October 20, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Santosh Kambhampati
Telugu with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in India, the dramatic film “Boyfriend for Hire” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: An arrogant ladies’ man hires himself out to women to be their temporary boyfriend, but the tables are turned when a woman who hires him makes a secret bet that she can get him to fall in love with her.
Culture Audience: “Boyfriend for Hire” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching silly and unrealistic movies about love and romance.
“Boyfriend for Hire” should have been a comedy, but it still wouldn’t have been enough to save this vapid melodrama. It quickly annoys with poorly staged scenarios, bad acting and flimsy direction. Perhaps the only thing that might keep viewers watching until the very end of this time-wasting film is curiosity to see if the movie will get any worse than how it started. Spoiler alert: It does get worse.
Written and directed by Santosh Kambhampati, “Boyfriend for Hire” (which takes place in an unnamed city in India) begins by introducing an egotistical misogynist in his 20s named Arjun (played by Viswant Duddumpudi), who thinks he’s the greatest seducer of women in the world. How do we know that Arjun is a misogynist? He literally says so when he explains that ever since he was a boy, his uncle, who became embittered over a divorce, taught him to never trust women. The uncle later redeems himself somewhat by advising Arjun to not make the uncle’s mistake of choosing a love partner based on beauty or wealth, but that he should choose a love partner based on which qualities that a woman has that are a good match for what he wants in a woman.
How do we know that Arjun thinks he’s a world-class seducer of women? He literally says so in the movie when he brags to a friend named Balu that Arjun can prove he knows more about seducing women than anyone else in the world. In reality, Arjun (who is a college graduate but has the emotional intelligence of a slug) has never been able to handle a real committed romance because he admits that he’s often afraid of women. His “player status” doesn’t extend to anywhere outside of the local bar/nightclub scene.
In the beginning of the movie, Arjun works as a mid-level sales/marketing employee at a building-construction company named Seihgil Constructions. Over time though, he loses his job, and he ends up hiring himself out to women to pretend to be their boyfriend for various reasons. He gets hired usually for one of these three reasons: (1) the women want to get rid of an unwelcome suitor; (2) the women are under pressure from their families to get married, and they want to pretend to their parents that they’re dating someone to get family members to stop nagging them; or (3) the women are lonely and are looking for companionship.
One day, Arjun is at a coffee shop when he sees an attractive woman who’s in the same age group, seated at a table with two of her female friends. It’s infatuation at first sight for Arjun. Before he can approach this mystery woman, another woman named Siri, whom he’s never met before, suddenly comes up to Arjun and begs him to pretend to be her boyfriend because she has an unwelcome suitor who won’t leave her alone.
A surprised Arjun quickly obliges and assertively gets rid of Siri’s unwelcome suitor, who is intimidated by Arjun. Siri thanks Arjun profusely and says he has a knack of saying all the right things. And it’s how Arjun comes up with the idea to hire himself out to be a pretend boyfriend. He’s going to need the money when he eventually loses his job, for reasons explained in the movie.
The mystery woman he saw in the coffee shop is a bachelorette named Divya (played by Malavika Satheesan), who eventually meets Arjun when his services become well-known. She hires him to be her boyfriend for a month. Arjun and Divya actually have something in common: They both have parents who are pressuring them to find a spouse. Their parents are involved in matchmaking for arranged marriages for their children, as is the custom in Indian culture.
Arjun and Divya also both do not like the potential spouses who have been selected for them in these matchmaking endeavors. And so, their manufactured “romance” is convenient for both of them. Unbeknownst to self-described “player” Arjun, he might get “played” himself, because Divya has secretly made a bet with a friend that she can get Arjun to fall in love with her.
The rest of “Boyfriend for Hire” shows the up-and-down relationship between Arjun and Divya with a lot of clumsiness and insipid dialogue. Divya’s domineering father initially disapproves of the relationship because Arjun is unemployed, and Divya tells her father that she doesn’t know anything about the background of Arjun’s family. But that obstacle is resolved in a very rushed and silly way.
“Boyfriend for Hire” also has many tedious moments where nothing much happens but more romance posturing and very little character development. Duddumpudi and Satheesan do not have convincing chemistry as would-be couple Arjun and Divya. It goes without saying in this predictable movie that this fake romance will turn into a real romance.
The movie drags out scenes when this couple will have some kind of argument or breakup, and then they’re shown in slow-motion, moping around and pouting, while bombastic violin-heavy music blares in the movie soundtrack. And then, the movie crams in certain plot developments in a completely scattered way. It’s all just so heavy-handed and phony, which is why “Boyfriend for Hire” needs to be fired by anyone who wants to see a good movie.
Primeshow Entertainment and Swastika Cinema released “Boyfriend for Hire” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on October 14, 2022.