A magical north-south love story

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2 STATES

Starring: Arjun Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Ronit Roy, Amrita Singh, Revathi, Shiv Subramaniam

Director: Abhishek Varman

Rating: ****

Magically, 2 States ends with a beautifully staged wedding where the film’s culture-crossed couple finally get their wish.

Sigh of relief? Not quite. You don’t want this film to end. It’s a story, but doesn’t seem like one. You know exactly where our twosome, the gorgeous Ananya and the diffident Krish are going, but you get so sucked into their journey, their courtship, conflicts, tiffs and buts, that you feel after a point, that you aren’t watching them in a film. They are people we know. And love.

These are people to carry home and keep in some corner of your heart. Not just Ananya played by the very gorgeous Alia Bhatt and her other-half Krish, but also their parents, specially Krish’s father a man so misunderstood all his life, he fears being recognized for some deeply-concealed goodness in his heart.

Indian marriages, they say, are the marriage of two families. So when the shy, repressed Punjabi Krish meets the spunky spirited beer-guzzling, chicken-chewing Ananya, there is hell to pay from both sides.

The thing about cultural stereotyping is that it very often does exist in exactly the forms that we see them exist in films and books. Chetan Bhagat’s lively novel from which this film is adapted, harps on stereotypes to the extent where the characters are not seen as ‘types’, but as individuals who conform to a type. This is best illustrated by Krish’s loud-brassy Punjabi mom, played by Amrita Singh in a compelling performance. Revathi as Ananya’s graceful Tamil mother is also outstanding.

Ronit Roy is no stranger to playing the abusive father, and his dignified damned Dad’s act makes 2 States as much a father-son story, as a girl-boy thing.
Not every sequence works, though. Revathi’s singing performance (arranged by Krish) was a little too syrupy and Alia’s anti-dowry speech at a brassy Punjabi wedding a little too contrived, but these were minor slip-ups.
Most of the time, cultural differences are articulately pinned down in the film. Debutant director Abhishek Varman knows how to tell a story embedding individual scenes with a distinctive personality, without straining for effect.

This film never forgets to surprise, even when going about the task of telling a story that can only end one way. Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt ensure that their mutual participation in the rites of courtship, copulation, conflict and reconciliation yields a harvest of hefty scenes. Their performances display a natural flair for understatement underlined by a deep understanding of the language of commercial cinema. And yes, they look so made for each other, their compatibility is almost karmic.

Two world, two cultures, two families, one love story, 2 States re-defines and rejuvenates the love-marriage space. Simple and yet striking, gorgeous and graceful, one hankers to know what happens to the couple after the film is over.

The stress is on lightness of tone. From the clothes that Ananya and Krish wear to the spaces they inhabit… they aren’t fuelling a filmy flamboyance into the narrative.

Alia dressed as a bride looks like a doll, and the expression of honesty in her face never ceases, symbolizing what this film strives to do. 2 States creates a world where characters don’t shout to be heard. They belong to a world where being proper, politically or otherwise, is not always a pre-condition.

 

SUBHASH K JHA