Raksha Bandhan (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A story revolving around relationships between a brother and his four sisters.

My Take – With Rajshri Productions maintaining a low key profile for some time now, it is suffice to say that family targeted films, layered with dense wrappings of Indian traditions, have been missing from the big screen for a while. Hence right from its announcement last year, this Akshay Kumar and director Aanand L. Rai re-collaboration, following the success of last year’s Atrangi Re, which focused on the sentimental bond between a brother and his sisters seemed like a sure shot box office success.

Woven in a bouquet of emotions, the film seemed to contain enough material to keep the audience tied for its 108 minute run time, but unfortunately for everyone involved, the pitch and execution of the material is such that it just doesn’t allow one to get fully immersed.

Written by Himanshu Sharma (Tanu Weds Manu, Raanjhana, Zero) and Kanika Dhillon (Manmarziyaan), the film is crafted as a shockingly regressive family drama that would have us believe that girls irrespective of their own dreams and career aspirations have to be married and domesticated.

Yes, it addresses the evil practice of dowry and comments on how people still prefer birthing a boy over a girl, but the route it takes is just too loud and melodramatic to accumulate your attention in one place, and bounds itself with a narrative that’s repetitive and a tad tedious. Though it celebrates all the right things and has a committed Akshay Kumar leading, it’s the journey to that celebration that doesn’t really intrigue you to stay invested even with its potential to be a far more entertaining watch.

Set in the locales of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, the story follows Lala Kedarnath (Akshay Kumar), who runs a family owned gol gappa (panipuri) shop, which is especially popular among pregnant women who believe that after gulping some down increases the possibility of giving birth to male child. However, his personal life is far more chaotic as Lala had made a promise to his dying mother that he would tie the knot only after he has fulfilled his responsibility of marrying his sisters – the sensible and responsible Gayatri (Sadia Khateeb), the overweight Durga (Deepika Khanna), the dusky Laxmi (Smrithi Srikanth), and the tomboyish Saraswati (Sahejmeen Kaur).

But despite his best efforts and careful screening of all available men, he is unable to marry off his sisters. At the same time, Lala’s devotion to his sisters continuously impedes his romantic life with his childhood sweetheart, Sapna (Bhumi Pednekar) as her father too wants her to get married off at an appropriate age. What follows are Lala’s relentless efforts to ensure his sisters settle down and pool together the money needed for their dowry and weddings.

Grounded in the staple Aanand L Rai grassroots and heartland humor, here, Himanshu Sharma and Kanika Dhillon create a world that is familiar, over simple and relatable, all the while beautifully depicting siblings’ love and support for one another. Here, the poor man’s plight is meant to leave the audience in tears, but it doesn’t. In its bid to extract comedy out of social evils, the film forgets where to draw the line. Not everything can be joked about.

Sure, right from the first scene we know where the story is heading, and that’s fine, but the convoluted route that it takes to get there makes the journey awfully wearisome. While the first half is watchable, thanks to Lala’s sisters’ teasing and bonding, but filled with loud humor and the sacrificial sentiments, it is the emotionally-charged second half that needed more attention.

Though the first half spends most of its time in lauding the selflessness of the brother, it is second half where the film turns into an insufferable turgid tearjerker that delivers an anti-dowry statement but not before it has repeatedly underlined the regressive notion that women are the mercy of the men in their lives, either fathers, brothers or husbands.

It is a loud, shrill and excruciatingly approach that went out of fashion (at least in cinema) almost two decades ago, and not for once does it pause to ponder over how insensitive all the noise it makes sounds. And by the time both Lala and the audience realize the futility of their actions it’s too late. Making matters worse is the very forgettable soundtrack by Himesh Reshammiya, whose tracks continuously interrupt the narrative.

It doesn’t help that Akshay Kumar is at his committed best here. This one was a role tailor-made for him and with his act, Akshay proves how easy these kinds of roles are for him. Whether he is playing the helpless brother or committed lover, the actor is in form throughout. Bhumi Pednekar offers nothing new in terms of her performance, but does manage to salvage a few scenes.

The four sisters, played by debutantes, Sadia Khateeb, Deepika Khanna, Smrithi Srikanth, and Sahejmeen Kaur are effective in their respective roles. In supporting turns, Seema Pahwa, Neeraj Sood and Sahil Mehta are excellent. On the whole, ‘Raksha Bandhan’ is a downer family drama made unbearable by its regressive and loud approach.

Directed –

Starring – Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Sadia Khateeb

Rated – PG

Run Time – 108 minutes

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