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Hotels play a key role in Shaadi Ke Side Effects, starring Farhan Akhtar and Vidya Balan as a married couple whose cosiness starts evaporating after they have a baby. The movie opens in a hotel with a neat gag about Akhtar’s Sid and Balan’s Trisha pretending to be strangers who pick each other up in a bar as a way to spice up their marriage. Another hotel serves as a refuge from fatherhood for Sid, the place that he repairs to when the idea of having a baby overwhelms him. If Dil Chahta Hai encouraged road trips to Goa and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara helped several Indians discover the joys of travelling in Spain, Shaadi Ke Side Effects could well result in a boost in the hospitality business from harried married men wanting to escape their stifling families.

Saket Chaudhary’s movie is a sequel of sorts to his warmly received Pyaar Ke Side Effects, a romcom about a commitment-phobe’s futile attempts to run in the opposite direction from the inevitable fate of marriage and domesticity. Chaudhary’s debut, released in 2006, had endearing characters, several nicely executed gags, a consistently comic tone and empathy for the female lead even though the story played out entirely from a male point of view. Shaadi Ke Side Effects continues with the male POV, has the same exasperated voice-over and similar sense of shock at the responsibilities foisted by marriage on the male gender. The second film has gained gloss and glamorous leads but at the expense of variety and tonal consistency. Early-reel wackiness is jettisoned for heavy-handed sermonizing, Sid’s suffering enters masochistic territory, Trisha begins to look less like a misunderstood mother and more like an uncaring hausfrau, while minor characters (Rati Agnihotri, Ila Arun) fade out after being introduced. Sid’s loss of manhood is always lurking around the corner, and the only thing this film is missing is a performance anxiety scene to complete his sense of emasculation.

Sid’s anxiety over the disappearance of the spark that characterized his relationship with Trisha is established smoothly and confidently in the opening sequences. The relatable banter and comfortable vibe between Akhtar and Balan lift predictable reactions to Trisha’s pregnancy (confusion), her delivery (anxiety), and the sleepless nights after baby Mili’s entry (frustration). But for a pair so deeply in love, Sid and Trisha have a communication gap wider than two planets. This is supposed to be a movie about two people, but since Chaudhary frets more about Sid’s condition, he fails to explore Trisha’s side of the story or push through the movie’s strongest idea, that a baby isn’t necessarily the best thing to happen in a marriage. Akhtar, who looks as though he has emerged out of a Fountain of Youth, fits snugly into the part of a self-obsessed child-man who sorely misses his carefree past. More relaxed and less self-conscious than in his previous screen outings, Akhtar gives a breezy, assured performance, outperforming Balan for no fault of hers. Since the movie doesn’t care for Trisha’s side of the story—she gives up her career for Mili—Chaudhary ignores the opportunity to exploit Balan’s comic timing and gives her no room to explain her insensitive behaviour. Balan remains in The Dirty Picture mode, biting her lower lip to affect sexiness, knitting her brows together to signal anger, and flouncing about in ill-fitting clothes while Akhtar purrs about with the confidence that he holds all the aces in this alleged two-hander.

Shaadi Ke Side Effects released in theatres on Friday.

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