Two boys dressed in identical red bodysuits with flowing capes are running towards train number 377. Writer-director Hitesh Kewalya is not shying away from the same sex conversation. He’s not subtle about it either, but he treats the relationship between Kartik Singh (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Aman Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) with respect and sensitivity.
The central issue of this romcom is not homosexuality, but homophobia. When Aman and Kartik arrive at the former’s cousin’s wedding, Aman’s family is unaware of his relationship status. As guarded as Aman is in front of his family, Kartik is confidently wearing his heart on his sleeve.
But Aman’s conservative Tripathi family cannot face the shame of their boy’s choices. It’s an affliction, curable by chanting some mantras and rebirthing him in a new avatar. A marriage to a nice girl next door should fix it all. Through the family’s reactions, Kewalya presents numerous misconceptions and misdirected ‘remedies’ while offering a hat-tip to the quintessential Bollywood love story ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’. He also incorporates headlines, such as the reading down of Section 377.
Kartik stands his ground throughout, even accepting Aman’s weakness in the face of adversity. As placid as Aman is, Kartik is hyper and exuberant. Kumar blends in as the small town boy-next-door and Khurrana brings in nuance while deftly stepping away from the verge of stereotypical campiness. His film choices, and his interpretation, continue to impress.
Aman’s homophobic father, played fervently by Gajraj Rao, is a scientist whose experiments have yielded a black cauliflower — another unsubtle metaphor. Neena Gupta is delightful as the straightforward mother who has a peppery relationship with her sister-in-law (Sunita Rajwar). The politics of the joint family is a running thread, one that plays for laughs but also becomes the stumbling block, distracting from the main plot.
As the shock and drama of Aman and Kartik is unfolding in the foreground, an unmarried cousin, Goggle, is coming to terms with her own battles with convention. It’s a clever layer and Maanvi Gagroo spiritedly portrays Goggle. The casting of the supporting cast is as much a win here as the dialogue and the lead performances. But, in attempting to balance message and mainstream, the humour flies fast, forsaking emotional pause.
In a scene where Aman attempts to breakthrough to his parents, he uses chemicals to describe his feelings countering their concern with, why is your oxytocin love and my oxytocin a disease? In another telling moment, Kartik turns the mirror to Mr. Tripathi and says that the daily battles fought by gay people out in the world are not nearly as hard as the ones they face with their families.
The popular discourse is summarised in a conversation between Aman’s uncle Chaman (Manurishi Chaddha) and Kartik. ‘When did you decide you would be gay?’, Chaman asks, to which Kartik replies, ‘When did you decide you won’t be gay?’
Trivia: Hitesh Kewalya was scriptwriter on the 2017 hit ‘Shubh Mangal Savdhan’ directed by R S Prasanna
Writer-director Hitesh Kewalya is not shying away from the same sex conversation. He’s not subtle about it either, but treats the relationship between the lead duo with respect and sensitivity