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Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, Review: Heavy load to carry

It is difficult to decide what was more burdensome: sitting through the film or reviewing it for the benefit of unsuspecting prospective audiences. There is just too much happening, a lot of it without logic, over the two hours 19 minutes that Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari spans. In the hands of a competent editor, the two hours would end in the bin and the 19 minutes would then make an interesting TV episode. This is one of the films wherein an item song comes right at the beginning, and newcomers Javed-Mohsin, from the Sajid-late Wajid family Javed is the younger brother of the duo), manage to concoct a Basanti/Sholay-based loosener that is infectious.

Suraj is the sun, and an all-powerful entity in astrology. Mangal is Mars, and Indian astrology holds that anybody who has Mangal adversely placed in his horoscope will find it extremely difficult to get married. Suraj and Mangal are also the names of the two pivots around whom the planets revolve. Both are male, though Mangal is also a female name. You would not expect the Sun to play second fiddle to Mars, but that is what the title suggests. Suraj Singh Dhillon is a Sikh boy (rare name for a Sikh) who wants to marry Tulsi, the sister of Madhu Mangal Rane (note that Mangal is his middle name). Suraj’s family runs a dairy farm with 20-odd buffaloes while Madhu is a private investigator who is retained by brides-to-be’s families and digs out dark deeds by prospective grooms, at a fee, thereby saving the bride from getting into an unholy alliance.

So you got that. There are multiple disguises, some distastefully done. Robberies, break-ins are the order of the day. You play cassette, and everybody listening accepts it as the gospel truth. Nobody had heard of editing and doctoring in 1995? There is ribald dialogue, which passes off innocuously for reasons I am not privy to. Many a joke is made out of the buffalo connection. Add to that some more from the Madhu’s mother’s beauty parlour connection. Great effort is made to incorporate Marathi dialogue, with only passable success. What was the need? One wonders. Okay, so the film is set in 1995, when Bombay became Mumbai (they show a railway signboard being replaced with the one bearing the new name). But the railway is so accommodating to the makers in the (yawn) climax, they should have appeared as part producer on the film.

Of the two writers, Rohan Shankar made his debut in 2019 with box office hit Luka Chuppi. He started his movie career with critically acclaimed Marathi slice-of-life comedy-drama, Lalbaugchi Rani. Rohan has also written the screenplay & dialogues of Mimi (2020), starring Kriti Sanon and Pankaj Tripathi. It would be interesting to know whether he has used some of the elements of Lalbaugchi Rani in Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari. But we can see that the Marathi came from here, and not from Shokhi Banerjee, his co-writer. This is Shokhi’s first film. It appears that the writers worked separately, and then an effort was made to blend their versions. It even appears that a third writer might have worked on another track, since there are so many.

Director Abhishek Sharma (Tere Bin Laden, The Shaukeens, Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, The Zoya Factor) had a gifted, ensemble cast, but he has used it good effect only fractionally. They have largely been wasted. His earlier films drew “good” to “very good” comments. This one cannot stand along with them. Comedy is no laughing matter, and if the characters on screen repeatedly give the impression that they have scored a joke, that is no reason to laugh. This might work partly on television (there are references to Ramayan and Shriman Shrimati), but even there, audiences would soon wise-up.

Manoj Bajpayee as Detective Madhu Mangal Rane, who has no licence, speaks a lot of Marathi dons various disguises, and scores in drag, still suffers from an inherent lisp and gives a campy, over-the-top performance. Diljit Dosanjh as Suraj Singh Dhillon picks-up where he left off in Good Newzz. He’s good as a stand-up comic but fails to hold longer scenes, without resorting to double entendre. Fatima Sana Shaikh as Tulsi should seriously work on her speech. Not a conventional beauty, she gets ample scope to display her talent, which is yet to bloom fully.

Annu Kapoor gets into the “we’re here for the picnic mode, and glides through accordingly, though it is not much of a role, relying on crudity for comedy. Supriya Pilgaonkar as Madhu’s mother looks far too young. Her beauty parlour escapades get boring after a while. Vijay Raaz as a Professor with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is given a chance to do something different, and he does it well. Seema Pahwa and Manoj Pahwa play the quintessential Sardaar couple, though the buffalo dowry from Mathura bit cuts no ice. As the pandit (priest)-cum marriage broker, Neeraj Sood is full of beans, but his jail scene was badly shot. Manuj Sharma is the guy who calls the shots in the Suraj-Tulsi ‘affair’, till Suraj takes over. He’s made to do buffoonery, which is the norm with the hero’s side-kicks. Neha Pendse is confident as Kavya, Madhu’s failed liaison, which led him to start the practice. Abhishek Banerjee has a cameo. I am not sure about the name of the actress who plays the younger sister of Madhu, but the poor girl seems to have been cast just to say ‘girgit’ (chameleon) two or three times. Karishma Tanna appears in a special appearance in the song Basanti, and does not reveal too much.

Five of the seven music tracks have been composed by Javed-Mohsin, who have sung on two of the tracks too. The composers needed a better vehicle to make their mark.

Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari is not to be taken lightly. Watch it only if your family astrologer advises you to. If you do not have a family astrologer, it was not in your stars.

Rating: * ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hs2MPHRkP9A

P.S.: The screening of Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari at Fun Republic marked the end of a dry run that lasted about eight months, since the onset of Covid. The preview was held amid strict arrangements of sanitisation. Food was not allowed inside the auditorium, a first! Alternate seats were out of bounds, and we reviewers could sit only with the gap of a seat between us. That the film being screened was a pretentious comedy took away half the fun, but it was great to be back in a multiplex, after March 2020. Let’s hope that the movie was not portentous, and look forward to more enjoyable times.