyone else around them.
Now, what could have been better? There is a bit too much and not enough plot at the same time. The romance is pretty sketched in, Karthik and Kriti meet and fall in love really quickly, then the live in time just flies by, until the second half when they really only interact at wedding ceremonies that don’t work. Meanwhile we have Karthik’s sister-in-law who is overworked and desperate for another sister-in-law to join her and help out, his middle brother who is aging and desperate to find his own wife, plus his “evil” brother-in-law Pankaj Tripathi skulking around the house and seducing older married women he meets in the marketplace. It’s too much! And that’s without all the political stuff from Kriti’s side.
And the songs could have been better, and the dialogues funnier (Kartik is great at delivering a funny line, but he didn’t have much to work with). The bones of something good are here, tighten up the extra parts of the script, and on a little more focus to the central romance, put in a few more fun songs, and you could have a classic romance. But this is really fine as it is, it was never intended to be anything better, they weren’t shooting for “classic”, they were shooting for “fun watch”.