Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Alia Bhatt
Director: Abhishek Varman
Madrasis are dark, Punjabis are cash-obsessed, and never the twain shall meet. Those familiar prejudices make for a legitimate movie pitch, but '2 States', directed by first-timer Abhishek Varman, is a frustrating case of a promising premise that doesn't fully fructify into a compelling film.
Adapted from Chetan Bhagat's autobiographical novel, the film coasts along nicely while focusing on Krish (Arjun Kapoor) and Ananya (Alia Bhatt), who meet on campus at IIM Ahmedabad and quickly fall in love. These portions are handled with appropriate lightness, and the actors share a comfortable chemistry as they sing songs, make gooey eyes at each other across the classroom, and slip under the sheets without much fuss. Speed bumps arise when the couple gets ready to step out of campus and into the real world to pursue jobs and a shared future. A shrewdly orchestrated Graduation Day meet-and-greet between the Malhotras and the Swaminathans goes badly. The Tam-Brahms (Revathy and Shiv Subramaniam) immediately label Krish's Punjabi side "uncultured", even as his overbearing mum (Amrita Singh) goes on and on about their daughter having "phansaoed" her "gora chitta" son.
It's funny at first, the film's politically incorrect humor, because it feels all too familiar. But joke after joke, stereotype after stereotype, what becomes evident is the absence of any real dramatic conflict. You're tired and bored, and you really wish they'd get on with it, when the parents clash again, even after Krish has won over Ananya's family (in a charming scene where he proposes marriage to the whole lot of them), and despite his mother having finally warmed up to his girl (after Ananya saves the day in a sticky dowry-demand situation).
What works are stray moments of wit that the film needed more of. Varman scripts a clever in-joke into a scene where Ananya's mother is coerced by Krish to sing at his office event. In an earlier scene, while describing Ananya's vast but sparsely furnitured home, Krish says: "Jaise kisi Punjabi ke ghar mein chori hui ho. Choron ko sofa acha nahin laga toh chhod gaye."
Despite the stereotypical characterization, Revathy and Shiv Subramaniam nicely fill out their parts, although they have far less to do than Amrita Singh, who is deliciously rude as Krish's obnoxious mum. Ronit Roy as his alcoholic, abusive father appears to have stepped straight out of 'Udaan', but he brings with him a half-baked, unconvincing subplot that comes off as a last-ditch effort to infuse dramatic tension.
Stuck holding up the film's muddled framing device - he narrates the entire story in flashback while on a shrink's couch - Arjun Kapoor gets a few endearing moments when he's playing off his leading lady. For the rest of the film, he wears a puppy dog look, trapped between the girl he loves and the mother who's dead against her. Not surprisingly, it's Alia Bhatt who is the best thing in the film, sliding into the part with complete ease. She's natural and charming without having to try too hard.
Parental opposition is one of the oldest conflicts as far as love stories go. Sure, the culture clash here gives us some genuine laughs. But at 2 hours and 30 minutes, this is a long, indulgent film that wears you out. I'm going with two-and-a-half out of five for 2 States. I've never rooted so hard for a couple to get married. If only so I could go home.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Asha Mittal, Noida
Mahender Singh, Hyderabad
Suhas Badre, Pune
Priyanka Tiwari, Gurgaon
Isha Jadhav, Aurangabad
Sagar D Mathapati, Bangalore
Pratik Ravani, Bangalore
Amit Pal Singh, Ranchi
Anurag Pendharkar, New Mumbai