In need of Groom-ing : The Tribune India

In need of Groom-ing

(2/5)
In need of Groom-ing

Film: Raksha Bandhan

Director: Aanand L. Rai

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Sadia Khateeb, Sahejmeen Kaur, Smrithi Srikanth, Deepika Khanna

Mona

A brother working day and night to get his four sisters married is a plot that many of us in modern India would find a tad distasteful.  Girls are reaching for the moon, are independent and strong, so what times is this film talking about? The current times...If you go by crime stats, even today 20 women die every single day due to dowry issues. This very difficult, and very sensitive, subject, is explored by director Aanand L. Rai in Raksha Bandhan.

Kedarnath (Akshay Kumar) is a ‘lala’ in Chandni Chowk, who is doing his baap-dada’s business of a ‘chaat’ place that people throng, especially those who desire a ‘son’. Ironically, he has four sisters. With both his parents gone, his greatest endeavour is to get them married. The stumbling block is the heavy dowry, which is a norm, he has to collect.  Add to it, an old family loan that he’s paying off, and that his sisters, except one, are rather unfortunate-looking – one is fat, another dark and yet another tomboyish. Not that you can body-shame them, as their quips are ready – big is beautiful, black is back and none can stop the youngest one from taking ‘pangas’.

Add to it Kedarnath’s promise to his dying mother that he would tie the knot only after marrying his sisters off, stopping him and his childhood sweetheart Sapna (Bhumi Pednekar) from marrying.

The film opens on a funny note, the seven-month pregnant women thronging the chaat place get precedence and our lala refusing to give ‘son’ guarantee in Rs 25. As he sprints to meet the prospective groom for his sister, another dukan wala offers him milk - ‘kyon, naag panchami hai aaj?’ he asks. References to Nirav Modi to dodge the loan to him taking a resolve to put his sister on a leaf-a day-diet, marinating another in ‘ubtan’, to turning Sunny ‘Deol’ to Sunny ‘Leone’ - he is all set! He will do anything to see his sisters married, so as not to lose his sweetheart.

But the story takes an overtly sensitive turn, comedy leads to tragedy, the guffaws in the hall turn to sobs. Dowry turns over from a norm to a menace within moments, as the film takes a sombre turn.

Raksha Bandhan is over the top. A cringe-bhajan, loud acts, politically incorrect statements, yet it raises a valid issue, and effectively so. The plot goes all over, and is full on clichés. Akshay Kumar as Lala Kedarnath has a huge weight riding on his shoulders, and despite the histrionics-filled act, he manages to make the audience feel for him. Bhumi Pednekar takes turns from a supportive fiancée to girl at the end of her patience with all the waiting. She looks lovely in sarees. The four sisters – Gayatri, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, played by Sadia Khateeb, Deepika Khanna, Smrithi Srikanth and Sahejmeen Kaur, respectively - aid the story in the limited scenes that they get. Sadia Khateeb gets more screen space and justifies the ideal daughter-sister character she gets to play. Seema Pahwa’s character as a matchmaker in Shalu doesn’t give her much of a chance, but she manages to add to the drama. Neeraj Sood as Sapna’s father in the ‘shadi’ scene reminds one of the desperate father such as the one in Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin.

At little less than two hours, except for a song or two, the film moves at a fine place. In fact, the songs, Tere Saath Hoon Main and Bidaai, help the storyline; the music is by Himesh Reshammiya. With Tanu Weds Manu, Raanjhanaa and Tanu Weds Manu: Returns to his credit, expectations are high from director Aanand L. Rai, but Raksha Bandhan sure falls short, but even if this exaggerated social commentary saves another woman from being a victim of dowry death, it’s worth the effort!