R S Prasanna’s Shubh Mangal Saavdhan is a Hindi remake of the Tamil hit Kalyana Samayal Saadham, but its antecedents go back to Bill Naugton’s 1963 play All In Good Time, adapted into a 2007 play Rafta Rafta by Ayub Khan-Din.
At the core of it is what the film’s male lead refers to as “gents’ problem”. Mudit (Ayushmaan Khurrana) falls in love with Suguna (Bhumi Pednekar) and after some mild stalking and an online proposal, the two get engaged.
What is charming about the film — set in Delhi — and its characters is their ordinariness. And they expect nothing but a mundane life. Suguna is more assertive of the two and at one point admits that Mudit was the only one who liked her, while the other boys were chasing glamorous girls. Then, Mudit discovers his “gents’ problem” and for a while his desperate attempts (goaded by two friends) to deal with it, and Suguna’s effort (goaded by her friend and a blue film) to seduce him are funny. Soon, as it happens in Indian families, everybody comes to know about the problem, and Mudit is mortified.
But it is clear by the time the second half arrives, and everybody shifts to Haridwar for the wedding, that the director has painted himself into a corner. The film is bold enough to take up the subject of “performance anxiety” but a doctor dismisses it as a trifle, the implication being that Mudit is making much ado about nothing. But in India, the problem of impotence would affect a woman more, because the delay in producing a child would be blamed on her.
Suguna’s father (Neeraj Sood) wants her to call off the wedding, while Mudit’s father (Chittaranjan Tripathy) refuses to believe his son is deficient in any way. The mothers (Seema Bhargava, Supriya Shukla) hover helplessly. The connection of masculinity with sexual prowess is questioned in the film, but sadly also endorsed.
Still, it is good to see the middle-class reclaim its place in mainstream films, and to see a female lead who is not coy. Khurrana (brave of him to do this role) and Pednekar are like the new Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab who, for a short while, made the ordinary acceptable at the box-office.