DFW SAFF 2018 Film Review “Love & Shukla”

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

First, the Recap:

The consummation of marriage and, hopefully, the joyous journey that is founded on the deep, steadfast, enduring love between two people brought together by–the groom’s mother?? When the entire concept of a relationship within the confines of marriage is a mystery yet to be plumbed, how much more tedious might it become when the ability to learn gets decidedly hampered? In a small Mumbai chawl, a man named Shukla (Saharsh Kumar Shukla) is about to find out. A rickshaw driver struggling to make ends meet, Shukla is constantly teased by friends (Amol Deshmukh, Ganesh Kumar, and Shahnawaz Alam) about his upcoming, and overtly sudden, arranged marriage, despite his confidence he has the keys to happiness in it all well in hand.

Yet, as the first day of his union to Lakshmi (Taneea Rajawat) is underway, there’s a slight conundrum that dampens his confidence–Shukla’s home is now a joint family unit, complete with his totally silent, unassuming father (Loknath Tiwari) and his voraciously vocal mother (Aparna Upadhyay). Showing no respect for the newlyweds need for privacy, Shukla has no true opportunity to even communicate the way he needs to with the shy and just-as-awkward-feeling Lakshmi, much less experience a true first wedding night. Matters get more complicated when Shukla’s sister Rupa (Hima Singh) also invades the space after issues with her own husband, Sunil (Sambhaji Shivaji Sasane).

With only the barest sense of “separation” from his family, the question remains whether Shukla and Lakshmi will gain the independence and desperately needed time together to truly, finally, know each other.

Next, my Mind:

Enjoying its Texas premier at DFW SAFF 2018, this 107-minute feature film project from co-writer/director/producer/cinematographer/co-editor Siddartha Jatla carries itself with a superb sense of clever levity, poignant drama, and an often heartbreaking empathetic atmosphere that draws the viewer in from start to finish with beautiful ease while illustrating an all-too-real issue new couples face in India. The entire notion of having to experience the first delicate and nervous steps associated with an arranged marriage–the intricacies of physical intimacy and meaningful communication when hardly knowing each other to begin with–is hard enough to grasp, much less when the groom’s family is, literally, right there, disrupting any chance of solitude, treating your new wife as a servant, and generally causing chaos. The film skillfully paints a portrait of the building tension as it ventures forth, showcasing Shukla’s every possible measure to rectify the dilemma, even to the point of a harsh encounter he endures, ultimately delivering a wonderfully graceful and highly effective finale that will touch your soul.

Saharsh Kumar Shukla is simply excellent in his role as Shukla, a character based on himself according to Jatla, a young man whose entire world when it comes to relationships has primarily been on the small screen of his cell phone and, perhaps, vicariously through the pictures of Sonakshi Sinha plastered all over the inside of his rickshaw. Suddenly faced with having to conduct himself properly in an actual marriage, and despite his initial bravado, the hesitations and exasperation in his attempts to step forward in this seem hopeless to avoid given the circumstances. Yet, seeing his dogged perseverance and the true depth of love he has for Lakshmi is endearing and so painfully real, and Shukla’s enacting of the multifaceted dynamics the character faces is fantastic.

Likewise, there is such an amazingly understated yet powerfully prominent air to Taneea Rajawat’s performance as Lakshmi, a beautiful young woman whose own sense of quietly intense uneasiness with the whole marriage and living situation is profoundly evident throughout, even as she simply exists within it all to the best of her ability. Yet, in this primarily mute state of being, the absolute longing and desire to reach out to Shukla is potently affecting in her facial expressions, non-speaking yet shouting to the rooftops, and it completely engages us in the love she wants to express and the communication she needs to engage in, but cannot. It’s truly like we see every nuance in her own “submission” to events only so she can gain the privacy, intimacy, and knowledge about her husband at some point, and this is all so exquisitely executed by Rajawat.

Supporting roles are plenty and also very well done and entertaining from Upadhyay as Shukla’s overbearing mother whose love of watching and commenting on her precious TV serials is quite hilarious, Tiwari as Shukla’s father who says nothing and seems to be totally content in that, Singh as Shukla’s sister Rupa, whose over-the-top displays of emotion over her own marriage is actually a riot, though we know there’s true hurt underneath it, and Deshmukh, Kumar, and Alam all do a solid job at portraying Shukla’s friends, all of whom choose to barb him about his upcoming nuptials and the subsequent aspects of married life that follow. Sasane also makes an appearance as Rupa’s husband Sunil, who hopes to reconcile with her.

In total, “Love and Shukla” is another brilliantly creative piece of independent cinema that fully entertains while providing a candid look at a real issue faced in Indian society.  As can sometimes happen, film ends up being a powerful tool to spread an idea and, at minimum, promote thought about a given issue or social message. This reviewer honestly hopes this narrative has that chance to make an impact.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

 

 

 

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