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Band Baaja Baaraat

Posted by martinteller on June 23, 2014

Bittoo Sharma (Ranveer Singh) is just finishing up college.  He and his buddies crash a wedding for free food.  The affair is being organized by Shruti Kakkar (Anushka Sharma), herself about to graduate college and looking to start her own wedding planning business.  Shruti catches Bittoo in the chow line and chastises him, but he worms his way out of the confrontation.  Smitten, he later pursues her and tries to strike up a romance, but she’s all business.  However, Bittoo’s future is harvesting sugar cane on the family farm, and a wedding planning business sounds like a much more desirable alternative.  He hitches his wagon to Shruti and the two start their own company, “Shaadi Mubarak”.  As they rocket their way to success, their plans to keep love out of the business fall by the wayside, and that’s when things get messy.

The best thing I can say about this movie is that there’s a lot it doesn’t get wrong, at least compared to a lot of other Bollywood romcoms.  Singh isn’t a complete knucklehead of a leading man, although the sideburns and leather vest over his bare chest aren’t helping.  Bollywood usually seems a bit behind the times, but Bittoo sometimes feels like he dropped in from the 1980’s.  The movie doesn’t jump through a lot of silly hoops to build romantic conflict.  Absolutely none of the humor made me groan, which is rare.  The story sidesteps plot devices that would have been predictable and lame, like other romantic interests who are clearly the wrong ones, or bringing back the big shot wedding planner for a trumped-up rivalry.

And the movie has charms beyond just not screwing things up.  Sharma has undeniable presence and makes Shruti an admirably strong character.  It’s actually fun to watch Shruti and Bittoo collaborate, and as a viewer I felt invested in their relationship.  Having the pair be wedding planners is a stroke of genius, as it allows for the movie to lay on the garish spectacle naturally.  Bright colors abound, and the musical sequences are pretty dazzling.  It also seems like a smart move for them to describe their own work as “kitsch” so we can more easily forgive the cheesy laser light shows and smoke machines.

But still, this isn’t great.  The songs are fun but didn’t wow me, and the lyrics are painfully on-the-nose, pretty much describing exactly what’s going on emotionally.  There’s little in the way of subtext or subtlety, either in the songs or the story.  I thought about this for a while, trying to decide how important it is.  I came to the conclusion that if you’re noticing a lack of subtlety, then it’s a problem because that means the film isn’t sweeping you away.  Also, the (inevitable) rift between Bittoo and Shruti develops far too quickly and too drastically.  I can believe the conflict, it just felt really extreme to me, for the sake of extra drama.  And Maneesh Sharma (making his directorial debut) relies far too heavily on montage and big “money shots”, to the point where it either gets tiresome or ridiculous (as in the 360 moves around Bittoo as he broods).

Nonetheless, I don’t want to beat up on the movie too much.  It’s not that sophisticated and it’s certainly not perfect, but it’s quite watchable and delivered enough enjoyment to keep me engaged.  Rating: Good (72)


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