Luka Chuppi is a lighthearted, sometimes fun film. Sadly, it's not a good film — despite trying hard, and coming close every once in a while.
More than once, debutant director Laxman Utekar calls on the audience to suspend their growing disbelief and go along with a premise that increasingly defies logic — and it’s a task that gets exhausting after a while. Even so, amid the many missed opportunities you’ll find some heart-warming moments that make you want to root for its confused, star-crossed lead pair.
The film starts with a popular actor being badgered into defending live-in relationships. Immediately, a right-wing political party called Sanskriti Raksha Manch — which literally translates to Culture Protection Platform — latches on to the issue, calling live-in relationships an insult to Indian culture.
The hot topic of live-in relationships
Soon, the nation is heatedly debating whether live-in relationships are corrupting the youth of the country. Vinod “Guddu” Shukla (Kartik Aaryan) is the star reporter of Mathura, the small north-Indian town where the party is headquartered.
But even as the party’s workers, led by Vishnu Trivedi (Vinay Pathak) who alternates brilliantly between quietly threatening and comical, terrorise unmarried couples in the name of protecting the country’s fraying moral fabric, love secretly blossoms between Guddu and Trivedi’s daughter, Rashmi (Kriti Sanon), who work together.
Guddu swiftly proposes marriage, but Rashmi, with a more modern approach to love, refuses, claiming that they barely know each other. The solution: they should live-in with each other for some time to find out if they’re truly compatible.
They cook up a month-long assignment in a neighbouring city and rent an apartment together by pretending that they are married. The first half of the film is dedicated to watching Guddu and Rashmi’s love deepen as they get a taste of married life.
They’re about to return home and tell their parents they want to get married, when their lie is discovered and they’re forced to pretend that they’re actually married and not just living-in to appease both sets of horrified parents.
The entire second half of the movie has them plotting one hare-brained scheme after another in an attempt to get married for real without their families finding out what’s really going on.
Kartik Aaryan plays the part of the city's most popular reporter with earnest innocence. Aaryan's biggest hits so far — Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2, and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety — have all seen him play an unsavoury sexist character, so it's a welcome change to see him as a decent bloke who doesn't play mind games with the women around him.
All the ingredients of a hit, none of the execution
Kriti Sanon is charming and believable as Rashmi. In the hands of a writer who had paid more attention to her character, Luka Chuppi could have been a great follow-up for Sanon's 2017 sleeper hit, Bareily Ki Barfi. But the star of the film is easily Guddu's best friend Abbas, played by Aparshakti Khurana with flair and great comic timing. He only shows up intermittently but manages to raise laughs every time he opens his mouth, and you wish his talent had been used more fully.
Luka Chuppi's biggest failing is that it has all the ingredients a director could need to make a sharp, satirical commentary, but the final result is an undercooked comedy that confuses more than charms. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the politics of India can attest to the question of Indian values as a popular election issue that easily polarises people and earns votes. Picking live-in relationships as the central plot was a smart hook, but the situations built around it are mostly damp squibs.
The obsession over getting married is problematic
For starters, it is never convincingly explained why two modern, practical youngsters are in such a tearing hurry to get married all of a sudden, and even if they are, why they can’t quietly sneak off to a registrar or a neighbouring town and be done with it.
There is some mumbo jumbo about the weight of the deception wracking them with guilt, but it simply doesn’t land. The film has a wonderful character in the form of a neighbourhood busybody who suspects Guddu and Rashmi aren’t actually married and is forever snooping on them, but instead of more fully exploiting that hilarious and entirely plausible sub-plot, it is swiftly dealt with so Guddu and Rashmi can have more time to frolic around the apartment and the city, in the throes of romance. Yawn.
Too many opportunities missed
Then there is the time our hero and heroine are sent off on an assignment to see what small-town India thinks of the idea of living in, and they find a religious scholar and a grand old lady — ostensibly people who would object to the idea the loudest — passionately defending it, that too on religious and social grounds.
Here too, a wonderful opportunity to delve deeper and sharpen the central premise is squandered away to further Guddu and Rashmi’s romance. There is some posturing in the end about how values are a convenient political crutch for the old and outdated, young India wants jobs and progress, but by then it is too little too late and you’re already wishing the two would just get married already so you can go home.
Watch Luka Chuppi for a talented cast of actors stuck with a half-baked script working very hard to give you some easy giggles, and the rare moments that show you what the film wanted to be and could have been, but isn't.
'Luka Chuppi' is out in UAE cinemas now