If you are kind of interested in this movie and want to see how the plot plays out, read the No Spoiler review. If you just can’t get past the Akshay of it all, you can read this review instead.
Whole Plot in Two Paragraphs:
Kareena and Akshay are young professionals who have been trying to get pregnant for two years. They go to a fertility doctor who suggests IVF. Two weeks after the embryo is implanted, they are called into the office and meet another couple, Diljit and Kiara, and all four of them are told that the sperm was mixed up between the two couples. At first Kareena and Akshay aren’t worried since there was only a small chance of her getting pregnant from the embryo. On the other hand, Kiara and Diljit learn they are pregnant and immediately process the information and choose to think of the future child as a gift from God and are happy. And then Kareena goes in for a check up in preparation for another IVF cycle and learns she is pregnant after all.
Diljit calls Akshay late at night to ask if Kareena is pregnant and tell him that Kiara is. Akshay is furious and indicates that he and Kareena will have an abortion. Kareena goes in for the procedure but talks alone with the female doctor and has a change of heart. Akshay is still not happy about the pregnancy but supports her (although he also briefly says he agrees to Diljit’s suggestion that they give the baby to Diljit after it is born). And then Diljit and Kiara show up at their door and announce they are moving in to the apartment upstairs. At 3 months, Akshay and Kareena invite Diljit and Kiara over to sign a legal document agreeing that they will have no further contact. And Diljit and Kiara counter with a document requesting various specific things related to the raising of Kareena’s child. The meeting descends into arguments. 7 months later, Kareena is miserable because Akshay still doesn’t want the baby and she is alone in the pregnancy. Kiara is lonely alone in Bombay away from their home in Chandigarh. And Diljit is concerned about Kareena since she is clearly sad and alone carrying his child. Kareena decides to reach out to Kiara and try to make the situation better for the sake of the babies. She and Kiara have a great day together, and she learns that Kiara had 2 miscarriages before this, and that Diljit has no problem loving the baby his wife is carrying even if it isn’t biologically his. Diljit and Akshay meet up and drink together and become friends, until Diljit expresses his concerns about Kareena and Akshay takes offense, leaving him alone in the bar. That night Kareena confronts Akshay about everything she is going through and how he just doesn’t seem to care. While Akshay is still processing this, Kiara shows up at their door because she has gone into labor two months early and can’t reach Diljit. Akshay and Kareena take her to the hospital, the baby is born premature and put in an incubator, Diljit arrives and Akshay comforts him, Akshay and Kareena care for Diljit and Kiara until their daughter recovers and comes home. 2 months later, Kareena goes into labor in the middle of the night and Akshay’s back goes out, so Diljit and Kiara have to drive them to the hospital. Kareena gives birth to another daughter, everyone is happy.
So, here’s the part that WORKS! Surprisingly, the central conflict kind of makes sense. The idea is that both women react in the same way, it is the men who have the conflict. Which makes logical sense, the women are going through the pregnancy, and it is their egg, so it is easy for them to jump on the “I want this baby” train. But the men have the more complex situation since they both have to find a way to accept a baby they are not the biological father of and to know there is a child out there who IS their biological child.
Akshay and Diljit react in opposite ways. Akshay blocks himself off from both children, is not there for Kareena while she goes through pregnancy and has no interest in the child Kiara is carrying. And Diljit loves both children, he worries about and feels responsible for Kareena and cares about the child she will give birth to, and he also quickly accepts the reality that he will raise a child who is not his biologically. The film is about Akshay learning to open himself up to the love and pain of fatherhood, and Diljit learning to let go and accept.
I can see why they decided to do a sperm mix-up instead of an embryo mix-up. Having the two parts of the parenting teams go through such different journeys is creatively rich. And there’s a few Indian specific cultural norms that this brings together. For one thing, there is the cultural norm that the husband of a woman is the father of her children, no matter who the biological father is. And the stories going back to the Mahabharata of women having sex with Gods (or, wandering religious men depending on how you interpret it) if their husbands are unable to impregnate them, and their child is still the child of their husband. That’s never specifically referenced by this film, but it doesn’t have to be, it’s just there.
Also just there is the reality that in India women being pressured by their husbands to have abortions against their own wishes is a concern. In the American context, the scene where the doctor makes Kareena look at the ultrasound when she comes in for a termination is really dreadful. But in the Indian context, having the female doctor carefully get Kareena away from her husband and wait for her to confirm that she, personally, wants to end this pregnancy? That is a moment of a woman, and a medical professional, making sure that another woman, and her patient, is in control of her own body and doing what she really wants. This story could play out in a similar way if Kareena and Kiara were pregnant with female fetuses, or were pregnant through an affair, or a rape, or any reason that their husbands might not want to have the baby. But it is Kareena and Kiara’s decision, in the end, and the husbands need to accept that.
So, here’s the problem. Akshay is wrong, right up until the last minute. And yet, he is our point of view character. This is one of those films where the “every man” gets to give little speeches about how crazy the world is, and mug for the camera, so the audience can go “haw haw, he gets it, the world is crazy!” But that means that Kareena is part of “the world” and so are all the other characters. Akshay is the one the audience understands and supports and so on, while everyone else just exist through his eyes. But, Akshay is terrible! And shallow and stupid and horrible. And does not engage with the central conflicts of the film until the last minute.
So, for example, there is the scene when Kareena invites Kiara and Diljit over to sign the contract they have drawn up. There is a lot of character stuff happening here, it is the most explicit discussion of the basic conflict that the couples are going through (Akshay and Kareena want no contact, Diljit and Kiara want some way to make this work). Plus there’s some subtle work showing that Kiara is less comfortable than Diljit, that she is scared and a little shy. This is all really important, understanding the conflict between the couples and seeing the first hints of a break between Kiara and Diljit. And instead of any of that, we are focused on Akshay who smoked a joint before, and during, this meeting. Who is high and giggling the whole time. How funny! How relatable! Who hasn’t chosen to get high right before and during a massively important meeting that effects your whole family?
So, yes, the focus on Akshay makes all the other characters somehow “wrong” even when they are in the right. Like, Diljit’s reaction of accepting and loving is treated as “weird” instead of right. But it also just kind of ruins the plot. We can’t see all the details of important plot points because of the choice to focus on Akshay instead. There’s a really beautiful story to be told of Kiara and Diljit, a couple who got married young with a lot of hope, survived two miscarriages, and ended up closer and stronger than ever. But this successful pregnancy is what almost tears them apart as Diljit forgets his wife in his focus on the baby. And a story of Kareena as a successful professional woman dragging her husband behind her in this quest for a baby, discovering that she wants a baby no matter what, even if it isn’t “perfect”. That’s the plot of this movie, that’s the conflicts and all of that. And they get barely 10 minutes of screentime because the rest of it has to be sacrificed for the Akshay Show.
Ah well, maybe it will help Kareena get back onscreen more, and get Kiara and Diljit higher profiles. They were awesome and deserve to get something good out of all of this.