Review: ‘Satyaprem Ki Katha,’ starring Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani

July 2, 2023

by Carla Hay

Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani in “Satyaprem Ki Katha” (Photo courtesy of FunAsia Films)

“Satyaprem Ki Katha”

Directed by Sameer Vidwans

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city India, the dramatic film “Satyaprem Ki Katha” features an Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A goofy but nice underachiever gets into an arranged marriage with a woman from an affluent family, but she is reluctant to consummate their marriage because of secrets that she’s keeping.

Culture Audience: “Satyaprem Ki Katha” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching a romantic drama that isn’t a complete stereotype.

Kiara Advani and Kartik Aaryan in “Satyaprem Ki Katha” (Photo courtesy of FunAsia Films)

There is an over-used formula of romantic movies that goes like this: “Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins back the girl.” “Satyaprem Ki Katha” (which means “story of true love” in Hindi) has elements of this formula, but the movie isn’t a typical romantic film. At first, this engaging drama appears to be about a husband trying to romance his reluctant wife in an arranged marriage. “Satyaprem Ki Katha” becomes a more meaningful film in its sensitive portrayal of the wife’s sexuality and secrets.

Directed by Sameer Vidwans, “Satyaprem Ki Katha” (which takes place in an unnamed city in India) opens with a musical scene of male protagonist Satyapre, nicknamed Sattu (played by Kartik Aaryan) having a dream that he’s getting married. Sattu is a goofy underachiever, but he’s also hopeless romantic who wants to find his one true love. He lives with his father Narayan (played by Gajraj Rao), mother Diwali (played by Supriya Pathak) and his younger sister Sejal (played by Shikha Talsania) in a middle-class household. Narayan has tried to be an entrepreneur, but several of his businesses have failed.

Sattu soon meets and becomes infatuated with Katha (played by Kiara Advani), the daughter of an affluent businessman Harikishen (played by Siddharth Randeria), who expects her to be in an arranged marriage. Katha lives with her parents. Her sister is supportive Kinjal (played by Maira Doshi), and their mother is outspoken Rasna (played by Anuradha Patel), who also believes that Katha should be in an arranged marriage. Kinjal’s husband Dheeraj (played by Palash Tiwari) is also part of the this tight-knit family.

Sattu thinks that Katha is out of his league. He tries to get her attention anyway, but she doesn’t seem to be attracted to him. But then, to Sattu’s surprise, Katha’s parents decide that Sattu would make a good husband for Katha. Sattu and a reluctant Katha get married in an elaborate ceremony that has the over-the-top musical numbers that you might expect from a Bollywood film.

On their wedding night, Sattu tries to get intimate with Katha, but she rejects his advances. He confesses to her that he’s a virgin. He also says unconvincingly out loud to himself about Katha’s lack of sexual interest in him on their honeymoon night, “She must be tired.” Sattu is a gentleman and doesn’t force or pressure Katha to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

At this point, Sattu is in love with Katha, so he decides the best thing to do is to romance her so that she can fall in love with him too. However, she keeps rejecting him. One day, she blurts out why she doesn’t want to have sex with him: “I’m asexual.” She also explains that her lack of interest in sex is why her recent ex-boyfriend Tapan Manek (played by Arjun Aneja) dumped her.

There’s more to Katha’s story that she initially tells Sattu. There are enough hints that are shown in flashback scenes, by the time the truth is revealed, it’s not surprising. However, what is surprising is how the movie doesn’t take Katha’s secrets and turn them into a tawdry soap opera. Sattu’s reaction to finding out Katha’s secrets is the movie’s obvious way of saying that these matters should be handled with compassion and care—which isn’t an easy thing to do when a spouse reveals some shocking information.

As the spouses who go through an emotional ups and downs in their marriage, Aaryan and Advani have believable chemistry with each other. Their performances anchor the movie and keep it interesting, while the supporting cast members are perfectly fine in their roles. There are parts of “Satyaprem Ki Katha” that tend to get trivial when another musical scene is thrown into the movie. However, there are realistic portrayals about how family members would react to Katha’s big secrets.

