Sab Kushal Mangal is more specifically set around a shot-gun wedding that, in a more urban context, would probably mean the sort of marriage that takes place out of compulsion
A still from Sab Kushal Mangal
Sab Kushal Mangal
Director: Karan Kashyap
Cast: Akshaye Khanna, Priyaank Sharma, Riva Kishan
What do you make of the worldview of a film (and by association, its makers) that while there is a progressive song in it extolling the change of guard among genders, as it were, where women indeed hold the baton of power — 'Zamana badal gaya' — the film itself is about the dire need for women to desperately find a man, and leave their parental home. Which is something the girl too seems reasonably reconciled towards.
This film is more specifically set around a shot-gun wedding that, in a more urban context, would probably mean the sort of marriage that takes place out of compulsion — more often than not, the girl being pregnant and wanting the child, and the boy having no choice in the matter. But the shot-gun wedding reference is a lot more liberal, implying a groom being kidnapped and forced to marry a girl he's never seen.
Sab Kushal Mangal is set in what's supposed to be Bihar, where abductions, centred on forced marriages — 'jabariya shaadi', as it were — used to be quite rampant over a couple of decades ago. It isn't anymore. And even the instances that exist are largely in the deep, rural interiors or dehat, as it were — among folk hovering around the poverty line.
The town fellows in this film decidedly belong to the middle class. Which is, thoda sa, unbelievable to begin with. You only have to watch further to know how it can get even more incredulous still. The boy is abducted, and locked up. The girl is interested to see who her groom is likely to be. They fall in love at first sight. Am not kidding!
Careers of the lead couple here — Priyaank Sharma, Riva Kishan — are being proverbially launched through this film. Romance has traditionally been the favoured Bollywood genre to achieve that. And they're competent, no doubt.
Watch the trailer of Akshaye Khanna, Priyank Sharma and Riva Kishan starrer Sab Kushal Mangal here
But I've heard of jabariya shaadi as a subject, attempted for a hardcore, commercial, mainstream entertainer — the Sidharth Malhotra, Parineeti Chopra dud, Jabariya Jodi (2019). Have admired a relatively under-rated, realistic, sombre pic on the same theme, Sushil Rajpal's Antardwand (2010). But a forced wedding as the starting point for a full-blown romance is a bit hard to swallow.
Where do you go from there? Honestly, as an audience, when the premise, let alone the story, doesn't work for you, it's best to be distracted by things that do. Because you're in; make the most of it. From that perspective, gotta say, for a movie by a first-time filmmaker, this is quite solidly directed — with some fine performances, and general attention to detail over the lehja and mahaul of the East India that the film is set in. The atmospherics is pretty much spot-on.
Akshaye Khanna plays a Bihari don, Baba Bhandari — full of desi swag and rustic twang, which anyway is an inspired casting decision. Don't think he's done anything even remotely similar before. Some of the comic dialogue writing is top-grade.
There is a little bit of reflecting the spirit of the times as you watch the lead character (Sharma) being shown off as the selfie-attracting star of sorts in his small town. Because he works as a TV anchor in one of those sansani, sensationalist Hindi news channels. This is a true story of the small-town, new-celebrity. Before the onslaught of stars from YouTube/TikTok, of course.
And, then, particularly enjoyed that scene when a typical roadside Romeo drops a kite into the neighbourhood heroine's terrace with the usually cheesy pick-up line, "Patang ki rani ko patang ke raja se gehra chumma!" No, this girl isn't frazzled by the move. She gives it back instead, making sure he falls off the ledge he's been leaching at her from. Now how does this uber-cool sequence fit into the large frame of a film about forced weddings? Never mind!