Synopsis – Forced to live apart due to a unique job prospect, two newlyweds face the hassles, hiccups – and hilarity – that arise from their long distance marriage.
My Take – Though long distance relationships has been the subject of many Hindi films, albeit less mainstream, the concept of long-distance arranged marriages has been rarely explored. Co-produced by Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment and Netflix, this Vivek Soni directed film uniquely aims to present the balance required to make arranged marriages, tradition, work life and modernity to work amicably together.
And while the charming leads and the few amusing moments rescues the film from hitting the bottom levels of mediocrity, unfortunately, the flat writing and boring execution fails to keep you hooked for 141 minutes. Making matters worse is the fact that in order to offer cultural representation by setting the story in a Tamil background, it ends up doing the opposite by depending on rather well-known stereotypes.
The story follows Meenakshi (Sanya Malhotra) and Sundareshwar (Abhimanyu Dassani), two unemployed youngsters from the city of Madurai, who due to sheer providence opt for an arranged marriage, despite being polar opposites. While Meenakshi is a self-confessed Rajinikanth fan, Sundareshwar doesn’t like watching films because it puts him to sleep.
She is a voracious reader, and he uses the books to play book cricket. But still, they make it work, albeit sparingly. She is chirpy and confident, and he is a painfully self-conscious introvert fixated on a career in coding, which he thinks is as good as art.
However, as the newly married couple start to find a connection, an excellent internship opportunity in a Bangalore based app-producing firm relocates Sundareshwar quickly miles away. And with company’s bachelors-only hiring policy strictly in place, the two have no option but to stay apart for a year, hemming and hawing to keep the marriage alive and kicking through the complications of a long-distance relationship.
The rest of the film mainly revolves around how the long-distance couple manages and struggles to stay in touch despite several problems. It comprises a mixture of sweet and salty moments between the two main leads. The two are eventually set on a path of solving differences caused by their long-distance relationship. Even so, the plot does not give any insights into the protagonists’ character development or any significant instance that can make the audience connect.
However, director Vivek Soni and co-writer Aarsh Vora make the cardinal sin of forgetting that whimsy can carry a narrative only so far – and definitely cannot stand in for good old conflict in a film that runs 141 minutes.
The plot development that keeps them apart for months on end feels contrived, it soon becomes hard to figure out what makes him in particular tick, and ultimately it gets impossible to understand why on earth they remain with each other considering that they have nothing going for them.
It doesn’t mean that the internal conflicts in the film are without merit. Sundareshwar comes from a toxic household and it reflects in the way he treats Meenakshi. It isn’t too pronounced, but the toxicity seeps in subtle ways, and the writers do a good job of reflecting the behavior of Sundareshwar back to his parents. This leaves Meenakshi to do all the heavy lifting in the relationship.
But the narrative drags and makes you wonder when it will get to the next point. The proceedings get increasingly tedious and the obstacles in the path of the protagonists more and more ridiculous, as the film limps to its absurd climax which looked like the makers were in a hurry to resolve the conflict and quickly arrive at a solution before time runs out.
Performance wise, Sanya Malhotra does a good job of essaying the various shades of Meenakshi and is a joy to watch for the way she performs her scenes, including those in which she doffs her hat to Rajinikanth. Abhimanyu Dassani conveys the gawkiness of a man with limited social skills quite well. He keeps his Sundareshwar subtle and effective, never straying out of character. The two add to the chemistry between their characters with their earnest performances.
In supporting roles, Shiv Kumar Subramaniam, Nivedita Bhargava, Purnendu Bhattacharya, Archana Iyer, Sonali Sachdev, and Manoj Mani Mathew, bring in earnest performances. On the whole, ‘Meenakshi Sundareshwar’ is adequate rom com which despite endearing performances is letdown by its poor execution.
Directed – Vivek Soni
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 141 minutes