I am so very proud of myself for staying on schedule. Especially with this movie, which is a full 3 hours! But, yaaaaaaaay! I watched a new movie, and now I am reviewing it, my brain is working!
This is a pleasant light good hearted movie. A bit long, a bit too many twists to pad out the length, songs are okay but not outstanding. And yet still extremely pleasant with a nice heart to it. And minimal patriarchy (while still having some, this is India after all).
Nani is charming and silly, Nazriya Nizam is sweet and loveable. Their chemistry isn’t the best, unfortunately, but they are individually so nice that it still works. The rest of the cast are all excellent, character actors who I vaguely recognize and expect to be good. The script is a kick, lots of clever word play that almost works even in subtitles, and lots of clever twists. There’s definitely too many twists in the plot, but I have a hard time picking which one to drop because they are all so good. Oh, and it’s pretty! It’s pretty and sunshiney and fun to look at.
This is the kind of movie that should be 3 hours, because it should be something you dip in and out of, it should be something that plays in the background for a bit, that you can choose what parts you pay attention to and what parts you have a little nap. It’s a nice old-fashioned family romance that you want to watch with your family.
Of course, I was watching it on my couch with my dog, which is NOT ideal. It took me 3 goes to finish, just because my butt got tired of sitting so long without being able to look away. I suppose if Albie Dog could talk and tell me what I missed when I went to get snacks, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But as is, the effort of following every twist for 3 hours straight without company was a bit much.
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Really, just SO much plot! It starts out looking like two separate stories, Nani’s family was tricked when he was a child by a scammer offering to take him to America to be a star. Since then, they have distrusted all outsiders and kept a close watch on Nani. Nani is desperate to get a work opportunity to go to America and be free. Nazriya had a hard time as a child because she wasn’t like the other girls, too outspoken. Her father loved and supported her through everything. Now she is secretly dating a boy who keeps putting off getting engaged, and wants to do a program in America in order to delay her parents marrying her off. Only then the two of them meet at the airport and you realize they have known each other all along and planned this together. Back again, reveal that Nazriya broke up with her boyfriend at the same time she started spending more time with her old friend Nani. They fell in love, and planned this trip to America in order to elope and then deal with their parents who would object because of the different religions of the families (he’s Brahman Hindu, she’s Christian). Only the marriage plan doesn’t work out, but they are still committed and ready to go back and get their parents approval no matter what-by telling her parents she is pregnant and his parents that he is impotent but has found a woman still willing to marry him. INTERVAL
Nothing works as planned. Nani’s family is determined to either fix him, or find him a Brahman woman willing to marry him anyway. Nazriya’s family finds her a nice Christian boy willing to marry her despite her pregnancy. But then both families realize they need to do the “right” thing, marry Nazriya to the father of her future child, and marry Nani to the only woman who is willing to marry a man who is impotent without any lies or tricks. The engagement and wedding miraculously move forward without either family finding out the truth, or the lie told to the other family. Nazriya’s mother starts to get suspicious and takes her to the doctor to be tested for pregnancy. Her tests come back positive, which at first seems like a miracle, and then is revealed to be an Ovarian tumor which may make her infertile. In the end, Nani and Nazriya get married with the blessing of both families, with their lies turned into truth.
There’s a really good double layered central truth here, that lies become true if you say them enough. It’s true in that Nazriya and Nani are playing with fire by telling such extreme lies and in the end they really do experience both a pregnancy scare and infertility. And it’s true in that the lies of society, the lies that Brahmins marry Brahmins and Christians marry Christians, also become true if we repeat them enough. The key is to break free from the lies and games and see things as they really are.
The problem is, it feels a little bit to suffocating to me. As in, we only see people who are living in this world of lies. There’s a little bit of outside awareness through Nani’s stories to his boss and co-worker, I think the filmmakers knew they had to have someone outside say “wait, why can’t you just get married?” But I would have preferred the film to do more with that.
Ultimately, once again, this is a movie in which the parents are just WRONG, but the children have to lie and trick them into agreeing instead of just standing up for themselves like independent humans. Nazriya’s parents treat her pregnancy like its their problem, not like her womb belongs to herself. And Nani’s parents treat his penis the same way, his sperm and all children that may come from it belong to them not him. And this is shown as normal, sympathetic, instead of RIDICULOUS. At least the religion/caste bit of the plot is treated as something special, there is an explanation for why Nani’s father is so distrusting of outsiders, and why Nazriya’s father is so worried about her marrying into a family that will appreciate her (her sister married for love and struggles with her in-laws). And also, in the end-end-end, everyone agrees that the kids should just get married because they love each other and nothing else matters, even infertility.
But really, infertility is no one’s business but the couple! And your children are more than just their ability to have more children. And young people in general are more than their ability to get married and have kids. That’s the end point of the movie, and a very good point it is, but it is a bit watered down by the preceding 3 hours which accept this premise as valid.
That’s why I would be interested to see this same film take place in America, or some other fish-out-of-water type of setting. If we had the couples somewhere where literally the entire world thinks their family way of life is bonkers, then the message would clearly be about “I want to make my parents happy” not “I care about society and what people think”. In fact, the opposite, it would be “I don’t care that society thinks my family is insane, I want to make them happy anyway”. I think it would be a stronger better film, with the theme clearly defined, if it was removed from the cozy Telugu family film setting, complete with nosey relatives and family priests and all that. If it’s about the families, make it about the families, not Society.