Perhaps the biggest flaw of “Satyaprem Ki Katha” is that this 144-minute movie didn’t need to be this long. And the musical numbers, although dazzling, sometimes don’t fit the tone of this movie’s overall serious message. Still, even with some padding in the total running time and some fluffy song-and-dance numbers, “Satyaprem Ki Katha” gives its weighty subject matter enough substance that’s worth watching.

FunAsia Films released “Satyaprem Ki Katha” in select U.S. cinemas on June 30, 2023. The movie was released in India on June 29, 2023.

Review: ‘Jugjugg Jeeyo,’ starring Varun Dhawan, Kiara Advani, Anil Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor

July 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Pictured in center: Kiara Advani, Varun Dhawan, Anil Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor in “Jugjugg Jeeyo” (Photo courtesy of Viacom18 Studios)

“Jugjugg Jeeyo”

Directed by Raj Mehta 

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place mainly in Patiala, India (and briefly in Toronto and New York City), the comedy/drama film “Jugjugg Jeeyo” has a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A married man and his parents experience marital problems around the same time, while people in the family juggle secrets and lies about their relationships.

Culture Audience: “Jugjugg Jeeyo” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Anil Kapoor and anyone who doesn’t mind watching jumbled movies that treat love and marriage as silly plot devices.

Tisca Chopra, Varun Dhawan and Anil Kapoor in “Jugjugg Jeeyo” (Photo courtesy of Viacom18 Studios)

“Jugjugg Jeeyo” plays so fast and loose with marital breakups and makeups, it loses all credibility. This comedy/drama has some eye-catching musical sequences, but the rest of the movie is just a jumbled mess of people who are flaky about marriage. The comedy wears thin very quickly, while the drama isn’t very engaging.

Directed by Raj Mehta, “Jugjugg Jeeyo” (which means “juggle live” in Hindi) has four people credited with writing the movie: Rishhabh Sharrma, Sumit Batheja, Anurag Singh and Neeraj Udhwani. Usually, when four or more people are credited with writing a movie screenplay, the movie suffers from “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome. That appears to be the case wtih “Jugjugg Jeeyo,” which throws in too many plot twists—and almost all these plot twists are not believable.

The movie is told from the perspective of Kuldeep “Kukoo” Saini (played by Varun Dhawan), a man who is floundering in his career and in his love life. In the beginning of the movie, life seems to be pretty good for Kukoo. In his hometown of Patiala, India, he has a dream wedding to Nainaa Sharma (played by Kiara Advani), in a marriage that was not arranged but is a love match. Kukoo and Nainaa’s courtship is never shown in the movie.

Five years later, Kukoo and Nainaa are living in Toronto, because Nainaa got a job as a business executive in an unnamed industry. Their marriage has hit a rut, mainly because they aren’t communicating well with each other, and Kukoo feels insecure about having a stalled career. Kukoo has a university degree in hotel management, but the only work he’s been able to find in Toronto is as a security bouncer/doorman at a nightclub. Needless to say, Kukoo hates his job.

To make matters worse, Nainaa has secretly accepted a job offer in New York City, but she hasn’t told Kukoo yet. For their five-year wedding anniversary, Kukoo and Nainaa have a tension-filled dinner at a restaurant. They begin arguing, and Kukoo announces that he wants a divorce.

Nainaa doesn’t seem surprised and seems to also want to get divorced. Things get worse on the car ride home. Nainaa is driving, another argument ensues, and she’s so distracted by this argument, she accidentally rear-ends a car in front of her. As for Nainaa’s decision to move to New York City, “Jugjugg Jeeyo” handles it in a clumsy way.

The couple’s decision to divorce comes at an inconvenient time because Kukoo and Nainaa are soon expected to go to Patiala to attend the wedding of Kukoo’s younger sister Ginny Saini (played by Prajakta Koli), who is having an arranged marriage. In order to not upset their families, and in order not to disrupt the wedding, Kukoo and Nainaa agree not to tell anyone about their impending divorce until after Ginny’s wedding. But in a movie like “Jugjugg Jeeyo,” you just know someone is going to break that agreement.

