The mother asks her, 'Does he beat you? No? Then what's the problem?' The film boldly, bravely, sensitively delves into issues like modern romance, friendship, emotional abuse, and marital rape.
We meet Akaash (Kartik Tiwari) and Vani (Nushrat Bharucha) - the cute-as-a-button couple, as much best friends as they are lovers. Vani is contemplating telling her parents about Akaash but circumstances have a surprise in store.
Unable to face her parents, she gets married to a boy of their choice. She decides to find her peace in their happiness. But the educated, polite-to-relatives, outwardly modern husband turns out to be from the stone-age.
He doesn't want her to do her MBA, treats her like an on-call servant, and wants her to get pregnant right away.
Her wish is not sought whether in household matters or in the bedroom. In a chilling scene, the husband emotionally abuses her and then creeps up to her for sex. It's enough to make one throw up.
She still can't muster up the courage to walk out of the marriage; it'll break her parents' hearts you see.
The idea of a today's man abusing his wife daily as if he was entitled to do so, and the wife too weak to walk out of the marriage seems far-fetched. Yet, in India you don't have to look far to find such a marriage.
This is a uniquely Indian problem, because it is only in countries like ours where marriage is such a big social issue. Divorce (from the wrong person) which should be celebrated is looked at as some kind of unbelievable horror.
Which is why you root for the film when divorce from an abusive marriage is celebrated and a cake is cut to rejoice the newfound freedom. It's sure to make many people antsy, but the audience in the theatre clapping out loud signalled that the film had touched a nerve.
The film doesn't leave the parents scot-free who, despite loving their children dearly, succumb to society's pressures such that they become blind.
A marriage counsellor friend tells me she is tired of well-heeled parents of girls, wanting to convince their abused daughters to go back to their husband's home. Nothing else seems to matter.
Director Luv Ranjan's storytelling shows a remarkable growth from the amateurish Pyaar Ka Punchanama. Whether in terms of story, direction, characterisation and the technical aspect, Akaash Vani is a superb second attempt.
Despite being a film targeted at the youth, Ranjan doesn't rush the story to meet dwindling attentions spans. The romantic moments are lovingly given all the space they need - whether it's a candlelit Maggi and Coke dinner in a tent, or sitting side-by-side on a train station bench and crying.
His characters are multidimensional, flitting between their weak and strong moments.
Technically, too, the film is superb. Sudhir Chaudhary's cinematography captures the beauty of the locations, while Akiv Ali's editing is flawless.
Music by Hitesh Sonik (lyrics by Luv Ranjan) is really good.
Very entertaining and romantic, this is a gutsy gem of a movie. Don't miss!
Rating: 3.5 stars