Hey Sinamika Movie Review: Invested performances lift this interesting, but flawed romance
Such films, with their focus on interpersonal relationships, come as a welcome departure from all the star-worshipping
Hey Sinamika may be the remake of a remake (the Korean film, All About My Wife (2012), which itself was an adaptation of the Argentinian film, Un Novio Para Mi Mujer (2008)), but all of this really, really doesn’t matter because the dynamics are changed in choreographer Brinda’s directorial debut.
The original was the story of a man who wanted out from his nag of a wife. Here though, it’s not just that the genders get switched (the wife wants out here); it’s also that Dulquer’s protagonist, Yaazhan, has been redesigned into being a dream man, shall we say? He’s opinionated, yes, but his opinions stand for all the right causes—against fast food, against urgency, against bottling up emotions, against silly optimism… It’s hard to disagree with him because he’s particularly well-read and it’s hard to engage with him because he’s eloquent to boot. Say, if you were to offhandedly mention something about flirting, he would stifle you with a night-long explanation of the 23 rules of flirtation. I found him to be a bit of a bore. Oh, and he’s morally upstanding as well. If you, his spouse, were to even catch him flirting, it would never be with a lady… only with a lady's finger (which happens in this film). Understandably, Mouna (Aditi Rao Hydari’s character named so because he hardly lets her speak?) gets frustrated and yearns for a moment of respite from her sanctimonious chatterbox of a husband. And you know this is coming because the opening scene, all too literally, depicts them as they meet each other during a storm (I really enjoyed the callback to this scene later on in the film).
Cast: Aditi Rao Hydari, Kajal Aggarwal, Dulquer Salmaan
First things first. I found quite a bit about Hey Sinamika to be refreshing. I liked that a mainstream actor like Dulquer normalises being a househusband and liked that his lack of employment never gets called into question or becomes the subject of mockery. It just is. I wish we had understood a bit more about his choice to be a househusband though, especially because his situation changes rather dramatically later in the film. The actor plays the role with great self-assurance, and even when a situation forces him into wearing a flowing dress that belongs to his wife, he seems greatly secure. I also enjoyed that this attribute of talkativeness—that is often attached to women and portrayed as a cute trait—is here ascribed to a man and is slightly problematised.
The role of the man as a househusband means that some usual moments get subverted. For instance, take the scene that shows Mouna going on a working vacation. Where we would typically get a scene of the husband yelling ‘en pondaati oorukku poitaa’, we see the wife revelling instead. Above all, these films, with their focus on interpersonal relationships, come as a welcome departure from all the star-worshipping.
Kajal Aggarwal is quite likeable and seems rather invested in playing Malarvizhi, a psychologist suffering the burden of male-inflicted trauma. Her conviction in this role ensures that the character never comes across as a caricature, even though Malarvizhi is not exactly well-defined. Perhaps because Malar speaks of all the men who have wronged her or perhaps because our society is an easier place for a man, I kept wondering about the choice to portray Yaazhan as a flawless man. In a sense, he’s almost a fantasy. He’s loyal to a fault, sensitive to boot, well-spoken, secure in his sexuality… and did I say, flawless? He doesn’t put a foot wrong. I don’t know about you, but being flawless is a sort of flaw, wouldn’t you say? I say this despite Yaazhan being a big fan of movie critics who problematise films. You see what I mean? That I dig into these characters as much is credit to how this film is populated with interesting, new people. And the score by Govind Vasantha, of course, which seems to communicate bits and pieces of peace and soul (‘Thozhi’ is a great example of this).
This film which seems to mean well, for the most part, takes a major misstep by making Mouna the cause of all problems. One particular shot of the woman on her knees seemed like a particularly cruel writing decision, given how it seems to absolve Dulquer’s Yaazhan of all responsibility in the relationship breakdown. Is it problematic only when someone cheats or falls in love with a person outside marriage (as Mouna attempts to stage)? Is it problematic only when you inflict physical harm on your spouse (like a couple we see in a song montage)? Is Mouna’s concern that this overbearing, spoonfeeding, talkative man won’t give her any space to exist, not valid? And yet, save for a cursory line towards the end, we barely ever see Yaazhan’s behaviour getting subjected to any scrutiny, despite it being ridiculous enough to get milked for humour for much of this film. The film’s end left me fighting a bitter aftertaste.
Also, despite all the emphasis on Malarvizhi’s character and her transformation, it appears that our films will continue to prioritise existing relationships over potential new ones. And this film, at one point, seemed so primed to do something new with its romantic triangle and create an unlikely resolution, but then, it opts for the safer route. Perhaps if the film hadn’t ended the way it did (including that rather cheesy Malarvizhi line about her career), I might have remembered it with more fondness. As it exists though, it’s still interesting enough to fuel conversation. And that’s more than you can say about most films.