Ginny likes her soon-to-be-husband Balwinder (played by Savant Singh Premi), but she’s not in love with him. Ginny has unresolved feelings for an ex-boyfriend named Gourav (played by Varun Sood), who is still in love with Ginny. Gourav has been invited to the engagement party and wedding. You can easily predict what will happen in this awkward arrangement.

At the engagement party for Ginny and Balwinder, things get even more uncomfortable, as Kukoo and Nainaa try to pretend to everyone else that they’re happily married. However, Kukoo’s mother Geeta Saini (played by Neetu Kapoor) senses that something isn’t quite right about the relationship, and asks Kukoo if he and Nainaa are having marital problems. Kukoo denies any problems and tells his mother that he is happy.

As the engagement party is winding down, Kukoo and his father Bheem Saini (played by Anil Kapoor, no relation to Neetu Kapoor) have a drunken conversation where they confess to each other that they are both having marital problems. Kukoo tells Bheem that he and Nainaa are separated and are headed for divorce. Bheem says that he’s planning to divorce Geeta. Ginny is so oblivious to her parents’ marital woes that she later tells Kukoo that she has planned a surprise ceremony for their parents to renew their wedding vows.

Meanwhile, the preparations for Ginny and Balwinder’s wedding are often disrupted by Nainaa’s hard-partying brother Gurpreet Sharma (played by Manish Paul), who is a stereotypical loudmouth who will do anything to get attention and cause mischief. Gurpreet comes up with the idea to invite Bheem to Balwinder’s bachelor party. Gurpreet knows it’s unusual and inappropriate for a future father-in-law to be at his future son-in-law’s bachelor party, but Gurpreet doesn’t care.

It’s also an example of how Balwinder is kind of a pushover for letting someone else control the invitations to his own bachelor party. It’s all just a flimsy excuse for “Jugjugg Jeeyo” to have contrived situations where family members are put in embarrassing scenarios. And there will be more embarrassing scenarios to come, with the expected arguments and meltdowns.

It isn’t long before Kukoo finds out Bheem’s unhappiness in his marriage is more than just feeling alienated and bored. Bheem has had a secret life that will be exposed and will have the effect of an emotional bomb going off in the family. And his secret is the most obvious secret you can imagine.

One day, Kukoo and Bheem are watching a movie together in a theater when a woman sits next to Kukoo. Kukoo recognizes the woman as someone who was a teacher of his when he was in high school. Her name is Meera (played Tisca Chopra), and she re-introduces herself to Kukoo. They exchange pleasant talk before Bheem’s secret is revealed.

And then, Bheem tells Kukoo that Meera is Bheem’s mistress. Their affair has been going on long enough where it’s obvious that Bheem plans to go public about his relationship with Meera after Bheem gets a divorce. Kukoo is in shock, of course. He’s also angry at his father for this betrayal. (This isn’t spoiler information because it’s in the movie’s trailer.)

Bheem eventually tells the family that he’s going to divorce Geeta, who is devastated and feels even more humiliation when she finds out about Bheem’s affair with Meera. “Jugjugg Jeeyo” then takes a melodramatic detour when Bheem gets a heart attack, presumably from all the stress. This heart attack causes certain family members to feel sympathy for Bheem, as loyalties in the divorce start to shift. Eventually, more secrets come out, resulting in over-the-top reactions from certain family members.

“Jugjugg Jeeyo” starts off with some slightly amusing relationship scenarios, but the movie gets worse as it goes along. The biggest problem with the film is that it expects audiences to root for these characters to find love and happiness when many of these characters don’t really respect themselves or other people when it comes to finding true love and happiness. They treat marriage as something that they can discard and pick up like a set of clothes they want to wear when it’s convenient for them.

In other words, the breakups and makeups in this movie look very phony and unearned. The movie’s cast members do adequate jobs in their roles. The problem is that their characters are written and directed like they’re fools in a badly conceived movie that wants to be a soap opera and a sitcom at the same time, with some elaborate musical numbers thrown in as filler. Some viewers might enjoy the silliness of it all, but there’s nothing entertaining about watching adults acting this deceitful and stupid.

Viacom18 Studios released “Jugjugg Jeeyo” in select U.S. cinemas, in India and in several other countries on June 24, 2022.

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