Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Amrita Singh, Ronit Roy
Direction: Abhishek Varman
Rating: 3 stars
Mumbai: A key advantage of adapting a bestselling novel into a film is that one doesn’t need to sell the story, they just have to tell it. And in the process, they need to stay as honest as possible to their source of inspiration. Director Abhishek Varman does just that in the film '2 States' which is based on Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller by the same name. He stays true to his characters, Krish Malhotra and Ananya Swaminathan, their emotions and their strife to bridge not just a generation gap, but a gap between two states of north and south India, to get their parents to accept their partner.
First things first. For those expecting to see a love story, this is not one. It’s more about making the journey from a love story to a love marriage and in that it is more of a family drama. The first half of the film has ample doses of a KJo campus love affair, with classroom PDA and Holi colour splash and the works. But this is no fictitious filmi college; it’s one of the most revered education institutes in the country, IIM Ahmedabad, where the Krish and Ananya first meet each other.
They hit it off from the word go, their chemistry is intense and soon it’s obvious where the relationship is headed. As their college term comes to an end, they want to take things forward with their parents and that’s when they encounter their first stumbling block. They realise that getting a set of Tamil and Punjabi parents to accept each other as in-laws is more ambitious a task than they had fathomed. Thus begins the real test of love, where they try everything to bring the parents together and the sheer effort they put in threatens to pull them apart.
There is humour in the way the idiosyncracies of the north and south are explored. It’s easy and even tempting to indulge in caricatures but Varman’s treatment of the parents remains insightful and sensitive. Amrita Singh excels as the protective, overbearing Punjabi mother who doesn’t think twice before taking a dig at Ananya’s family. But with the back story of an alcoholic and abusive husband (Ronit Roy), there’s also a fine layering to her character, where her loud exterior could well be a defense mechanism.
Revathy and Shiv Kumar Subramanium make the perfect uber-reserved and curt Tam-Brahm parents who never hide their dislike at anything Amrita says. There are some sequences that seem a little too syrupy, like for instance when Revathy sings at the annual function of Krish’s company. It’s a bit much to see her croon her own superhit song Saathiya Tune Kya Kiya from the film Love, although some might enjoy the drama. Ananya’s anti-dowry monologue at Krish’s cousin’s wedding seems inspired from a prime-time daily soap.
But barring these slipups, 2 States wins you over with its handling of relationships. And there are all kinds of them. The relationship between lovers, that between a parent and a child, a husband and wife who have grown apart over the years. The film handles it all deftly without melodrama. Alia and Arjun’s chemistry is not only intense but it has a very real and everyday quality about it.
They could be you or somebody you know. Both do complete justice to their characters although I feel the screenplay could have made a little more space for the talented Alia; the film leaves you wanting more of Ananya and her dynamics with her family. Arjun on the other hand, gets to show his range as an actor as his character is deftly explored as the son, the lover and the prospective son-in-law. The actor leaves an impact as a devoted son to his mother and an estranged one to his father. Ronit’s understated performance as a disgraced army man turned abusive husband and father, struggling to make it up to his son, is one of the things that lasts with you.
A special mention for the music and the background score which nicely complements the narrative and the cinematography makes every frame look lush with colour. The editing is at times abrupt, but the sincere performances and the freshness of the film makes these glitches seem too small. It won't be wrong to say 2 States is a good state for Bollywood to be in....