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Meenakshi Sundareshwar: A modern yet regressive film

Yet another millennial romance that romanticizes traditions & arranged marriage!

Source: SIFY

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 2/5

Monday 08 November 2021

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Movie Title

Meenakshi Sundareshwar: A modern yet regressive film

Director

Vivek Soni

Star Cast

Abhimanyu Dassani, Sanya Malhotra

The refreshingly assertive yet well-mannered potential bride, the ‘non-macho’ almost shy potential groom. And you feel perhaps, just perhaps, the film may give us a love story with a new, progressive perspective. 
As Meenakshi Sundareshwar progresses (very slowly), things get more and more disappointing. The only upbeat constant is the effervescent presence and solid performance by Sanya Malhotra. Honestly, this talented actress deserves better movies!

She plays Meenakshi who meets Sundareshwar in an arranged marriage set-up. Things work out thanks to “god and Rajnikanth”. They have a cute enough conversation and like each other. Since their name adds up to a revered temple, the grandfather insists it’s a match made in heaven. A snap later, we’re taken to their marriage festivities.

Even in the most conservative homes, I believe an arranged marriage is finalized after the boy and girl meet at least…twice? I don’t know. This just seemed rushed, and especially for such an educated, young couple. But then, they don’t really talk or act like your regular millennial couple.

“I’ve always wanted to live in a joint family,” Meenakshi says dreamily to her new husband. The reason for this choice is not explained, and if you go by common knowledge, most young couples would pick a nuclear set-up any day.  

Post-marriage, Sundareshwar has to leave for Bangalore for a job. She likes that he wants to make something of his life, rather than joining the family business. “Whatever’s good for you, is good for us,” she resigns. The film forgets to filter in what Meenakshi wants to do with her life.

Their long-distance relationship begins with posting mundane details about each other. ‘Office-ready’ he messages with a selfie; ‘temple-ready’ she replies decked-up in a saree.

Meenakshi finally decides to interview for a job and lands the offer.But her father-in-law commands she stay home and tutor the son-in-law’s bratty kid. She doesn’t protest or voice her opinion. Later on in the film, she takes up another job temporarily for various other reasons, and under duress. Either way, her trajectory is unfocused and clearly her career path is not taken half as seriously as Sundareshwar’s.

Thankfully, here a woman being assertive (sometimes) does not mean she’s disrespectful. That’s a relief, as Bollywood often tends to confuse the two disparate concepts. Other than that, the irrational “bubbly girl” that Hindi films love is there in full form. We groan as Meenakshi stops a cab to dance on the road because ‘I feel like dancing.’ We groan again when the women in Sundareshwar’s office are portrayed as selfie-obsessed maniacs shoving drinks down his throat.

There’s something to be said about the portrayal of South Indians as well. We’ve come a long way from time when South Indian characters were either the ‘comic relief’ (Mehmood in Padosan) or the disciplinarian (every South Indian patriarch).

That’s a positive right there. However, in the film, we still see the patriarch enter his son’s hip Bangalore office in a lungi. We see Rajnikanth fans pouring milk on his film’s poster and doing his aarti before a new film’s release. While all these may have strains of realism, it’s a choice to amplify these stereotypes.

For a rom-com, the film is low on both romance and comedy. Abhimanyu as Sundareshwar sadly serves up a bland performance, in keeping with the character that hasn’t been given many layers. The romance has us rooting for the couple in the beginning, but we slowly grow weary of the unexciting developments. The film’s music has a couple of gems, and is one of the film’s highlights.  

Meenakshi Sundareshwar is the ‘kinda modern kinda regressive film’ that leaves you with more questions than answers.   
Which is why, while you applaud Sanya Malhotra’s name leading the credits (rightly so), you feel disappointed at the same ol’ trope presented in a shiny, new wrapper. 

Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra

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