Sab Kushal Mangal Movie Review: Akshaye Khanna goofs about in an atrocious comedy
The year’s first Hindi film is unfunny, incompetent, and gloriously glib
Bappi Lahiri ushers Hindi cinema into the new year. As the opening credits roll, we hear him hum the title track of Sab Kushal Mangal — telling us how, despite everything, all is well. It’s an aptly nostalgic start to a film that aspires for nothing more. Everything about Karan Vishwanath Kashyap’s film feels plucked from the past. It’s starchy and sentimental, with a plot that’s crudely offensive, and gloriously glib. The 90s throwback was a working device in the 2010s. Today, it does little but expose the bankruptcy of the makers.
Cast: Akshaye Khanna, Priyaank Sharma, Riva Kishan
Director: Karan Vishwanath Kashyap
The film is set in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Pappu Mishra (debutant Priyaank Sharma) is an anchor for a popular channel. He is kidnapped by strongman Baba Bhandari (Akshaye Khanna) and his men. They want Pappu to marry a girl named Mandira (debutante Riva Kishan). Mandira visits Pappu in captivity but conceals her true identity — a test of sorts. Pappu, true to name, fails miserably, blurting out expletives like "I change women like clothes..." (it’s funny how the film assumes he’s lying).
Soon, the lad flees and Mandira’s family is anguished. Her brother, getting desperate, favours a proposal by Bhandari, who’s caught sight of Mandira and fallen for her. From here on, it all turns into Hum Kisise Kum Nahin — a 2003 comedy starring Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgn, and Aishwarya Rai. The plot runs silly circles around Pappu realising his love for Mandira, coming back and elbowing Bhandari out of his path. There’s one semi-serious scene, where the men finally lock gaze, moments after Bhandari has harassed Mandira in a theatre. Pappu starts out by explaining the idea of consent, then, with shocking casualness, tells him he better let her go, since a non-consenting girl is worse after marriage (it’s funny how the film assumes he’s bluffing).
Like Jabariya Jodi last year, Sab Kushal Mangal makes light of forced marriages. It’s treated as a joke, a comforting resort for parents harried by dowry. Karan’s idea of a liberated female character is if she a) flies kites, b) takes selfies, c) threatens to kill herself. The absolute daftness flows into song, Sameer Anjaan’s lyrics telling us how modernity is all about dads fearing moms or some such. You could, of course, forgive the insensitivity and lighten up — if only the film was funny in any regard. It isn’t. There’s not a single witty line, and while Akshaye tries his best to goof about — sporting florid shirts and calling Akshay Kumar "Rajeev" — nothing ever sticks.
The only time I chuckled is when someone pulls out a snowglobe. Like Bappi’s gilded voice, it felt like a relic, from a time when Bollywood was its own dumb, saccharine self. It has since been buried with changing times, though some filmmakers willingly cling to its bones, refusing to adapt or evolve. That’s the sad part about nostalgia. It doesn’t let you grow.