The western sensibilities of stylish, successful Naina (Kiara Advani) running parallel with the lusty robustness of a Punjabi family in India, lay out a comfort zone for director Raj Mehta. He’d whipped up much delight by juxtaposing the cautious city couple of Akshay-Kareena with the balle balle heartiness of Daljeet-Kiara in Good Newwz (2019).
Two contrasting couples with one common ground cocktail into a celebration once again with layers of anxiety that provide the glue to keep it all together.
Kukoo (Varun Dhawan) has been in love with Naina since his childhood and consummating it with marriage is a natural move. But once they move to the west, it’s a love that’s on test. Grapple with today’s dilemma: she’s zoomed up in her career, he hasn’t. Divorce, the seven-letter word that crops up in the mind when tension builds up, is uttered at a dinner in a restaurant.
There’s an uneasy let’s-put-it-on-hold truce when Naina and Kukoo come to India for Ginny (Prajakta Koli), his sister’s wedding.
Raj Mehta and writers Sumit Batheja, Anuraj Singh, Rishhabh Sharrma and Neeraj Udhwani proceed to rustle up a complete desi meal that’s replete with traditional gender roles. Mom Geeta (Neetu Kapoor) and other women are content to supply parathas to the table, have conversations in the kitchen, attend bhajans and pujas and obsess with asking Naina to have a child. It seems another Raj Mehta favourite. He did it with Kareena too in Good Newwz where women raised eyebrows and hounded her on motherhood. The thought and the words spill over into and go overboard in JJJ with the women even cajoling Naina into a puja and a ceremony to have a child. Move on, Mehta.
The men, on the other hand, are embodied in Kukoo’s father Bheem Saini (Anil Kapoor) and other party-hearty men who drink, call women scary lionesses and crack jokes about pujas. You know swipes on pujas are kosher, right?
There’s a generational difference in the way Raj Mehta portrays Naina-Kukoo and Geeta-Bheem, like he’s addressing two different audiences.
There’s also a visual contrast made with the weather: the west is cold and icy, India is bright and sunny.
Delivered with mirth, especially in some of the dialogues, there is merit in much of what finally emerges. Kukoo who’s on the verge of a divorce is shocked when he finds father Bheem contemplating the same. At this juncture, perhaps Kukoo’s acceptance of his father’s divorce plans which mother Geeta is clueless about, could’ve taken a different trail. If only he’d played a more active part in trying to keep his parents’ marriage going. Bheem’s return to Geeta is only because of the realities his girlfriend Meera (Tisca Chopra) introduces him to and not because Kukoo makes any heroic efforts to bring emotional equilibrium to his family.
There’s also a tendency on Mehta’s part to prolong his storytelling with unnecessary scenes and it’s noisy.
But Maniesh Paul as Kukoo’s sidekick Gurpreet who’s around more for kicks and to be sometimes kicked around (like after the party scene where dad Bheem erupts), raises the laughter meter with one section of the audience. The songs (especially ‘Naach Punjaban’ which will go into every DJ’s console), the picturisations and the feel of lavish living are a throwback to the Karan Johar style of filmmaking, brimming over with fun and vibrant wardrobes.
Answering difficult questions about marriage on different levels is the serious part put into an entertaining envelope. Are contemporary marriages too willing to be temporary? Don’t traditional wives like Geeta sense what’s brewing? Can today’s husband Kukoo live with a wife who’s far more successful than him? Can Ginny the bride in love with another, do a no-show on her wedding?
Sandwiching these moments of emotional vulnerability with humour and celebration is the blend that Mehta goes for.
Varun Dhawan, energetic and comic when required but hurt and baffled at what life throws at him, is watchable as Kukoo. Kiara Advani goes far beyond being a smashing looking girl at ease in the west and in the east. Like her career in JJJ, she makes strides in her acting career. Anil Kapoor’s ability to deliver remains unquestioned while Neetu Kapoor makes a neat fit as Geeta with vulnerabilities and strengths of her own.
Similar to the marriages in JJJ that go through turbulence before coming up trumps, Raj Mehta’s film also has its messy moments before sorting itself out.
However, this will be yet another box-office test to check if the audience has indeed returned to theatres in overwhelming numbers.
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