Meenakshi Sundareshwar: Story of a mismatch

It is a kind of film that won’t keep you awake but provides talk-points for dinner table discussion

Essentially a tale of match and mismatch where a smart and confident girl Meenakshi (Sanya Malhotra) gets into an arranged marriage with a boy called Sundareshwar (Abhimanyu) who needs more than a bit of hand-holding in negotiating the world, it is yet another film where writers raise significant issues about family, companionship, long-distance relationship and career but fail to integrate them into a persuasive storyline.

Sundar’s father wants him to help out with matching falls to sarees in the family business but he is keen to make a name for himself. Meenakshi loves this independent streak but does the boy who has grown up playing ‘book cricket’ have the tools to chisel his ambition?

Perhaps, the writers binged on Netflix series Little Things before coming up with this Dharmatic variant where during the first meeting Sundar, an engineer, describes himself as a great problem solver and the girl, a management graduate, shares her desire to work in a small firm where she could make a big difference.

Also read | ‘Meenakshi Sundareshwar’ trailer: Why is everyone speaking in Hindi?

One thought that this idealistic tone will get bruised and tested in the real world but director Vivek Soni keeps digging his heels but doesn’t really take a leap. He even invokes Rajinikanth but the film fails to fly.

Like the last week’s release, Hum do Humare Do, there is no compelling reason for the trouble that arises in the couple’s life. After an interesting match-up, we come across Sundar’s boss Senthil, a half-baked variant of Virus from 3 Idiots, who wants the newcomers in his company to be bachelors, forcing Sundar into a long-distance relationship with his spouse. Sundar struggles in Bengaluru but Meenakshi supports his silly decisions from Madurai. They talk over the phone, play games on the laptop, as the boss of the IT company perhaps feels that only the physical presence of a girl can distract his boys in this day and age.

Had it been mounted as a comedy, we would have played along but here the conceit and self-awareness are hard to ignore. Even the background score has a self-congratulatory tone. The way Meenakshi’s character is written, Sundar and his home become that small firm where she would make a big difference, without getting paid. Her vulnerabilities, her fault lines are conspicuous by their absence. The emergence of Ananthan, a male friend, raises hopes for more layers in this Kanjeevaram but it remains more of a Karan Johar chiffon.

The Bombay film industry has a tradition of remaking South Indian family dramas but here a story set in the South Indian milieu with Tamil characters is made into a Hindi film. Perhaps, the tremendous success of dubbed films from South India in the Hindi market pushed the makers to try something original but the artifice is hard to ignore. The storyline doesn’t offer any reason as to why in a film set in Madurai, the heart of Tamil Nadu, South Indian characters are speaking in Hindi.

Unlike Sundar’s boss, the makers are not keen to invest in raw energy here. Mounted like a commercial advertisement on South Indian culture for a North Indian audience, the camera soft focuses only on staples like jasmine garlands, filter coffee, and, of course, the Thalaiva.

It is hard to make a boring character engaging and Abhimanyu struggles to make us invest in Sundar who is neither Pichai nor an incarnation of Lord Shiva.

Sanya tries hard to make the film rise above its pitfalls. The way she nonchalantly plays with Sundar’s shirt in his absence raises hopes of an unalloyed romance but the contaminating verbosity that ensues kills the fun. One wants to check, the word count on Senthil’s app that keeps a check on the number of spoken words.

It is a kind of film that won’t keep you awake but provides material for dinner table discussion and if we apply the mood app that Sundar builds in the film, the reading would be between ho hum and alright.

(Meenakshi Sundareshwar is currently streaming on Netflix)

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