Shallow, careless writing weakens romance-Entertainment News, Firstpost
Shiddat has his heart in the right place but not enough narrative depth to justify his 140-minute battery life.
Most writers love their own words. When we are young, our words organize themselves on the page in a style that attracts attention years later. As we get older, we nonetheless refer to these past words by allusions, reminders, hyperlinks. It’s self-congratulation, however you cut it. I know, as I suspect most writers.
But even by those standards, it was a bit too much to see the weight of writing given to a brief monologue at the start of Kunal Deshmukh’s film. Shiddat (now available on Disney + Hotstar). This is a short speech given by young diplomat Gautam (Mohit Raina) at his engagement party, about how he met his fiancee Ira (Diana Penty). If I hadn’t met you in London, he said, it would have been Paris or Amsterdam. They always ended up meeting because “Tum meri kismet ho”(You are my destiny) said Gautam. For some reason, these lines affect the free spirit Jaggi (Sunny Kaushal) in such a deep way that he swears he will find a love “worthy” of the feeling. “Dil ko touching kar gayi baatHe said twice, slapping his chest.
Throughout the film, while the fates of Gautam and Jaggi remain improbably linked, Jaggi reminds Gautam over and over again of this same speech, as if it were an excerpt from a collection of medieval poetry (when ‘it’s actually written in a Paulo-Coelho-meets-K-Pop register).
It’s curious to see the importance Shiddat attributes to this, perhaps the weakest part of an uneven scenario. The film tells two love stories: the “major” key is a DDLJ-esque (as you might expect, the connection is explained in a dialogue) romance between two national level athletes: hockey player Jaggi (Sunny Kaushal) and swimmer Kartika (Radhika Madan). The “minor” key is the broken marriage of Gautam and Ira, who now live in Paris.
The problem with both scenarios is the same, really: shallow, careless writing. The Jaggi-Kartika romance is meant to be a variation on the theme of attracting opposites. He is the loud, carefree, inappropriate heart of gold – but somehow charming. She’s the pragmatic, intense, competitive, and level-headed half of romance. Here’s the thing, though: While Jaggi is presumably boring for most of the characters on display (more than once he’s called “ch ** ia”), it’s not clear why people end up doing it. to like. There is exactly one generic, heartwarming pep talk he gives to Kartika on “the love of the game,” which lasts half a minute. But other than that, I really didn’t understand why Kartika falls in love with Jaggi or why Jaggi attracts the kind of undying loyalty he gets from friends and strangers. He’s a maniacal pixie dream boy, only the charm is largely subtext, it seems. This is the basic protagonism: the hero is the hero because he is the hero.
The Gautam-Ira romance presents an even more difficult prospect for the viewer in terms of improbability. Ira is either an “activist” or a “social worker,” depending on the mood of the writers; anyway, she works with undocumented immigrants. At a dinner party at the High Commissioner’s office, she argues with one of Gautam’s fellow diplomats, which makes him really angry, resulting in a temper tantrum. As for what Ira actually said to spark such fury, we’re in the dark because it’s happening offscreen – handy, because bringing up the conversation would have meant that the writers of Shiddat actually something consistent about immigration.
Later, on the way home, Ira feeds an undocumented immigrant boy; in an award-worthy cock swing, Gautam slyly asks the boy to reveal where he and his also undocumented migrant friends sleep at night. He gets them kicked out and she leaves him in a panic: they are “very different people”. For him, these people are “illegals” as he puts it. For her, these are people she helps on a daily basis.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s really nice, not to say important, that Shiddat places undocumented immigration as an important plot point and makes it clear that migrants are the good guys who are wronged (read beaten, caged, killed) by draconian police and vengeful governments (personified by Gautam).
If you’ve kept up to date with the latest headlines you’ll know this is an important post and I applaud Deshmukh and the authors for it. It’s just that this is all so stupid at the storyline level.
Get this: Gautam’s “thaw” moment comes when he spies on his now estranged wife feeding the homeless on a street corner. He pays one of those homeless people and eats said food, and that… somehow convinces him that he has to get back with her? The scene’s set of “woman-served food” connotations are quite bizarre, but what’s even more disturbing is how the poor are used as a stepladder for the hero’s self-congratulation. A similar moment happened in Baahubali, when the boy-prince Mahendra eats “the servant’s food” with his adopted uncle Kattappa, the appointed servant of the throne. In both of these scenes, we’re meant to applaud the hero’s largesse and his epiphany because he (cue horror-gasps) eats with poor people.
Director Kunal Deshmukh once took inspiration from the headlines: Like Bombay floods with Tum mile, or the scandal of match-fixing cricket in 2000 with Jannat. To some extent, the shallow writing problem exists in these movies as well, but it is not as glaring as with Shiddat, which has its heart in the right place but not enough narrative depth to justify its 140-minute battery life.