Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari Review: The stars are misaligned
Manoj Bajpayee and Diljit Dosanjh bump heads in a shoddy comedy
Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari gets real dumb real fast. The Dhillons — gamely portrayed by Manoj and Seema Pahwa — have come to see a bride for their only son Suraj (Diljit Dosanjh). They've barely talked when the girl starts sniffing at him. Suraj, apparently, stinks of 'ghee'. It's a gag that would disappoint in a film from the 1990s, the period this story takes place in. Yet, director Abhishek Sharma is convinced this is the best way to start a comedy.
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Diljit Dosanjh, Fatima Sana Shaikh
Director: Abishek Sharma
Releasing on: November 15
The girl ends up rejecting Suraj, who's been trying to marry for a while and failing. With no respite in sight, he turns to Bollywood for inspiration, borrowing the Salman jacket from Maine Pyaar Kiya and (more alarmingly) drunk-riding on the streets. However, before his 'Bad Boy' make-over can work its charm, he gets snapped by Madhu Mangal Rane (Manoj Bajpayee), a ‘wedding detective’ paid to tail prospective grooms. This leads to another rejection and Suraj swears revenge. Gathering Madhu’s whereabouts, he breaks into his office one night, only to fall for his sister Turshi (Fatima Sana Shaikh).
Fatima — also present in this week's Ludo — inhabits Turshi with sharpness and spunk. Her Marathi sounds adequately lived-in, and there's an amusing detail of her entering a late-night coaching centre from the front door and out the back — she's actually a DJ at a back-alley nightclub. Yet, the film too caught up in the one-upmanship between Suraj and Madhu, often sidesteps its most intriguing character. It's hardly likely she'll accept Suraj back when he maims her career to get back at Madhu. But equally absurd is her falling for her brother's gambit, when he willingly agrees to engage her to Suraj. He's obviously up to no good — something that his smart, discerning sister should see.
Madhu is essentially a comic invention, changing get-ups on the go and screwing a portable camera to his gut. Yet Manoj, perhaps to distinguish this role from the one in The Family Man, also makes him impossibly sly. Diljit's over-bright urban hipsters are getting hard for Hindi cinema to contain; it’s not that he plays them wrong, just that he plays them too much. The film also makes middling use of Annu Kapoor as Madhu’s belching sidekick and Supriya Pilgaonkar as his saloon-running mom (the actor is only two years older than Manoj, an oddity smartly addressed in a line).
The Mumbai of 1995 is created via documentary clips (the trick was also used in Class of ‘83) and other visual cues: WWF trading cards, gaming consoles, nods to iconic hits. This, however, is let down by a jarringly contemporary soundtrack and roads that look conspicuously empty. Abhishek and his writers show an interest in local Marathi culture — refreshingly, Turshi invites Suraj to a Marathi play instead of a movie — but play up the loudness of the Dhillons, who are typical movie Punjabis. My favourite character is Suraj’s nerdy sister, who, when told to pack up for their hometown of Moga, says she’d rather visit Essel World. In a mostly directionless film, she’s got her priorities sorted.