Mumbai, 13 Nov 2020 13:00 IST
The Abhishek Sharma film does not stray towards slapstick and remains within its genre.
Movie halls across India were shut for almost eight months on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. This compelled viewers to watch content on the internet, which included a few films and, mostly, web-series. And almost all these web-series were either dark or related to some crime, making for a gloomy and forbidding mood, even if some of them were exciting.
But with cinema halls reopening around the country, starting mid-October, the first film to be released has provided a wonderful and welcome break in the monotony. Abhishek Sharma’s Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari is an out-and-out comical entertainer that can be viewed with the entire family.
The film is set in 1995 in Mumbai (then still Bombay). Madhu Mangal Rane (Manoj Bajpayee) is an unusual detective. He spies on guys who are about to get married and captures their ‘bad habits’ and ensures that their marriages are scuttled. He is hired by families of the prospective brides.
During one such assignment, Madhu makes Suraj Singh Dhillon (Diljit Dosanjh) his victim. Madhu believes this is all simply in a day's work. But his sister Tulshi (Fatima Sana Shaikh) falls in love with Suraj. Worse, Madhu is shocked to discover that Tulshi, who has the image of a homely girl, is actually the very opposite outside. The detective was so busy exposing other people’s ‘bad habits’ that he didn’t realize his own sister was leading a double life.
But Madhu isn’t one to give up easily.
Simply put, watching Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari is like catching a 139-minute joyride. The most impressive aspect about the film is that it never tilts towards being a slapstick comedy and remains within the genre of family comedy throughout.
With characters and situations ranging from unusual to crazy, the writer and the director have clearly taken creative liberties, but the presentation ensures that they are smartly hidden and the proceedings don’t stray into mindlessness. The film doesn’t try to be anything more than a replica of the 1990s David Dhawan brand of comedy, whose sole intention was to keep the viewer entertained.
A lot of work has gone into recreating the era of the 1990s. Mostly such period films avoid too many roadside shots since it becomes all the more challenging to show vehicles and structures of a bygone era. But Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari takes up this challenge and meets it well.
Like in his previous films, director Sharma has extracted quality performances from his cast here as well. It was very important for someone like Manoj Bajpayee to get into the mood of the film because a lot depends on his performance and he has never been part of a crazy, over-the-top comedy before.
But Bajpayee is clearly up to the task. His versatility is on show during various shades and get-ups of his character. He perfectly displays Madhu’s obsession with his profession, a character trait that could have gone overboard but doesn’t. His entry scene, where he impersonates a middle-aged woman, deserves special mention.
Diljit Dosanjh’s previous Hindi film Good Newwz (2019) also saw him in a comical avatar. But he brings out a different comical side here with his usual energy. Fatima Sana Shaikh fits the role of a young Maharashtrian woman well, except on a couple of occasions where her accent falters.
Supriya Pilgaonkar is reliable as ever. She has been doing some fine work in a lot of short films too in recent years. This actress clearly deserves a lot more recognition.
The excellent work of Manoj and Seema Pahwa, playing Dosanjh's parents, is unmissable. Veteran Annu Kapoor brings his own spunk to the game as Madhu’s uncle.
Vijay Raaz has only five to seven minutes in the film, but the impact he makes with his mastery is unforgettable.
The love angle between Suraj and Tulshi, an important pillar of the story, turns out to be the only major weak link since the two fall in love in a jiffy. Of all the creative liberties taken here, this is one that you find most hard to accept. The negative act by a main character in the second half is also irksome since it doesn’t go well with the rest of the movie.
But with the negatives vastly outnumbered by the positives, the end result is an ideal Diwali entertainer. Go for it, but without forsaking safety.
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