Campus romance, family strife, clash of austere South and profligate North, post-global India neutered to ugliness—Abhishek Varman’s 2 States, like the novel by best-selling author Chetan Bhagat on which it is based, has the ingredients of a profitable prime time TV commodity. Ego clashes of the saas-bahu kind abound in this story. Binod Pradhan’s cinematography makes the big screen adaptation somewhat justifiable, as does Alia Bhatt’s screen persona and performance—she fits perfectly in as the upper middle-class Tamil heroine from Chennai. But the 149-minutes of the film’s running time, swelling with stale North-South attributes, is overstretching the material. This is not the Eighties, and K Balachnader’s Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981) can’t represent this great divide. 2 States is more like the Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! (1994) of the 21st century. But the girl speaks up, and speaks sense. The rest is a cosmetically modern middle-class India.
Krish Malhotra (Arjun Kapoor) and Ananya Swaminathan (Bhatt) meet at IIM Ahmedabad, and romance blooms soon. The two years end with them spending much of their time with each other in closed rooms. Ananya gets a job with Sunsilk in Chennai and Krish returns to Delhi to be with his mother Kavita, an obsessive, overbearing and embittered lady given to histrionics and servility in equal measure. Krish’s father Vikram (Ronit Roy) is abusive and aloof and Krish has a history of ugly encounters with him. The couple decide to get married. Krish gets a job in Chennai and wins over the formidable Tamil family (Radha her mother played by Revathy and Shiv her father played by Shiv Subrahmanyan). Revathy, an extremely skilled actor, as well as Subrahmanyan, have little to do except appear joyless and stern.
Ananya’s job to soften Kavita is tougher. Her rudeness and ignorance are insufferable—but that’s Punjabi for you in this universe. Singh has more screen time and histrionics in her role, which she enthusiastically carries off. Roy delivers a restrained performance.
With cut-backs to a shrink’s couch from where Krish is narrating his life, and peppered with songs, the story takes a long road to the climactic wedding in a beautiful temple under cloudy skies—the most beautiful sequence in the film.
Kapoor blubbers a lot, and wears a lost-puppy look through the film. He overplays the IIT-IIM geek and gets away with a few endearing moments. We hardly get a glimpse into this hallowed campus and its milieu. The love story just zips along the corridors. The camera rests on the couple’s classmates just so you know they are bespectacled, sex-starved nerds.
Bhatt is sparkly. Her performances takes off awkwardly, but progressively becomes confident and convincing. When she arrives in Delhi to win over Krish’s parents, Ananya gets meaty scenes, and Bhatt brings a winsome individuality while pulling them off. The lead couple’s chemistry dies, as the same conflict heaps up on itself to keep an already dead narrative going.
The labour and fuss over this cross-state marriage are tedious. From an overblown soap opera, it is unfair to expect better.