Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Sara Ali Khan, Inaamulhaq
Director: Laxman Utekar
Caught up in the process of establishing a home, a young couple exhausts their emotional and dwindling financial resources in building a house. The couple with a Dubey Chawla mix to matrimony aspires more for private space than the walls and roof of independence.
In the 1970s, Basu Chatterjee took his viewers into a simple middle class family living in a chawl and the newlyweds (Anil Dhawan and Jaya Bhaduri) yearning for privacy. ‘Piya ka Ghar’ will always be remembered not just for the haunting Kishore Kumar number but also the signature simplicity of the filmmaker.
This is exactly where and why director Laxman Utekar fails. He succumbs to the temptation of a sentimental family drama with a message, instead of just keeping it a simple comedy. A couple playacting love or even a divorce is not new; in the former we have ‘Gharonda’ and ‘Jahan Pyaar Mile’ to name just a couple. In the latter we have this Friday addition. It could well have stopped there. That was not to be. Instead we have sermons on the sanctity of the institution of marriage (y-a-w-n), the dividing line between building a house and making a home. The temptation to sublimate from a harmless tongue-in-cheek comedy to an emotive analysis of man-matrimony-home-economics is obviously irresistible.
Things are fine at the wedding anniversary celebration of Kapil Chawla (Vicky Kaushal) and Saumya Dubey Chawla (Sara Ali Khan) till one realises that the cake has egg. The Dubeys do not take it lightly. The extended family includes dad Ved Prakash Dubey (Aakash Khurana), mom Mamta Dubey (Anuba Fathepuriya — do not recall seeing her earlier), uncle Purshotham (Neeraj Sood) and his seemingly quarrelsome and inquisitive mami (Kanupriya Pandit).
After the storm in the tea cup subsides, Saumya pushes her desire to the level of a dream. She finds her privacy stifled and her moments monitored. Unfortunately for the young couple, there is also the nosy inquisitive kid who is a nuisance.
After a few abortive attempts to procure a flat from the marketplace and while at their wits’ end, they are introduced to a state housing scheme. Thus begins the journey of chasing the seeming mirage. The race is a non-starter when Kapil is declared ineligible as there is a house in the name of his father. To meet the requirements, and at the instance of a local broker Bhagwan Das (Imanulhaq) who is making money on the sly, they head for a stage-managed divorce. The idea is that Saumya would now be eligible for a flat.
The manner in which divorce is granted moves from a comedy to a near-exaggerated spoof, with the assistance of divorce lawyer Manoj (whose credentials are kept veiled in the websites). He is loud and irritating. This I suspect is a calculated stance of the filmmaker. Unfortunately, this stream of narrative not only poorly fits the general flow but so contrasting is the tone and tenor that it jars. At half time, the couple who at the start are hunky dory are legally separated, albeit to hoodwink the system and be eligible for a flat.
Reminiscent of Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Piya Ka Ghar’ the film deals with a crowded home of parents and relatives insensitive to the needs of a young couple. The Dubey Sardar divide threatens to crop up on and off, like in ‘2 States’. So far so good. It is from here that Laxman Utekar changes gears and direction and in the process loses grip over the seemingly light-hearted story. The introduction of security guard Daroga Raghuvanshi (Sharib Hashmi) is also over the top. There is the corruption angle to the housing scheme, the loving couple getting jittery and in the process suspecting each other. All of this gets too filmi and ill-suits the hitherto unpretentious "town boy and gal" middle class story. There have been multiple visits to towns with films starring the likes of Ayushman Khurrana and Rajkummar Rao to reflect a comparative laid-back lifestyle. This time round, the filmmaker’s Indore trip throws up the issue of cramped accommodation not being just a Mumbai challenge. He could well have chosen to state it within the style he starts with. Laxman falters as the script gets ambitious and suffers an over-reach in content and derailment in style.
The style of ‘Piya ka Ghar’ was worth emulating. Yes the style more than the content. The director gets wrapped in multiple threads and deserts the main story.
Nonetheless, in case you decide to challenge the summer heat, the film is worth a one-time see, thanks largely to the cast. Specific mention must also be made of the foot-tapping music by Sachin Jigar. Kanupriya Pandit and Innaulhaq understand the importance of timing. The likes of Aakash Khurana never fail to deliver.
The film truly belongs to the sincerity of Vicky Kaushal and the fizz of Sara Ali Khan. Vicky is surely crawling his way up. ‘ZHZB’ may not set the box-office on fire but his performance will not go unnoticed. Raw, real and unassuming, he is every bit the middle class quasi-urban youngster forced to count his coins. He enjoys amazing screen chemistry with the feisty Sara. She may find it difficult to carry the looks and mannerisms of a town lass – notwithstanding the riotous coloured costumes. Her urbane style quotient is an apparent hinderance given her commercial priorities. She is a rightful inheritor of her mother’s abundant talent which went unexploited. She also inherits Papa’s sense of timing.
The film borrows Anand Bakshi’s ‘Phoolon ke shehr mein hai ghar apna, kya sama hai, tu kahan hai’ (Dekho maine dekha hai ek sapna from Love Story). It labours to establish that buying a house is not the same as making a home. ‘ZHZB’ could have been a far better fare. Kapil addresses Saumya: "Dektha hoon to jhatka lagta hain." The film sure falls short of the said standard.