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‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’ film review: This neat rom-com walks the line between crass and preachy

RS Prasanna’s remake of his Tamil comedy stars Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar.

In how many different ways can you talk about erectile dysfunction? Let Shubh Mangal Saavdhan show you. A Parle G biscuit limply falling into a cup of tea illustrates this “gents problem”. It’s the running metaphor for Delhi boy Mudit’s issues.

After fancying Sugandha (Bhumi Pednekar) from afar, Mudit (Ayushmaan Khurrana) finally musters up the courage to approach her, only to be affectionately attacked by a performing bear. It’s a scene that’s more red herring than symbolic of the tone of humour in RS Prasanna’s film. Based on his own 2013 Tamil hit, Kalyana Samayal Saadham, the Hindi remake has been adapted to a North Indian setting with its own particular idioms and quirks by writer Hitesh Kewalya.

Demonstrating his inability to stand up for himself, Mudit takes the easy way out and sends an online marriage proposal. At first Sugandha is disappointed that an arranged marriage could rob her of her long-cherished dream of a Bollywood style courtship and romance, complete with elopement and melodrama. Prasanna uses a montage of film clips to show a kind of scrapbook of Sugandha’s wedding wishes.

But when it seems like the families are gung-ho about the match, Sugandha decides that she will ensure she finds love in an arranged marriage. The process of getting to know each other leads to a night of intimacy and Mudit revealing his problem. This sets off a chain of events involving both families, but Prasanna’s story focusses on the growing relationship between the boy and girl and Mudit’s coming of age. As the couple tackles an issue that might impact the rest of their lives, the families get busy organising a destination wedding in Haridwar.

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Kewalya and Prasanna get many of the nuances right with Mudit using words like “loyaltyness”, “resume” for résumé and “oneon” in place of onion. There’s a poignant scene in which Sugandha tries to seduce Mudit after taking inspiration from an adult movie. It’s a bittersweet moment which both the actors nail.

Another fine scene is when Sugandha’s mother (played impressively by Seema Pahwa) tries to have the birds and bees chat with her daughter, using the metaphor of Ali Baba and a cave. Pahwa is given some of the choicest one-liners such as comment on the wedding in Haridwar when she says a destination wedding means fewer people will come and the those who do can wash off their sins at the same time. The performance by Sugandha’s father, Neeraj Sood, is particularly noteworthy.

Ayushmann Khurrana is very watchable as the 26-year-old boy becoming a man. His growth as an actor is evident in the quieter moments when Mudit broods about his situation and the louder ones when he stands up for his choices. Khurrana and Pednekar share an affable chemistry and she embraces her character with resourcefulness.

The cinematography, production design and a crisp 105 minutes running time add to the appeal of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. The screenplay manages to walk the line between crass and preachy, keeping the balance between comedy, romance and the sensitivities around a taboo topic. However, a collection of nice moments and thoughts is untidily stitched together.

It’s ironic that in a film about erectile dysfunction the story should go flaccid in the climax. And a gratuitous cameo adds to the befuddlement as to why the filmmaker felt the need to derail an otherwise-neat little romcom.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.