It’s an age of metaphors and allegories and some directors have understood it well enough to use it in their form of storytelling. If Bong Joon Ho used it to show us the ugly face of capitalism’s rat race, Hitesh Kewalya used it to tell us his first-ever story of forbidden love. It can also be easily marked as the most progressive and fearless LGBTQ film of Bollywood. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (SMZS).
Using inspiration from DDLJ‘s most iconic dialogues “Jaa Simran jaa, jee le apni zindagi,” (Go ahead Simran, go live life on your own terms) Kewalya tells us that DDLJ and every such epic love story need not only have a Raj and a Simran; it can also have a Raj and Mathew and a Simran and a Nazia.
In his own debutante way of replacing Jack and Jill in the age-old nursery poem with Jack and Johnny or using the evergreen Ye Dosti Hum Nahi Todenge from Sholay and hinting that Jai and Veeru could have been lovers too or referring to Arjun Mathur — another actor who boldly played the role of a gay actor in Amazon Prime’s Made In Heaven, Kewalya subtly but brilliantly added his film and the topic in mainstream Bollywood which is single-handedly responsible for creating stereotypes around the LGBTQ community shamelessly – since forever.
Kewalya’s SMZS is definitely not the first film to talk about homosexuality as the lead story frame. Before SMZS, came Sonam Kapoor’s leap-of-faith experiment Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. Yes, SMZS does take the topic from Ek Ladki Ko… a notch further but in a much better and dignified way.
Unlike Ek Ladki Ko…, SMZS doesn’t shy away from showing the two men in love — Kartik Singh (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Aman Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) — in the same frame and in intimate moments. Their love unlike Sweety and Kuhu isn’t platonic enough to just stay limited till the peck on cheeks but is real and passionate and doesn’t care about timing or people.
Yes, they still refrained from taking this love story to the bedroom but the mention of sleeping together does come up. Glad, at least Bollywood dared to reach here!
On the other side of the story is the typical North Indian family with their internal complicated family drama, a big fat wedding, slapstick jokes, irritating cousins and the opposite gender in the cast just for the sake of building that unwanted yet needed love triangle. Throughout the humorous journey of a very small town family coming to terms with their son’s sexuality, Kewalya picks up every thread that was required to knit this complicated tale.
He talks about generation gaps, people living without love, the level of negotiations that goes in our family because, khandan ki izzat (family’s honour) > your child’s happiness, the change of heart that doesn’t happen overnight, the prejudices deeply embedded in us since hundreds of years, the caste divide, the unimportant importance of marriage in our society.
SMZS tells us that homophobia doesn’t see place or education or class or money, it’s in our mind. Unless we decide to get rid of it, there’s no way of it disappearing. A well-educated scientist developing black cauliflowers (metaphors, metaphors, metaphors!) treats homosexuality as a disease while someone who failed their LLB exam understands that people don’t just ‘become’ gay.
While the movie does fall flat and becomes preachy post-intermission in its attempt to touch every base, Khurana’s perfect comic timing keeps us entertained. But in totality, it’s Kumar’s explanation of his hormones oxytocin and dopamine, that controls love universally irrespective of any gender, that saves the day. Along with Kewalya’s decision to teach his audience the highly needed basic education on sexuality and gender with a tinge of humour, of course.
But as hilarious as it is, the movie still has the potential to make a whole lot of us uncomfortable. As I watched the movie in the pretty judgment-free downtown area in Chicago, a middle-aged couple gasped at the smooch scene between Khurana and Kumar, while two girls giggled nervously.
Like Neena Gupta’s character said, the years of prejudice won’t disappear overnight, there’s still a long way to go and movies like SMZS can help us and our previous generations understand, without getting hyper preachy or Ekta Kapoor-level emotional, that if our love doesn’t fit in their definition, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Love is love. Period.