July 2, 2023
by Carla Hay
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.
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.