Luka Chuppi Review: Performances outshine the writing in this average small-town romcom
The film comes into its own only towards the end of the 126-minute runtime when it becomes a comedy of errors, but it is a case of too little too late
It used to be the case that it would take a cop film or an action-packed entertainer to make an actor, a star. However, with the success of Ayushmann Khurrana, especially his Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015), actors seem to be using small-town films to inch closer to that elusive stardom.
Kartik Aaryan, the present heartthrob of Bollywood, and the proud bearer of the quintessential Delhi launda tag (thanks to his films with Luv Ranjan), now moves to central India in Luka Chuppi in an attempt to cater to a wider audience. Giving him company is Kriti Sanon, who continues from where she left off in 2017's Bareilly Ki Barfi. The talent pool in this film is quite impressive, with actors like Pankaj Tripathi, Vinay Pathak, Aparshakti Khurrana, and Atul Srivastava, livening the proceedings to a considerable extent. Unfortunately, Rohan Shankar's script doesn't do justice to this talented bunch of actors.
Laxman Utekar's directorial debut begins with a radical Hindu outfit taking offense against a Superstar's comments on live-in relationships. The outfit's leader in Mathura, Vishnu Trivedi (Vinay Pathak), and his cohorts lead by Srikanth Trivedi (an impressive Ajeet Singh) create havoc in different places across the state and do what these outfits specialise in doing: unleash unrelenting violence in the name of moral policing. And the age-old trope of the hero falling in love with the leader's daughter is repeated here. However, since it's fashioned as a romcom, things in Luka Chuppi never get too serious, and even the proverbial twists and turns become convenient detours, nothing more.
Guddu Shukla (Kartik) and Rashmi Trivedi (Kriti) fall in love, but when the former proposes marriage, Rashmi feels they need to live together before deciding their marriage compatibility. However, what follows is probably the weakest portion of the film, with the couple facing hardly any real problems during this phase of their lives. The biggest conflicts during this live-in equation are Guddu's inability to prepare a decent cup of noodles, and Rashmi's disinterest in cleaning the toilet. Hence, you are never quite invested in this relationship, and you don't feel Guddu and Rashmi are either.
The film comes into its own only towards the end of the 126-minute runtime when it becomes a comedy of errors. But, even there, the unnecessary message forced into the proceedings doesn't fit in with the tone of the film at all. Why do you need to add a message in a film that has Pankaj, in a thankless role, leching at any woman that moves around him? Why do you need to talk about freedom of choice and power of youth when a 'love marriage' is approved only because both families belong to the same caste?
That said, whenever Luka Chuppi does score, it is uproarious fun. For instance, the Bidaai song when Guddu leaves his home to start a live-in relationship, or the usage of yesteryear classics like Mera Naam Karega Roshan and Jaan pehchaan Ho, are some of the brightest moments in the film. Even the running gags like Guddu's unmarried brother, the throwaway lines by his sister-in-law, the garish outfits of the over-smart kid, and the nosy neighbour, hit their mark. The lack of a strong central conflict in the film, however, does prove to be quite the dampener.
Luka Chuppi is a half-baked attempt at a fun-filled take on how politicians use religion and culture as election propaganda. But, the makers play hide and seek for too long with this theme, and just merely mentioning it in passing doesn't quite cut it. And that's why, despite a hilarious final act, and top-notch performances by the ensemble cast, all that Luka Chuppi leaves you with, is a sense of incompleteness.