Cast: Ayushmann Khuranna, Vaani Kapoor, Girish Dhamija, Kanwaljit Singh
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Rating: 2.0 stars (out of 5)
Ayushmann Khurrana has established himself as a verified past master at portraying flawed, self-doubting characters attempting to overcome physiological and psychological obstacles, both his own and others’. He takes on another such character in Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, who must deal with a bewildering personal crisis and find a way out of a corner.
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, directed by Abhishek Kapoor, continues Ayushmann Khurrana’s experimentation with issues that are normally thrown under the rug in this nation. However, this film is more in the Badhai Ho zone, where Khurrana is reacting, rather than the Shubh Mangal Savdhaan zone, when his onscreen character navigates a personal dysfunction and the obstacles that presents.
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui sees him as a ponytailed 30-year-old gym owner and bodybuilder, the son of a sanitary ware merchant who tries in vain to be the city’s strongest man to atone for the bullying he endured after his mother died when he was 13 years old.
Until a slender Zumba instructor steps through its doors and performs a stunning turnaround, the gym isn’t in tip-top shape. That isn’t the only reason why the lovely lady had the hero eating out of her hands so quickly.
The sluice-gates of passion are well and truly thrown open when lust kicks in well before love. Then, all of a sudden, reality sets in. The man discovers that the woman is not who he thought she was. He can barely grasp, let alone completely process, what she has gone through. The man is filled with shock, rage, and bewilderment.
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui is bright, lively, raucous, and easy to navigate through on the surface. Regrettably, it allows conflicting signals and bad messaging to undercut its good intentions. The film tries to convince us that it is championing inclusion and diversity, but it can’t help but end with jubilant posturing over the crowning of “Chandigarh ka sabse bhaari bharkam mard.”
The amorous liaison between Manvinder “Manu” Munjal (Khurrana) and Maanvi Brar (Vaani Kapoor), a retired Brigadier’s daughter who springs a surprise on the former when he is wholly and helplessly into her, is depicted through the eyes of the principal characters’ relatives and friends as much as it is through the eyes of the two individuals themselves in Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui.
Manu is befuddled, as is his father (Girish Dhamija), a widower looking for an opportunity to marry his Muslim sweetheart, and his cantankerous sisters, who, predictably, want to see him marry a gori chitti girl.
Maanvi’s father (Kanwaljit Singh) is a strong supporter of her right to make her own decisions in life. However, as her interactions with Manu and his friends and family indicate, society has a long way to go in terms of sensitivity to individuals who are different from the rest of us.
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui may serve as a conversation starter because it employs mainstream Mumbai filmmaking techniques to convey an offbeat love tale with all the seriousness it deserves. However, make no mistake: the film will raise questions about the wisdom of adopting the safe tactic of a humorous love tale to bring attention to a reality that does not receive enough attention from Bollywood screenwriters.
However, judging the effort merely on the basis of its entertainment value, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui must be commended. It’s a fun film that manages to strike a fine balance between its stated recreational goals and its larger goal – immersing the audience in a deadly serious discussion about a young man thrown off completely by the discovery of truth about his girlfriend that he could never have predicted – without losing its footing.
The screenplay is generally excellent until the last quarter of the film, at which time it devolves into triteness. When presented with harsh truths, the film avoids overt drama and didactic portions, instead delving into a relationship in which passion is on the edge of a catastrophic drop.
When confronted with a decision he did not anticipate, the man feels both perplexed and taken aback. Except for a few honourable exceptions, the people surrounding him do not help matters. They let their prejudices and assumptions to get in the way. However, just when they appear to be overcoming their preconceptions, the film throws in the towel and goes off on a tangent.
Ayushmann Khurrana, who underwent a considerable physical transformation to play a bodybuilder, appears to be having a lot of fun shaping the role. He is a real-life Chandigarh lad, thus he isn’t impersonating or mimicking here. He is himself, which gives the portrayal more depth and range.
Vaani Kapoor is nothing short of a revelation. She is up to the effort of playing a hard character that requires her to be much more than a hot bod and a pretty face. Any reservations one may have regarding her suitability for the post would be based solely on external factors. She explains the casting when considered just in the context of the film and what she brings to the table.
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui adopts the correct line of thought – full marks to the writers and director on that – and runs with it for a while before letting it slip away. It’s back to square one by the time it reaches the finish line.
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui had the potential to be a well-timed rebuke to regressive shibboleths. All it can muster is a solitary jab. A huge chance squandered.